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Day 55: Near Ingal

Michael Palin - SaharaBecause of the great heat of the day, the comparatively cool hours around dawn are valuable and much gets done. We are up at first light, just before six, but the Wodaabe women have been at work for an hour or more. The thorn bushes are hung with washing. The children are up and dressed and their mothers are out finding wood for the fire. After this they still have to prepare the food, milk the cows and fetch water from the creek.

As the bed forms the centrepiece of each family's living area, it doesn't surprise me to hear that the Wodaabe can't marry until they can afford one of their own. If they had mortgages, young Wodaabe couples would put them down on a bed. Another much-respected sign of wealth and status is the number and quality of your calabashes, the hollowed-out pumpkins, often painted and decorated, which are indispensable for cooking and eating.

Breakfast, and indeed every other meal, consists basically of milk and millet. The long, repetitive process of pounding the millet, usually entrusted to the young girls, is already underway, producing the soft, thudding rhythm that is the heartbeat of so many West African communities. After an hour, sometimes longer, the millet is ready to be mixed with water into the unappetising grey paste that will provide their nourishment for the day.
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 55
  • Country/sea: Niger
  • Place: Ingal
  • Book page no: 163

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