HELPING BIRDS

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1924 ARTICLE INTRO
SENUSSIS
SIWA
AMERICAN SHEIK
THE SANDSTORM
THE CARAVAN
JALO
BIBO
TEA AND RICE
LEADERSHIP
HELPING BIRDS
TRAGEDY
KUFRA
DESERT CHIVALRY
SLAVES
THE UNKNOWN
CAMEL AND MAN
EXTREMES
NIGHT TREKS
BY THE STARS
OUENAT
ROCK CARVINGS
END OF JOURNEY
Glossary
Editors Notes

 

HELPING BIRDS ON THEIR NORTHWARD FLIGHT

It is a trek of nine days from Buttafal well to Zieghen, across one of the most desolate parts of the world. Birds migrating northward to Europe, some of them small robins, fly 250 miles without a drink of water. Sometimes these intrepid travelers, apparently mistaking us for trees, would alight upon our heads or shoulders (see illustration, page 254). We would give them a drink, and off they would fly again. They never made a mistake and started south. As we went along we saw remnants of wings which told their own story.

During this stage of the journey I used to ask the guide in the morning to indicate the line of march for the day. He would trail a line with his stick. I would (p247) take bearings on it and check him ten or fifteen times in an hour with my compass, and he would not waver a yard, walking half a mile ahead of the caravan. It was extraordinary to watch him, to see that beautiful straight line[13]. (p248)

A Senussi Ikhwan: Photo by Ahmed Bey Hassanein on 1923

SAYED MOHAMMED EL ABED'S NEPHEW WITH HIS TUTOR, A SENUSSI "IKHWAN" (LEARNED MAN)

The ikhwans, in addition to their responsibilities as teachers, play the role of peacemakers among the Senussi when a murder is committed. It is they who act as intermediaries in settling the question of blood money (see text, pages 251 and 252). [photo page 248]

 

Tuaregs in Kufra: Photo by Ahmed Bey Hassanein on 1923

TUAREGS IN KUFRA

'The men f this tribe, rather than the women, conceal their faces, and even when they eat do not remove their veils. This feat in feeding is accomplished by the use of specially constructed spoons. For an account of this interesting Saharan Berber people, see "Timbuktu, in the Sands of the Sahara," by Captain Cecil D. Priest, in The Geographic for January, 1924. [photo page 249]

 

In daylight trekking, the Bedouin uses his shadow for a compass, and so experienced has he become that his course alters imperceptibly as his shadow moves in sundial fashion.

About midday he would get in trouble, because traveling by his shadow, this would then be between his feet!

I caught him at the end of one day in just one mistake. The stars had not come out, and he was going absolutely due west when he should have been going south. If I asked him in the daytime, "Are we going in the right direction?" he would wave his hand and say, "God knows best!" Of course, "God knows best," said with an air of assurance, is all right, but if a Bedouin guide tells you "God knows best" in a hazy way, after you have seen him wobble, it means he has gone astray.[14]

We lost three camels on this stretch of desert.

Arriving at Zieghen, I was able to correct its location on the map. Rohlfs, the German explorer, who went before me 45 (p249) years ago, had located it 62 miles from where it really is. This was not his fault. He put it down from hearsay, for he had never been there. I suspected the error when I visited the oasis in 1921, but could not be sure until I had accurate instruments.


 

[13] What Ahmed is telling us here is that this is a good guide. He has suffered before and seems now to have a good idea of what makes guides good.—SaharaSafaris.org Editor.

[14] Other explorers like—for instance—E. H. Palmer spoke Arabic too. It seems that Ahmed here is showing off more than words—a body language and tone of speech that only a native can understand. Yet another evidence of the Bey showing off his nativity to the Muslim region. As native myself, it's very amusing to see this by a high-profile explorer .SaharaSafaris.org Editor.

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