With all of this talk of nomadic watering holes, I realized I should discuss the nomads themselves some more. The nomads in Sudan were very interesting to me. I’d first encountered nomads in Afghanistan and have been fascinated by them ever since. Perhaps it is the simplistic beauty of their minimalist lifestyle or the fact that every facet of their lives seems like it should be in National Geographic magazine or maybe it is their incredible hospitality or perhaps it is because they get to spend so much of their time with goats. Or maybe it is all of those and a number of other factors as well. I can’t always explain my interests and fascinations in an articulate manner.
The first thing I noticed about the nomads was their uncanny ability to pop up just about anywhere.
After driving for hours through this (see below), one does not expect to park and suddenly have a nomad casually walk out of the bushes:
Yet, that is exactly what happened:
Even more surprising was this instance when we stopped to eat our lunch and this nomad appeared out of nowhere with a tea tray to welcome his visitors:
One can gain a much broader insight into the nomadic lifestyle by visiting the homes of the nomads though. So, below, I will profile three nomadic families we stopped and visited with (Many others were visited, but I took the most pictures with the three below).
Some characteristics are universal: They all live in huts made of sticks and brush as these can easily be abandoned or transported.
Occasionally the long journey will be made to the nearest village to sell a sheep or a goat for something like soap or vegetable oil. Interestingly, there are no fruit or vegetables in their diet. They subsist on meat and sorghum.
This is the home of Family 1. As you can see, it is quite modest by Western standards:
Nevertheless, this home provides the necessary shelter from the sun and the very occasional rainstorm and ably contains the essentials of the nomadic lifestyle – the water jugs hanging from the ceiling, a couple of pots and pans and bed frames:
This is the interior of the smaller building:
And these small structures do indeed serve as ‘home sweet home’ for this family:
This woman with the goats around her is the matriarch of the family:
Now, you are probably thinking that her face is a wreck. And I agree with you, however, believe it or not, this was done on purpose. The women of the tribes in the area use knives to carve scars in their cheeks that denote lineage, tribe membership, status and more:
Her daughter (below) wanted no part of the face carving though…
I ended up feeling like a douchebag with the daughter. Dear readers, you probably think that your editor finds nothing but success with women, but he does stumble from time to time. And the girl below represents one of those occasions.
When we exited the vehicle upon arriving, I was chewing a piece of gum. Upon being introduced to the girl in red she pointed to her mouth in a gesture I took to mean that she was asking me for a piece of gum. I pointed to my mouth to confirm that she did indeed want some gum and she smiled and nodded. So, I returned to the truck and retrieved not just one piece of gum for her, but two whole packs of gum!
Thinking I would do my small part to improve American/Sudanese relations and would leave this particular girl permanently smitten with me, I was somewhat surprised to see the flicker of disappointment on her face as I proudly handed her the two packs of gum.
I pondered my rejection as she ignored me for the rest of our visit, only to have the nature of my mistake revealed to me when Ramadan, our guide and driver, handed over several large bags of food to thank the family for their hospitality. It was food she wanted, not fucking gum:
This is the home of Family 2:
Here is a view of the interior. That’s a tangle of goats on the floor:
Family 2 was a large family:
And the girls drew endless entertainment from trying on the Italian’s sunglasses:
And, of course, despite water being such a precious resource to these nomadic families, tea was immediately prepared for us:
Family 3 was even larger than Family 2. And they had more goats.
Here are some pictures of the interior of the home:
I took this picture of the roof to show you how the roofs and walls are constructed of brush the nomads are able to scavenge:
And this is their goat corral:
Meet Family 3:
Not a bad life, is it? Goats, freedom, no schedules, no mortgage payments, no taxes here… Talk about a libertarian paradise!
Are you ready to pack it all in, dear readers, and head out to the desert with some goats?
It’s a tough life. One family we met had run out of water and had to beg water off of us. The men had gone off to retrieve some water from a spring, but they had been gone for days and the family was in quite desperate circumstances when we arrived.
And, of course, there are no hospitals or schools out here. What’s the need for an education though?
They want to stay with the animals which, aside from goats, also include sheep, camels and donkeys.