The car with the photo of which I saluted the day yesterday had moved to the usual place for parking in front of the dig house on Sai. Next to it stood this morning the other old Land Rover of the French mission.
It had no problem to start its engine in the cold of today’s morning. Perhaps because it knows so well the ways of Sai Island! But the car that brought me from Khartoum was struggling and the funny thing is that I did not even need it before noon: it was a misunderstanding between me and the driver concerning what time I needed the car. It seems that my Arabic have become a bit more rusty than usual after almost two years of absence from Sudan…
In any case, I profited from the absence of the nimitis for another morning and I started the tracing of the rock inscriptions, a work that I will complete tomorrow early morning again.
The first half of the working day is punctuated on Sai Island by the wonderful scent arising from the back court of the dig house: Abdel Fatah is offering us the incomparable luxury of fresh bread baked in an oven heated by fire wood – an art that is rarely seen nowadays in the Western world.
But isn’t Sai and the life of its people so different than everything in our world?
The most important thing to consider is that these people live without electricity, water from the river – or from wells tapped to their house in the best of cases – and thus keeping with a traditional life style that links them with a past that is present around them, since their houses have been built against, abutting, or over the houses of their ancestors.
See the case of Seikh ad Din: his house is built as an extension to the Kurfa (tower) of his grand-grand-grand-grand-father Maaruf.
Maaruf built his diffi (a mud brick house compound) next to the one of his father Issa’.
According to Sheikh ad Din, Issa’ was the first one to settle in Dibasha and the story brings us seven generations back, that is more than two hundred years ago at the end of the Ottoman period in Northern Sudan. There is epigraphic evidence for that, but I will avoid showing this today.
This season on Sai, there have been a lot of discussions concerning illegal digs at the archaeological sites. Sheikh ad Din and the area under his protection have witnessed a number of those. And even if they ever catch any looters, there is no result or serious investigation. Perhaps the entire Northern Sudan is being considered as part of the treasure hunt, the hunt for gold that the government allow people to indulge in freely. How to make the difference between the ancient treasures and the ancient treasures? I hope that my Arabic will improve next year during a longer season and tackle the matter along with the locals. In the meantime, may Allah guard over Sheikh ad Din, whom I salute warmly with this last photo for today…