“We were warriors once.
“We lived in the desert, by the Red sea and the Gulf of Aden. Or so the white man calls them.
“All the tribes feared us, the Amharinya, the Tigrinya, the Erythreans, the Somali. We were warriors. We were the Danakils.
“To marry the young maiden of our choice we had to fight and kill an enemy, cut his balls off, and offer them to the girl, so she could wear them proudly. Sorry about the gory details. Just tradition. Nothing personal. The other guy would have done the same.
“From the Wabe-Shebelle to the sea, all feared the name of the Danakil warriors.
“Then came ‘progress’. Machine guns. Endless killings. Warlords. No purpose. No honour. Just greed.
“Some nuts said we should bring in tourists. Show them the desert on our camels. What’s a tourist?
“The tourists never came. The warlords went away. To Somalia. Or just killed each other. We stayed.
“Me? The desert is my home. It rained last night. It’s been years since I’ve seen rain. The desert has gone green. For a few days. The camels will feast on the new grass. The younguns talk about ‘global warming’. I don’t know what that is. We were warriors once.”
The inspiration for this sketch is a poster that was on my student wall for a while. I’d bought it in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, where I finished high school. Sounds strange to say: “Me? I did Senior High at the Franco-Ethiopian Lycée Guebre Mariam in Ethiopia.” Another century, another world. The poster was from the Ethiopian Tourist Organization. Their slogan was: “Thirteen months of sunshine.” The Ethiopian – Christian – calendar has 13 months. It is a Coptic calendar with 12 months of 30 days, adding a 13th month of 5 or 6 days at the end of the year. The camel driver on the poster and the sketch is most probably a Danakil, who were a tribe of feared warriors.
Final note: 50 years later, a deposed and executed last Emperor, Haile Selassié, 30 something years of a left-wing military junta, endless civil war, Ethiopia had finally known a few years of relative peace and stability, some of my old classmates even went home to Addis. The older sister of one of my classmates, an Amharinya, was actually elected President of Ethiopia. No power, just a symbol. And pride for the alumni of the Lycée. Strange as it may be, we keep in touch. Sadly, she has no power, the Prime Minister has it all. Alas, the old ethnic demons are tearing Ethiopia apart. Again. The Tigrinya forces are marching on the heart of Amharinya region and capital of Ethiopia: Addis-Ababa. Some say the city where I finished High school might fall in a matter of days or weeks. I hope my old classmates and the Ethiopian people can be spared from more years of massacre and tyranny. 🙏🏻
Ezrestelin, thank you, for visiting and reading.