The story centers on Port Moresby and his wife Kit, a married couple originally from New York who travel to the North African desert accompanied by their friend Tunner. The journey, initially an attempt by Port and Kit to resolve their marital difficulties, is quickly fraught by the travelers' ignorance of the dangers that surround them.
The 1981 album Discipline by King Crimson includes an eight-minute instrumental composition titled "The Sheltering Sky."
The 1983 album Synchronicity by the Police includes a song called "Tea in the Sahara", the lyrics of which contain the phrase "beneath the sheltering sky" and are based on the tragic story of the three dancers who wish to have tea in the desert, but end up dead from the heat, with their cups filled only with sand. The story is told to the character Port in Chapter 5.
The 1992 album Beyond the Sky by Omar Faruk Tekbilek was inspired by the film version of The Sheltering Sky.
The 1992 album Woman to Woman by Fem 2 Fem has a reference to this book in the song "Obsession".
The song "Lost" by Neurosis on the album Enemy of the Sun opens with a sample from the film. Also their album The Eye of Every Storm has a tracks entitled "Shelter" and " A Season in the Sky".