Science: Shadow Over Sahara

Water wells are miles apart. Under the blistering sun, the temperature of the sand often reaches 180° F. Despite these forbidding conditions, foreigners have lately been scurrying in and out of the West African republic of Mauritania, at the western end of the Sahara —hiring the few available trucks, renting plots of land and even booking rooms in an old French Foreign Legion post. Told that the strangers are there to watch the moon black out the sun, some believers in the oasis town of Chinguetti—the seventh holiest city of Islam—are incredulous. "How...

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