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

She was immediately interned in the zariba


The

next day the mother came with one child less, and the third day she came with one child only; and at last she came alone, saying that she was now going to follow her three loved children. After that I never saw her again. If grief did not kill her, hunger must certainly have claimed her as a victim.

One day a girl presented herself before the judge of the market court, and reported that her mother had roasted her little brother and eaten him, and that now she had run away, as she was afraid she might suffer the same fate. The Kadi at once sent some soldiers with the girl to seize the unnatural mother; they found a poor half-starved woman with an ear and a piece of a leg. She was taken before the Kadi, and took a solemn oath that the only child she ever had was the girl; she was immediately interned in the zariba, and the matter reported to the Grand Kadi, who ordered the leg and ear to be exposed on the gallows. Even the savage blacks, who were hardened by constant warfare, were impressed with the horror of the poor woman's action, and crowded round the zariba to gaze at her; but it was soon discovered that the wretched creature was raving mad, so the Khalifa pardoned her, but she died a few days afterwards.

It was never safe for children to appear in the streets at night, or they would certainly have been seized by the starving people. One evening I heard a cry at my door, and myself and several neighbours

at once ran out to see what was the matter. We saw a man dragging a boy away: we at once gave chase, and the man dropped the boy and fled; he intended to have a good meal off the boy that night.

During the famine several sold themselves or their children into slavery; but when it was all over, the Khalifa ordered all such to be set free without remuneration to their masters.

Dervishes, who had heaped insults on the Turks during the siege of El Obeid for eating donkeys, and other unclean animals, were now feeling Heaven's vengeance, for not only did they eat unclean animals, but their own children as well. There were so many dead bodies about that it was not possible to bury them all. At first they used to bury them within the city, but the Khalifa put a stop to this, and they were then taken out to the north-west side, and up to this day, if anyone walks in that direction he will find the plain scattered with innumerable skulls and human bones, which lie there glistening in the sun, as white as snow; the driving sand and burning sun have polished them like glass.

How many dead bodies were carried away by the Nile, God only knows; if people thought of it I do not think they would ever eat any more fish, for the fish must have had a surfeit of human flesh. The scent of the dead bodies brought hyenas everywhere, and they became so bold that they would come almost up to my door. As for the vultures, their name was legion, but even they with the help of the hyenas were unable to consume all the bodies.

Let us leave Omdurman for a moment and trace the course of the famine in the provinces. In Dongola and Berber the price of dhurra rose to one hundred dollars an ardeb.

The entire districts between Omdurman and Berber had become depopulated. In a hut might be found a man, his wife and children all lying dead on their angaribs. Even in the salt districts near Shendi, almost the entire population had died of hunger. In Kassala and Galabat matters were even worse; here the price of an ardeb had gone up to two hundred and fifty dollars, and even for this enormous price it was almost impossible to get it, for there was really none in the country. The great Shukrieh tribe had eaten almost all their camels, and its numbers had dwindled from forty thousand to four thousand souls.


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