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Sahara

Day 57: Ingal

Michael Palin - SaharaDoulla, Perri and the advance guard of Wodaabe have found some accommodation in town. They've rented two houses with interlocking walled compounds from some Hausa boys. The Hausa, from the south of the country, make up over half the population. Urbanised and opportunistic, they largely control the commercial life of Niger.

Two of them lounge in the shade of the doorway, eyes following us with self-assured curiosity. They're dressed in T-shirts and jeans and wear big watches, and I have the feeling that they can't understand why we should be so interested in a bunch of nomads.

I recall Céline telling me back at the camp that the Hausa-led central government does not have much time for the Wodaabe, being suspicious and hostile, as governments often are, towards those who have no fixed address. So it's not a great surprise to find Doulla and Perri somewhat subdued. They don't like renting and they don't like houses.

Not that this one impresses with its permanence. The mud that binds the building together looks to have been mixed from the contents of a rubbish tip. Shreds of plastic bag, silver paper, bottle caps, glass, fabric and even leather shoe straps protrude from the walls. On the other hand, I can see it's Turner Prize potential. A house made of everyday life.

Accompany Doulla and Perri to buy provisions. In the market, shopkeepers sit cross-legged beneath grass-thatch awnings. Beside them are bowls of sugar, blocks of salt, sacks of tobacco and dried chillies and boxes of green china tea. Staples like millet and kola nuts lie out in the open, piled high on plastic sheeting. After buying the basics, Doulla and Perri get down to what they really enjoy, looking at clothes. They show me the intricate differences in the thread of the indigo blue turban material and the finer points to look out for when buying the loose robe and leggings that form the basic nomad's outfit.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 57
  • Country/sea: Niger
  • Place: Ingal
  • Book page no: 167

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