Skins

We had unsaddled beneath some acacia trees, where the wadi widened out. Soon, Arabs appeared from the pool staggering under filled water-skins, which they laid out in the shadow of the trees. The skins lay there in the thin shade, wobbling slightly like giant slugs, bloated and curiously obscene. Travelling with Bedu I learnt to use their things. It is I am convinced, a mistake to introduce innovations from outside, however much better they may appear to be. The Arabs know their own gear—it has stood the test of time. The goat skins in which they carry their water can be rolled up when they are empty, weight nothing, and are easily stowed away. If they sweat, they can be treated with butter; if they leak the holes can be plugged with thorns or with splinters of wood wrapped round with cloth. This looks precarious, but it works surprisingly well. The water tastes and smells of goat, but in the desert untainted water is tasted only in dreams. Flour, rice, and dates are packed in other skins which are easily slung along the saddle and balance the weight of water on the other side. Butter is usually carried in lizard skins about eighteen inches long. (Thesiger, 1959: p. 84-85)

We spent the following day at Ali”s tent. This was only about twelve feet long, woven of black goat’s-hair and pitched like a wind-break under a small tree. (Thesiger, 1959: p. 312)

Wilfred Thesiger, Arabian Sands (Penguin Classics: 1959 – reprinted 2007).

My emphasis in bold.

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