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

And transport them to hated and dreaded Omdurman


Danagla, Barabra, and Hadendoa have their own special languages; but being derived from Arabic, they are called "rotan," as if Arabic were the only original language in the world--the language of Adam and Eve, and the language of paradise. Arabic is not compulsory, so the blacks still talk in their local dialects.

The population of Omdurman amounts to about one hundred and fifty thousand persons; but it is by no means fixed, for during the winter numbers quit the town and go off into the Kordofan or Gezireh districts to cultivate. But when the Khalifa orders a general assembly, the numbers of course increase considerably. In 1888 the city was perhaps larger than at any other time, for in that year the Khalifa ordered all the inhabitants of the Gezireh to come and live in Omdurman. The reason for this was never exactly known, but it was thought he feared a revolt on the part of the Ashraf.

All the principal towns and villages on the Blue Nile as far south as Karkoj have been destroyed, such as Kemlin, Messalamieh, Wad Medina, Abu Haraz, Wad el Abbas and Rufaa; the inhabitants of all these towns, men, women, and children, under great fatigue, had to come to Omdurman, where they settled in the north of the town near Khor Shambat.

All these severe measures quite alienated the people from the Khalifa; wives were furious with their husbands for having so abjectly submitted to his

yoke, and it was now quite plain that they feared him greatly. One word from him was sufficient to make them pull down their houses, pack up their goods, load them on camels, donkeys, and mules, and transport them to hated and dreaded Omdurman. How they longed for the Government they had so bitterly abused. "Alf turba wala rial tulba" ("Thousands of graves are better than a dollar tax") had been their watchword in the beginning of the revolt; it had proved true with a vengeance, and how bitterly they repented of their folly when it was too late! Khalifa Abdullah now gripped them in the palm of his hand, and the utter disunion and discord which he created between tribes and nationalities, made all hope of future liberty and freedom quite out of the question.

Those who detested Mahdiism prior to 1888 had much greater cause to do so in 1889 and 1890; the first of these years brought a terrible famine on the land, and in 1890, though the actual period of want had passed away, everything was excessively dear.

The 1888 harvest had turned out badly; during the summer of that year the Khalifa had issued stringent orders that no one should keep more than one ardeb of dhurra in his own house, under penalty of severe punishment; all over and above that amount was ordered to be brought to the landing-stage at Omdurman; and as there were but few transport animals to carry the dhurra into the town, their owners charged exorbitant rates for its carriage, consequently large stores of it lay on the bank, and quantities were stolen.

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