In 1845, Englishman James Richardson set off on a nine month adventure in and around the Sahara, with the intention of writing a book about it. In fact, Travels in the Great Desert of Sahara in the Years of 1845 & 1846 has two volumes. It’s available online, and is actually quite interesting and even humorous, at times. He even states that some of the (Muslim) locals had correctly understood “that I am writing a book about their country to amuse the Christians.”
Many in the Western world viewed the Middle East and Africa as an exotic paradise. It turned out that the intense heat of the desert, the less advanced society, and the Turkish oppression made for a different impression. But even as Richardson was curious about all that he encountered, he was also a curiosity in every place he visited. As he learned what the “exotic paradise” was really like, his hosts also learned what a European was really like. And he found that the Sahara was not a flat, immense, oceanless beach full of sand, like many people picture deserts. It had mountains and plateaus, was mostly rocky, and scattered with oases “like spots on a leopard”.
But the reason I even came upon this book is that it is the only example I could find where the word, arenose was used in a sentence. Arenose means sandy or gritty. Richardson refers to a particular oasis as arenose, and that even the ripe dates were sandy because of the strong winds constantly blowing the sand. An oasis in the Sahara is arenose. Who knew? Actually, the dates would be arenose as well, since they were gritty.
The word, arena comes from the same root, and there are still sandy arenas today (such as the Haitian soccer field in the picture). I’m sure there was a time when the best arenas had the best sand. Before the Astros had Astroturf, in fact, they just painted the dirt green, since there wasn’t enough sunlight getting through the roof of the Astrodome for the grass to grow. So in 1965, folks may have watched baseball being played in the arenose Astrodome without even realizing that there wasn’t a blade of grass in view. “Chemgrass” wouldn’t be installed until the 1966 season, and eventually renamed “Astroturf”.
But I must return to Mr. Richardson’s travels. I’ve left him not far from the farthest point he will travel. I fear that, if I don’t finish reading, he will not survive to write his memoir.