Of these cities the most important is Kano, the great emporium of trade for the central Sudan, where Tuareg and Arab from the north meet merchants from the Niger, Lake Chad and the far southern regions.
Whatever these dialects be called, the Kabyle, the Shilha, the Zenati, the Tuareg or Tamashek, the Berber language is still essentially one, and the similarity between the forms current in Morocco, Algeria, the Sahara and the far-distant oasis of Siwa is much more marked than between the Norse and English in the sub-Aryan Teutonic group. The Berbers have, moreover, a writing of their own, peculiar and little used or known, the antiquity of which is proved by monuments and inscriptions ranging over the whole of North Africa.
The sultan of Air is to a great extent dependent on the chiefs of the Tuareg tribes inhabiting a vast tract of the Sahara to the north-west.
The attempts at penetration into the extreme south, abandoned after the massacre by Tuareg of a mission sent in 1881, under Colonel Paul Flatters, to study the question of railway communication with Senegal, were begun again in 1890, in which year the British government recognized the western Sahara as within the French sphere.