Day 59: Agadez to Tabelot
Today I write 'Wednesday, September 12th' without conviction. According to radio reports, casualties in New York alone are said to be in their thousands. Thousands. Thousands of people, in a city which, apart from Sheffield and London, I probably know better than any other. I flick back the page of my notebook and look at what I scribbled before climbing into bed last night: 'I can think of no parallel act of destructive violence in my lifetime aside from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.'
Out on the tiny courtyard breakfast is laid out. The sky is clear blue, the morning sunlight will soon be tipping over the wall and spilling onto us. I eat bread, two eggs, honey and tea, with which I swallow my malaria pill. The others begin to emerge from their rooms. John has heard the latest news on BBC World Service. Details it's hard to deal with - mobile phone calls from those who knew they were going to die, people jumping eighty floors from the blazing Trade Center. Things you don't want to hear.
But our waiter is the same and the manager is the same and outside in the small square the same cast of characters rise to their feet as we appear, not to talk about terror attacks or the likelihood of a world war, but to sell, cajole and wheedle, exactly as they did when we arrived from Ingal yesterday. The short thick-set man with the rings and silver Touareg crosses: 'I am good friend of the English. I have jewellery. You have come to Niger, you must buy something.' The tall, imposing man with a craggy face and thin grey beard, who stalks me, repeating over and over again, 'You must talk with me. I know Ginger Baker.' A blind woman, hand outstretched, led around by a little girl. Two men on crutches, fleet and persistent. The children, as ever, wanting a gift or some money.
Choose another day from Sahara