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

The staple article of food is dhurra


All

went well for a time; but soon it was discovered that false stamps were in use. This led to another inspection of all goods in the market, and the confiscation of a considerable quantity of property, an operation which caused business to be suspended for about eight days.

Large quantities of printed cotton stuffs are imported; also perfumes, medicines, cloves, rice, sugar, and dried fruits. The home-trade is, of course, much brisker than imported trade, and consists for the most part of provision dealing. Dongola and Dar Shaggieh supply Omdurman with dates; Berber sends salt, mats and baskets made of palm leaves; from Kordofan comes gum, sesame, and dukhn; the Gezireh exports dhurra, dammur, and cotton; Karkoj supplies sesame and a small quantity of gold. Omdurman is thus the great wholesale and retail mart, which in turn supplies the provinces. Here the whole population--men, women, and children from eight years of age--are all dealers.

The older women have their own quarter of the market, in which they sell oil, grease, pearls, vegetables, drugs, dhurra, and dates. Young women are not allowed to go to the market; but they send their slaves, who take charge of the goods. The latter are obliged to render full accounts when they return in the evening; and woe to the unfortunate slave who makes a mistake in his calculations! Quantities of vegetables are grown in the gardens in Khartum, Buri, and Gereif, and are

brought to Omdurman for sale. The Baggara women are naturally good dealers, and have now secured almost the entire custom.

In the early days of Mahdiism everyone lived in the most simple way, and dressed even more simply. The staple article of food is dhurra, which is merely boiled, made into a cake and eaten. Bread, which is generally known as "kesra," is eaten with a sauce which is usually made of pounded bamiehs boiled with red pepper and salt. Sometimes beans are used instead of bamiehs. Meat is scarce, but a meat sauce boiled in milk and mixed with pounded dried fish is a favourite dish. Quantities of fish are obtained from the Nile, and tortoises, which sometimes take the place of meat, are not uncommon. But whilst the rich live in comparative luxury, the poor people exist in the greatest want and misery.

Good clothing is seldom considered; the richer a man is, the dirtier will his dress be. This is, of course, meant to blind the eyes of inquisitive slanderers. The Baggara chiefs have no reason to conceal anything; but it must be quite apparent to all that a form of government which preaches a continual despising of the good things of this life is not likely to promote any of the higher comforts of civilization.

In matters, however, regarding war and the preparations required for a jehad, it is entirely different. Blacksmiths are always busy forging spears and knives; and in this description of work the results are remarkable. Saddlers make every description of leather ornament for horse and camel decoration; tanners prepare the leather, and dye it red or black; tailors now make much better jibbehs than before; the patches are generally made of good cloth, and the best garments are now valued at about sixteen dollars each. The women spin the cotton, and the men weave the dammur from it. The best dammur comes from Berber and Metemmeh. The Darfur women are also famed for their good and even spinning; but Abyssinian dammur is generally considered better than any of Sudan manufacture.


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