The Horses of the Sahara will be of interest not only to equestrians but also to historians and other scholars interested in the customs of the North African desert tribes and in the complex backgrounds of European–North African relations. General Daumas took part in the conquest of Algeria by France, so distinguishing himself that he was named Director of the Bureau of Algerian Affairs in the French Ministry of War. During the campaigns and the occupation that followed, he studied and attempted to understand the native peoples, with an objectivity and sympathy unusual among the colonialists of the period. His book provides fascinating sidelights on many aspects of Arab life, including customs, superstitions, religion, and family life.
Sheila M. Ohlendorf was uniquely suited to translate The Horses of the Sahara. An excellent rider herself, thoroughly experienced with the animals and the techniques being discussed, she also spoke fluent French, having received her B.A. degree in languages from Texas Western University (now the University of Texas at El Paso). As curator of the Hall of the Horsemen, the large collection at the University of Texas at Austin, she had access to a wide variety of supplementary authorities, which enriched both her translation and the notes that accompany the book.
Sheila M. Ohlendorf was brought up in Mexican mining camps; attended boarding school in Edinburgh, Scotland; lived in Nassau, in the Bahamas, for two years; and has resided in Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
Both spiritual and material aspects of desert life are encompassed in this work, which ranges from translations of Arab poetry to descriptions of the uses of the fat and remains of the ostrich. The patterns of conviction and conduct described form an important part of the rich cultural heritage of the modern Maghreb nations.
The way of life described in this book is often presented from what comes very close to being an inside point of view. Occasionally Daumas feels obliged to disapprove of certain practices or beliefs or to criticize his Arab friends, but in large part his underlying sympathy for the Arab people permits his informants to speak clearly through his pen.
General Melchior Joseph Eugene Daumas took part in the conquest of Algeria by France and, for his distinguished service, was named Director of the Bureau of Algerian Affairs in the French Ministry of War. During the campaigns and the occupation that followed, he studied and attempted to understand the native peoples with an objectivity and sympathy unusual among the colonialists of the period. He recorded a way of life that has changed much since the nineteenth century, and much of what he recorded has since been lost. His account, as well as being an important source for the historian and ethnographer, provides for the general reader a fascinating record of the vanishing ways of the desert.