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Ten Years' Captivity in the Mahdi's Camp 1882-1892

Towards the end of 1888 Nejumi was in Dongola again


Bahr

el Karrar in 1888 occupied the wells of Haimar and Ongat, and from here was able to annoy the inhabitants on the Nile between Assuan and Korosko. He raided the village of Kalabsheh, some fifty miles south of Assuan, killed the Egyptian police guards, and carried off their officer a captive to Omdurman. All this time there was a great deal of talk in the capital about the conquest of Egypt, but we never received any very decisive news. The captured officer was paraded through the streets in triumph, and was then brought before the Khalifa, who received him kindly, and questioned him very fully about Egypt; but he quite understood what sort of replies to make to the Khalifa's questions, and only told him what he knew would please; so he was well treated, set at liberty, and now lives in Omdurman.

From time to time the Khalifa despatched reinforcements to Dongola which never returned, and this was the reason of the main road leading north out of Omdurman being called "Darb Esh Shuhada" ("The Martyrs' Road ").

The Egyptian Government had now confined itself to the defence of its own frontiers. In June 1888, Bishir Bey, a subsidized Government sheikh, turned Bahr Karrar out of Haimar; but on the other hand, the Sarras Dervishes made a sudden descent on the Dabarosa bazaar, killed a number of merchants, and escaped before the troops from Haifa could intercept them. Meanwhile, there was not much harmony between the

big emirs. Nejumi and his followers were jealous of the masterful Baggaras, and it was only with the greatest reluctance that they brought themselves to show any respect to the Emir Mussaid of the Baggara Habbanieh, who had been sent to Dongola by the Khalifa to watch and report on Nejumi's doings.

The Baggaras hated Nejumi to such an extent that one of their number attempted to poison him; but he recovered after a long illness, though he never entirely got the poison out of his system. It is said that his eyesight was always bad afterwards. This constant bickering between the Baggara and Nejumi crippled his energy. Formerly he had been greatly feared by them, but now his own people were annoyed that he showed so much deference to the Khalifa and his emirs. As for the Khalifa, he was thoroughly exasperated by Nejumi's indolence, and summoned him to Omdurman.

During his absence from the province, a deserter from the Egyptian side led the Dervishes into the fort at Khor Musa, within five miles of Halfa, where they killed some of the garrison, but were unable to take the whole fort. Colonel Wodehouse having been informed of their attack, at once sent out help, and the Dervishes were surprised and annihilated.

[Illustration: BISHIR BEY, SHEIKH OF THE ABABDEH ARABS.]

Towards the end of 1888 Nejumi was in Dongola again. The Khalifa had threatened to throw him into chains unless he showed more energy in his operations against Egypt. He had already exhibited his displeasure by imprisoning Sheikh Idris and Makin Wad en Nur, who had shown a reluctance to go forward, for they had made up their minds that a successful attack on Egypt was an impossibility. They could not even capture Wadi Halfa. The desert roads were next to impassable owing to want of water, whilst the river was in the hands of the enemy, who had numbers of steamers, and could prevent any Dervish advance by water. All these difficulties were quite apparent to Nejumi and his emirs; but so self-confident was the Khalifa, that he could not believe there was any great difficulty in conquering Egypt; added to this, several sheikhs of Upper Egypt had assured him that when the Dervishes advanced they would be joined by the entire population.


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