I can now say I truly understand why the houses in Timbuktu are so far down in the ground – they’re simply buried in sand.
I remember wandering the streets of Timbuktu and marveling at how far down we had to go to get into the houses. The street level (if you can call a few feet of loose sand a street) was a good 3 – 4 feet higher than the houses. Did they dig down to build their houses? Why?
The answer, I was told, was that the houses had originally been built at street level. But over the years, sand blew in and was swept out of the houses – but not from the roads. Slowly, grain by grain, the roads built up, piled higher and higher with sand while the houses stayed up. Steps were built into the ever-riding sand piles in the roads for access to the houses.
I’m sure that, if we stayed put here we would end up in the same position.
I spent the day in Chinle and, when I returned, found the tent filled with sand. I mean – filled with sand. There must have been a good quarter inch of sand inside the tent!
John and I emptied the tent and cleaned out piles of dust before putting it all back together. Already, after only a few hours, there’s plenty more sand inside here, and by morning I’m sure we’ll all be covered with a thick layer.