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series profile: Adam Illius


At 9 years old, Adam Illius is too young to drive, but not too young to cross the Sahara on a camel in a family-run salt caravan.

Setting off from his Tuareg village of Timia, Niger, Adam spent six months on a trip that took him roughly 400 miles to collect salt in Biskra, and then to sell it at market in Zinder.

But Adam's camel trip is no longer usual. Trucks now dominate the Saharan trade routes and the speed with which they can deliver salt to market jeopardizes traditional camel caravans.

Still, entranced by his adventure, Adam says he plans to stick with camels. Since filming for AFRICA ended, he has traveled on one other salt caravan. The life is tough: Meals consist of a pre-prepared porridge of millet, goat's cheese and dates mixed with water. And no rest stops. To make tea without stopping, Adam carried a portable, charcoal-laden brazier.

School also falls subject to the dictates of the caravan. Adam usually attends a religious school where he learns and recites passages from the Koran. Though the caravans interfere with his school schedule, the Tuareg see the treks as essential to the education of any aspiring caravan leader.

As is language, in this diverse region. To help his trading future, Adam has also started studying Hausa, the language of an ethnic group that dominates northwestern Nigeria and southern Niger.

Setting out accross the Sahara.


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