AT first sight it would seem that no two countries had less in common than the two about which this book is written; but Count D'Alviella ingeniously and correctly shows, in his thoughtful preface, that they, or rather the Lapps and Arabs, have many circumstances in common. These two peoples “lead the same vagabond existence; they live exclusively upon their herds, they carry with them all they have and that they possess, and they make analogous migrations at the changes of the seasons—the Lapps from the Swedish steppes to the Norwegian valleys, the Arabs from the plains of Sahara to the pastures of Tell. In this manner of life they have both acquired the same strength of constitution, or rather the same power of resisting such fatigue, privations, and weather as would kill the most robust European. … Both the Lapps and the Arabs—who are rather the slaves than the masters of Nature—owe their consciousness of isolation and powerlessness to the same superstitions, the same beliefs in spirits, to the ‘evil eye,’ in amulets, and in incantations. … Both races—restricted for centuries to a form of society unsuitable to any kind of progress—affect the same respect for the routine of their ancestors, and the same disdain for the arts of civilisation.” The author concludes rightly, we think, that both peoples, incapable as they are of transformation or civilisation, are doomed to disappearance. Many attempts have been made by the Swedish and French Governments to get these nomads to settle down into civilised life, but invariably without success. The author, on the authority of M. Charles Martins, relates that the French Government gave to a number of the poorest Arabs of the Sahara some fertile fields with a ready-built village, and even a mosque in the middle of it. They reserved the houses for their flocks, and pitched their tents in the streets; until one day the nostalgia of the desert seized upon them, and they returned rejoicing to their wandering life.
Sahara and Lapland. Travels in the African Desert and the Polar World.
By Count Goblet D'Alviella. Translated from the French by Mrs. Cashel Hoey. (London: Asher and Co., 1874.)
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Sahara and Lapland Travels in the African Desert and the Polar World . Nature 9, 261 (1874). https://doi.org/10.1038/009261a0