Ombre Claire and the Sahara, a great love story.

Ombre Claire and the Sahara is a great love story.

The Sahara, Ténéré among the Tuaregs is the largest hot desert in the world. It stretches over 5,000 km from east to west from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. Its landscapes are varied, dunes as far as the eye can see, stone deserts called regs, mountains such as the Hoggar, or even hamadas or rocky plateaus. It is majestic, gigantic.

This great desert has always fascinated and inspired many artists, writers like St Exupéry who meets his little prince after a breakdown in the desert, Théodore Monod, Pierre Loti, Dino Buzatti, Ella Maillard, great photographers who have never ceased to share their love of the Sahara like Jean-Marc Durou, but also filmmakers with unforgettable films such as Lawrence of Arabia or Un tea in the Sahara to name but a few.

 

When I first discovered the Sahara, I felt immensely dizzy. These stretches as far as the eye can see, far from the modern world. A kind of physical connection that makes you feel so alive and at the same time so fragile. Indeed, the desert is a harsh environment where you feel how much you have to do with natural paradigms. You have to bring water, food, protect yourself from the sun and the heat. We apprehend the silence, the loneliness, the thirst. If you move away from your group for a few moments, you find yourself completely alone in front of yourself as if the world had stopped and you were touching on the true meaning of things. The desert makes mystical, philosophical.

I remember this very nice sentence from a young boy who traveled with me during my first stay in the Sahara in 1992 in Tassili n'Ajjer in Algeria. He said that in the desert we could hear his heart beating, as if all our awakened senses allowed us to feel things hitherto ignored or to which we did not pay attention.

We often think that the desert is a frozen, empty, lifeless place. It's quite the opposite ! The landscapes are in constant motion. The wind erodes the rock, it transports the grains of sand which will accumulate here and there to build a dune, bury a rock or on the contrary uncover it. Life is also present, 1,200 vascular species have adapted to this arid climate, the slightest drop of rain reveals a dormant plant. The acacia, for example, is an incredible tree which, with its immense thorns, survives in these arid environments, it is a source of protein for animals and for nomads an essential tree for traditional pharmacopoeia. When you walk barefoot, you may encounter cram cram, a species of thorny herbaceous plants that cling to your arch or your clothes. Because yes, thorns are a good weapon against aridity. And then there is the fauna, predators like the fennec, mammals like the dromedary whose physiology is totally adapted to the constraints of the desert, in particular thanks to its hump of fat and the large quantity of water which can be absorbed in very little of time can withstand the heat and lack of supplies. Thus it can spend 10 days without drinking and 3 weeks without eating thanks to its reserves despite sometimes temperatures reaching 50°C. Most other species either live in the mountains or burrow into the sand when the temperatures are too hot. Thus our friend the scorpion can last up to 1 year without drinking or eating. We always check our shoes in the morning before putting them on to see if a scorpion has decided to take a nap in them while waiting to sting our foot. We also avoid making sand castles because a runaway scorpion can appear at any time.

 

And then there are the nomadic peoples of the Sahara, these men who have also managed to adapt to this difficult environment. The Tuaregs who live in the central part of the Sahara, the Moors in the west or the Toubou in the eastern Sahara.

 

The men took refuge near the water points, in the valleys around the wadis, temporary watercourses that are dry for part of the year and which fill up in the rainy season or near a well because the water is present in the basement. They practice agriculture and livestock in the famous oases which are not mirages but places where men have been able to organize themselves around a water point to cultivate gardens. Thus, in the Aïr massif, there is the oasis of Timia. After long hours of walking in the gravel, we discover lush gardens where tomatoes, onions and citrus fruits bursting with sunshine have been cultivated. This is where I had the impression of discovering, for the first time, the taste of tomatoes that I had not liked until then and in which I now crunched to the fullest or even juicy and delicious oranges.

We have chosen to work with Tuareg craftsmen in northern Niger. We find in traditional Saharan jewelry shapes, motifs and symbolism linked to the desert. From dune folds to rocky strata, the environment is very present in Saharan art and crafts. Thus, Aude Durou, the creator of Ombre Claire, wrote a very beautiful book "Bijoux nomades" illustrated by photos of her father, in which she studied the symbolism of Saharan jewelry and the link between patterns, shapes and the environment.

 

The desert is the slowness, the shades of ocher, the starry vault that prevents you from sleeping the first nights so much the sky is loaded with stars, the sobriety. No one needs to understand that waste must be avoided in this fragile environment, it is so obvious. The Tuaregs have managed to live in the desert thanks to these values which are so lacking to us. It is as if the desert reminds us of the simple and obvious things that are the great evils of our modern societies.

 

I dream of a night in a bivouac, sleeping under the stars under the celestial vault, talking for hours over tea. In the desert, we share time, the discussion is very important because far from distractions, it is to be together that is important. The moment of the meal around the fire, the only source of light when the sun goes down, is a time of calm where we regain our strength because the sun burns our cheeks more. We had the chance to share the life of the camps, the crossing of the desert by camel, to touch the nomadic life and that enriched us forever.

The Sahara has taught us a lot, inspired us a lot and we have an immense affection for it and its inhabitants. Working with the Tuaregs in the Sahara is a deliberate choice and we share with our craftsman friends these values instilled by the desert.

The Ombre Claire jewels that we offer are rich in these encounters, these experiences. As a tribute to all that the desert has given us thanks to our Tuareg friends who spoke to us, explained their culture, their environment and the desert to which they are so attached. The Saharan culture has been part of our history for almost 30 years and through our jewelry handcrafted in the sand by Tuareg craftsmen rich in their ancestral know-how, we want to share it with you.

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