Lines in the sand

  • ARAB/AMERICAN: LANDSCAPE, CULTURE, AND CUISINE IN TWO GREAT DESERTS Gary Paul Nabhan 160 pages, softcover: $17.95. University of Arizona Press, 2008.

  • An Omani ranger approaching a Boswellia sacra tree in Oman. GARY PAUL NABHAN

    GARY PAUL NABHAN
  • An adobe tower at the Roxanne Swentzell Tower gallery in northern New Mexico. GARY PAUL NABHAN

    GARY PAUL NABHAN
 

Desert cultures are a breed apart. The environments of each shape the particular ways in which its inhabitants - human and otherwise - survive and express themselves. But beyond each desert's distinctive topography, climate and culture, "a living river of common heritage runs through them all."

So says Gary Nabhan, Sonoran Desert ecologist and author of this delectable volume of essays. Nabhan searches out the commonalities between desert cultures and landscapes - specifically the deserts that have informed his ethnic heritage and those that have shaped his life and work experiences. Nabhan's great-grandfather immigrated to the New World from Syria. Thinking he was bound for the U.S., he ended up in Vera Cruz, Mexico, instead. He died before his wife and family could catch up with him, and they immigrated instead through New York. As a result, Nabhan was born in America. Always fascinated by deserts, he has spent most of his adult life exploring and studying the arid environments of the Southwest and Mexico.

Using food, language, culture and history, Nabhan draws intriguing parallels, linking the deserts of his Lebanese and Syrian past with those of his North American present. He delves into the history of an ill-fated nineteenth-century attempt to introduce camels to the American Southwest. We visit an out-of-the-way cafe in Chihuahua, where menu items include stuffed grape leaves, mashed chickpeas with sesame paste, and lamb kibbe. "Wherever there is an oasislike agricultural area on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border," Nabhan writes, you can find groves of dates, figs, olives, apricots, citrus fruits, grape vines, and pomegranates, much like those you would see on the Arabian peninsula. He also invites us to the remote O'odham lands that straddle the U.S. and Mexico, where we ponder the way some Spanish and O'odham words echo the sounds and meanings of Arabic terms, perhaps carried to the New World via trade routes and the peculiarities of human migrations.

Nabhan offers us a "what if" - a walk through deserts seemingly worlds apart - and he finds in the sands of both common roots. Both lyrical and liberating, this is an intensely warm and personal foray through two very different regions that share far more than we might suppose.

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Greater Yellowstone Coalition seeks a development professional to coordinate the organization's individual giving program. The position description is available at http://greateryellowstone.org/careers Please email a letter...
  • IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR
    The Wilderness Society is seeking a full time Idaho State Director who will preferably be based in Boise, Idaho. At least 8-10 years of experience...
  • COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER AND BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER MANAGER
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring for two positions. We seek a Communications Manager to execute inspiring and impactful communications...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Wilderness Volunteers Wilderness Volunteers (WV), a 24-year leader in preserving our nation's wildlands, is seeking a motivated person with deep outdoor interests to guide our...
  • HECHO POLICY AND ADVOCACY MANAGER
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • FISHERIES BIOLOGIST
    Under the direct supervision of the Director of Shoshone-Paiute Tribe's Fish, Wildlife & Parks, in coordination with the Tribal Programs Administrator and the Tribal Chairman,...
  • REGIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NORTHERN ROCKIES, PRAIRIES & PACIFIC REGION
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has grown into America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more than...
  • STEWARDSHIP MANAGER
    STEWARDSHIP MANAGER Job Vacancy and Description Posted June 2, 2021: Open until filled The New Mexico Land Conservancy (NMLC) is a non-profit, regional land trust...
  • KSJD - MORNING EDITION HOST/REPORTER
    KSJD is seeking a host/reporter. Please see for www.ksjd.org for more information. EEO compliant.
  • ON THE EDGE OF CEDAR MESA/BEARS EARS
    Quiet, comfy house for rent in Bluff, Utah. Walk to San Juan River. Bike or hike to many nearby ruins and rock art sites. Beautiful...
  • CARPENTER AND LABORER WANTED.
    Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rain forest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg meadows,...
  • PROJECT MANAGER
    Title: Project Manager Reports To: Program Director Salary Range: Negotiable; starting at $60,000 Location: Bend, OR The Deschutes River Conservancy seeks a Project Manager to...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Deschutes River Conservancy seeks a Program Director to join our dynamic team in restoring streamflow and improving water quality in the Deschutes Basin. WHO...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - TWISPWORKS
    Established healthy nonprofit in the Methow Valley of Washington state, TwispWorks is hiring the next Executive Director. Terrific opportunity to strive for our mission to...
  • BOARD DIRECTOR
    Help us achieve our mission of promoting excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship, science and education to ensure the life-sustaining benefits of wilderness....
  • TEMPORARY FULL-TIME RANCH OPERATIONS ASSISTANT
    Twin Willows Ranch in Ocate, NM is seeking to immediately fill a Temporary Full-Time employment position as Ranch Operations Assistant for Facilities, Equipment, Land, and...
  • RANCH OPERATIONS ASSISTANT
    Twin Willows Ranch in Ocate, NM is seeking an individual to fill the Regular Full-Time position of Resident Operations Assistant for Technology, Hospitality, Gardening, and...
  • CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    Conservation Project Manager Position Description Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for...
  • NOVA SCOTIA OCEAN FRONT
    Camp or Build on 2+ acres in Guysborough. FSBO. $36,000 US firm. Laurie's phone: 585-226-2993 EST.
  • TECHNICAL ADVISOR TO THE GOOD NEIGHBOR AGREEMENT
    Northern Plains Resource Council seeks an independent contractor to implement the Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA) between local communities and the Sibanye-Stillwater Mining Company in Montana....