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

Sayid Osman already takes part in the conduct of affairs


Great

were the preparations for these princely weddings, which were carried out with a splendour entirely at variance with the late Mahdi's laws. The betrothal ceremony was accompanied by dancing and merry-making in both the Mahdi's and the Khalifa's households, and the air reeked with perfumes. All the principal merchants and emirs gave rich presents in the shape of brides' dresses and varieties of costly perfumes; nor were gold and silver ornaments and velvet missing. The goldsmiths have invented a new form of jewellery, which has been named "the Khalifa's stirrups." These ornaments, although absolutely opposed to Mahdi laws, are extensively worn in both households. Hundredweights of sugar were brought to Yakub's house, besides dhurra, wheat, butter, oxen, and fat-tailed sheep, which latter are valued at from twenty to thirty dollars a head.

It is usual for the bridegroom, or the bridegroom's father, to offer presents of provisions to the bride, as well as clothes and ornaments, which are all handed over to her with great ceremony on an appointed day. Then there is the festival of "tefail," to which women only are admitted, after which comes "henna day," when the hands and feet of the bride are dyed red with henna. All these ceremonies are accompanied by banquets, dancing, and singing. Every evening Yakub entertained hundreds of the Ansar with rich food, and distributed several ardebs of dates.

On the occasion of

the "dakhul" the bride is taken to the bridegroom's house late in the evening; for seven days afterwards they receive the congratulations of their friends, and then the ceremony and festival are ended.

From the pomp and ceremony with which the Khalifa surrounded his son's wedding, it is evident to all who thought about the matter that he had secret intentions. After the wedding he had a princely house built for his son, in the place known as Abu Anga's yard, near the mosque; this he quite disfigured by building houses all around it, which are considered the best in the town. When the palace was completed, the "heir apparent," who had hitherto been living with his father, moved into it with great ceremony. The Khalifa gave alms in a most liberal manner, so that his son's residence might be blessed.

Sayid Osman already takes part in the conduct of affairs, and opens and reads the letters to the clerks. Almost every morning he rides round with the Governor on his inspections, but he does not live much amongst the people. The Khalifa has changed his name into Sheikh Ed Din Sayid Osman, and now he is generally known as Sheikh Ed Din only; he quite understands the _role_ he has to play. He is a lover of good food, and rejoices in the little specialities which the merchants bring from Sawakin and Egypt, such as kamar ed din, dried figs, raisins, and all sorts of cakes and biscuits, which are brought in abundance to Yakub's house. The Khalifa treats him with marked respect, occasionally hands over the command of the parade to him, and the soldiers always present arms to him.

From the above it is quite evident that Abdullah wishes to secure the succession to his son. This is perfectly understood by the people, who make no secret of it. The Khalifa's plan is to go slowly but surely. He wants to secure the ascendency of the Baggara over the Jaalin, Danagla, Barabra, and other smaller tribes of the Sudan.

Until the appearance of the Mahdi, the Baggara were, perhaps, the most despised of all the Arab tribes. The "Aulad-belad," as the Jaalin, Danagla, and Barabra are called, had become more civilized in virtue of their geographical position, and are far more crafty by nature than the Baggara; they despised the latter, and under the leadership of Zubeir Pasha, they defeated the great tribes in the neighbourhood of Shakka, and it is these same Baggara who are now their masters.


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