Tea In The Sahara

Album: Synchronicity (1983)
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • This song is named after a chapter in the book The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles. In the chapter, the main character engages in a bit of late-night prostitution in a tent in the desert with three sisters who are part of a caravan. This provided lyrical content for the song: "My sisters and I... have one wish before we die." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Travis Boehm - Burnaby, Canada and Marcelona - Chicago, IL
  • The elegant soundscape on this song was crafted in large part by guitarist Andy Summers. "He expanded the vocabulary of the instrument beyond guitar solos, guitar parts and rhythm guitar into tracks like 'Walking On The Moon' and 'Tea In The Sahara' where you can't hear somebody playing the guitar but there's this orchestral envelope around the whole track," Police drummer Stewart Copeland told Songfacts. "That is something that Andy created."
  • Tea In The Sahara wasn't released as a single, but The Police played it on their Synchronicity tour, with Sting playing an oboe at the end of the song. Synchronicity ended up being the last studio album from the group; when the tour ended in 1984 they parted ways, and when they reconvened in 1986 it was clear they could no longer work together. They did reunite for a tour in 2007, but didn't attempt an album.
  • This was used on Miami Vice in the 1985 season 1 episode "The Maze." The show used a lot of contemporary music; other songs that were part of the first season include "In The Air Tonight" by Phil Collins, "What's Love Got To Do With It" by Tina Turner and "Born To Be Wild" by Steppenwolf.

Comments: 10

  • Philkelt from Dublin, IrelandThe song was apparently inspired by the book The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles�he quoted a tale about three sisters who hoped to have tea in the Sahara with a handsome prince they had met. The song is about broken dreams.

    "Three girls from the mountains�Outka, Mimouna and Aicha go to seek their fortune and more than anything else they want to drink tea in the Sahara. One day a handsome Targui comes who tells the sisters all about the Sahara, where he lives. They dance for him, he makes love to them and he gives them each a silver coin that they save in hopes of traveling to the desert.

    One day they say, �We are going to finish like this�always sad, without ever having tea in the Sahara - so now we must go anyway, even without money.� And they pool their funds to buy a teapot, a tray, three glasses and bus tickets. The sisters end up in the desert climbing the highest dune in hopes of finding the handsome Targui.

    Many days later another caravan was passing and a man saw something on top of the highest dune there. And when they went up to see, they found Outka, Mimouna and Aicha; lying the same way as when they had gone to sleep. �And all three of the glasses," he held up his own little tea glass, "were full of sand. That was how they had their tea in the Sahara."
  • Danielle from New York, NyWhile the inspiration for "Tea in the Sahara" may have come from the prostitution scene in the book "The Sheltering Sky", the song seems to have some vivid pagan elements, particularly with the sisters praying to the Moon. I believe that they are actually priestesses of a pre-Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion. The lyrics "they would wait for him here ....the same place every year" makes it seems more like a ritual, perhaps a yearly fertility ritual. Also, he is a young man, not a mature one. This would also be in keeping with a fertility ritual. Additionally, he is satisfying their need, not the other way around. He probably never comes back because he is either killed for continuing to worship a pagan faith, or he is converted. The sky turning to black signals the end of the power of their God, or Goddess, on Earth. Their cups full of sand represents their barren wombs and the barren earth due to the fertility ritual not being completed. The fact that they were waiting in a desert to begin with could represent that theirs was a dying faith, the desert itself symbolizing the death of their religion.
  • None from None , WyAh, I love this song. For some reason when I first got this song on a greatest hits album I ignored it. But then finally one night I listened to the whole album all the way through and I thought this was a perfect way to end it. Its kind of... comforting in a way. I'm not saying the lyrics are comforting, but the song (to me) can almost make you feel as if you're being tucked into bed. But perhaps I'm only saying that because it was 1 AM when I was listening to it and I nearly fell asleep. Haha.
  • Xyzee from Boston, MaLiquid Len...
    You crack me up!
    Hey, you've got an ear...
    This I know!
    Your Murder by Number comment was
    right on target.
  • Xyzee from Boston, Ma...but, he never returned, so the sisters would burn, as their eyes searched the land, with their cups still full of sand...

    Bloody brilliant! Sure wish Sting would write 'em the way he did with (the) Police. Misery becomes him, Felicity does not.
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrThere's a confusion on pronunciation. Is it "Sa Hera"? or is it "Sa Hahra"?
  • Liquid Len from Ottawa, CanadaThis song has subliminal messages in it! If you take the first letter of each word in the title...
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesThis has such a 1940s cinematic feel to it... I cannot explain it any better than that.
  • Matt from West Springfield, MaThis prolly my favorite police song...this or message in a bottle....I love the idea of broken promises and how empty it can make you feel....especially if its a promise broken by someone close to you...reminds me of a girl..lol
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrWhen I first heard this song, I misheard the lyric as, "Gee Whiz a Heart, with you."
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Grammar In Lyrics

Grammar In LyricsMusic Quiz

Lyrics don't always follow the rules of grammar. Can you spot the ones that don't?

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s Edition

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s EditionMusic Quiz

You know the scenes - Tom Cruise in his own pants-off dance off, Molly Ringwald celebrating her birthday - but do you remember what song is playing?

Millie Jackson

Millie JacksonSongwriter Interviews

Outrageously gifted and just plain outrageous, Millie is an R&B and Rap innovator.

Scott Stapp

Scott StappSongwriter Interviews

The Creed lead singer reveals the "ego and self-fulfillment" he now sees in one of the band's biggest hits.

Mike Scott of The Waterboys

Mike Scott of The WaterboysSongwriter Interviews

The stories behind "Whole Of The Moon" and "Red Army Blues," and why rock music has "outlived its era of innovation."

Charles Fox

Charles FoxSongwriter Interviews

After studying in Paris with a famous composition teacher, Charles became the most successful writer of TV theme songs.