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

Slaves were dragged from Darfur


make drinking cups and tin receptacles of various sorts for household use. Cooking-pots are made of copper. Jewellers make gold and silver filigree work for the ladies; but this work is not nearly as good as it used to be in the days of the Egyptian Government. All these various trades are carried on in the market.


Mahdiism has re-established the slave trade, which is now in full vigour, and almost all those slaves who were liberated in the Government days have been sold again as slaves. Wherever there is a beit el mal there is also a slave-market. The largest is, of course, in Omdurman, to which all captured slaves are sent. The beit el mal sells the slaves by auction. Well-grown male slaves are generally taken into the army.

Close to the beit el mal is the female slave-market, where generally fifty or sixty women of various ages are to be found. The slave-dealers are for the most part Egyptians. The slaves are arranged in lines under the open sky; their bodies are generally well bathed in oil to preserve the gloss of their skin. Intending purchasers make the most careful and minute examination, and the price varies from twenty to a hundred dollars.

Young females are kept apart from the rest, as they are generally selected as concubines, and as such they are subjected to a most critical scrutiny;

the shape of their hands and feet, and the form of their mouth, nose, ears and teeth are all carefully noted. Black are preferable to copper-coloured slaves, and the latter colour necessitates a considerable reduction in price.

Young male slaves are sold at from thirty to sixty dollars each, and these have generally to learn a trade. Purchasers ask all sorts of searching questions as to whether they have good moral qualities, are likely to run away, &c., &c. The salesman must produce a certificate showing the tribe, a full descriptive return, and the legal authority entitling to ownership.

During the early days of Mahdiism the slave trade received an enormous impetus, more especially subsequent to the capture of Bahr el Ghazal and the occupation of Darfur. After Gessi Pasha's victory over Zubeir Pasha's son and the dispersion of the slave-dealers, several of the latter fled into the interior, where pursuit was impossible; then followed the era of liberty under the Mahdi's banner, the slave-dealers emerged from their hiding-places, and, with quantities of slaves, proceeded to Omdurman.

When at El Obeid I often saw as many as 500 of them marching along to the sound of music. Slaves were dragged from Darfur, bound together with leather thongs round their necks in batches of thirty. Abu Anga brought thousands of them from the Nuba hills. The only districts untouched hitherto were those in the vicinity of the White Nile, but quite recently the garrisons of Fashoda, Regaf, and Lado have been busily engaged in this human traffic; these blacks, however, who during the intervals of peace had been gradually recovering their strength, now determined to resist the Dervish authority, which was not very strong in those far-distant districts. It would have been a great thing if the Dervishes could have been turned out of Lado and Regaf. The Abyssinian campaigns also brought quantities of slaves to Omdurman, but these are little fitted for hard work, and are employed for the most part in grinding corn, carrying water, and as concubines.

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