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- People of Africa - 3/7 -

the towns are brick walls with gates that are shut at night for fear of robbers.

These people live very much like the town-people in Egypt, only they are much poorer. They can buy things from the traders in the caravans which stop at their village for the night, but as they cannot grow or make many things to give in exchange, most people have to be content with the earthenware cooking-pots and the cloth they can make themselves. The women draw water and prepare the food and look after the children. Then they weave flax and wool into cloth. Their dress is something like that of the poor Egyptians. The children have to herd the sheep and goats, which at night sleep in the house with their owners. The men hoe the gardens and grow the millet and barley for food, and the flax for cloth. The chief food of these people is bread made of millet-flour kneaded with milk and baked in a hole in the ground. The flour is ground between two stones placed one on the top of the other, the upper one having one or two handles by which it can be moved round. The people in these small, crowded towns in the middle of the desert must live very narrow lives, and they do not know much about anything outside their own village. Journeys in the desert are very dangerous because of sandstorms and the difficulty of finding the way where there are no roads, and more especially because of robbers. So people never go on journeys unless they can join a big company with plenty of men ready to fight if the robbers attack them.

4. The Desert Peoples (_b_) Bedouin

The second kind of people who have their home in the desert are the Bedouin. These are Arabs who once lived in another desert in Arabia, but long, long ago many of them came to live in the Sahara. The Bedouin live in tents made of poles with dark cloth of goats' hair or camels' hair spread across them for walls and roof. They travel in large tribes, and put up their tents on a small oasis where there is no town. These people still live as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived long ago, before the Israelites built their towns. On the oasis their camels, horses, sheep, and goats can find water to drink and grass to eat. When all the food has been eaten they pack up the tents and everything they have and put it on the backs of the animals. Then the men and women and children all mount camels and horses and donkeys, and the whole tribe moves to another oasis. These people drink camels' milk and eat the dates and bananas and other fruit they find where they pitch their tents. They also bring these fruits to the Berber towns, and exchange them for flour to make bread and for coffee to drink. Coffee is a berry which is first roasted, then, when water is boiled and poured on to it, it makes a strong, brown liquid which Arabs and Europeans like to drink. The women weave camels' hair into clothes and blankets, and goats' hair into tent-covers. The Bedouin men are always ready to fight with their guns and lances; sometimes they are robbers, but most of them travel from place to place, only fighting if others attack them. There is always a chief in each tribe of Bedouin, and in each village of the Berbers, but away in the desert there are many bands of robbers who will not obey any law, and everyone has to fight for himself against these people. The Bedouin love their animals, especially their camels and their horses. It is quite natural that they should do so, because often a man would die in the desert if his horse or camel would not work well and carry him faithfully until they reached water. Sometimes when the people lose their way in the pathless sand, the horses and camels can find it.

5. The Desert Peoples (_c_) Traders

The third kind of people who are found in the Sahara are the traders. These, like the Bedouin, are Arabs, but often their homes are in some town, either on the edge of the desert or in Egypt. They travel from the great North African towns and from Egypt, across the desert to the rich countries south of it, where the dark-skinned people live. There, south of the Sahara, they buy ivory and dyed goat-skins and other things in exchange for cloth and beads, and return with their merchandise to the northern towns again. Many years ago they used to capture slaves, but they cannot often do so now, because the Christian Europeans try to stop trading in slaves. The journeys of the traders take many months, because often they have to go by a long road in order to find water. So they travel from oasis to oasis seeking shade and water. Sometimes they have to ride three or four days to reach the next drinking-place. Then they have to carry water for themselves in goat-skins. The camels can live for a few days without water, though they get very weak. For this reason, everyone who makes long journeys in the Sahara has to ride on a camel. A horse can travel more quickly, but he, like a man, must have water every day. So the camel is sometimes called the "Ship of the Desert," because he, best of all, can carry men across the waterless sand. When traders travel across the desert with their merchandise, they are very much afraid of the desert robbers, who steal what they can from travellers. So they journey in large companies called "caravans," with a paid guide to show them the best and the quickest way from oasis to oasis, and with many men armed with guns and spears paid to ride along by the side of the camels carrying the merchandise, and to fight if robbers come to steal. These Sahara robbers are very bad people, who fight, and steal all they can get, and always kill everyone they can. So everyone who crosses the Sahara has to be ready to fight for his life as well as his property. The desert is so vast, and has so many hills and hiding-places, that it is easy for the robbers to get away after they have robbed a caravan. Then, as silence once more falls on the place of the struggle, the cries of the jackals and hyenas and vultures are heard, as they come from miles away drawn by the smell of blood. Swiftly they gather to feed on the bodies of the slain, and soon the wind blows the sand smooth and clean, where a few hours before it was trampled and stained with blood. Perhaps only a few whitened bones remain to show what has happened.

6. The North of Africa

So we have learned something about the people who live in the North of Africa. In Egypt, the land of the great River Nile, the people can grow rich and prosperous. They have time to learn, but, except the Copts, many of whom are goldsmiths, they seem to have quite forgotten how to make the beautiful things the old Egyptians made. In the desert, the Sahara, there is little water, and life is very hard. All day people must work to get enough for food and clothes. It is a land without a king and without laws, where each must fight for himself. Yet these people, on their long journeys through the waterless waste, have learned to be very brave and fearless and strong. They are patient, and endure great hardships without grumbling. They love music, and often sing as they ride over the silent sand. In the evening they gather round the fire to tell stories of what happened long ago. The people of North Africa are all Arabs or Egyptians or Berbers, with olive complexions and smooth, dark hair as a rule. Next we shall read about the very dark-skinned races who live farther south, in Central Africa, where the sun is much hotter.


1. Central Africa

In the last chapter we read that the Arab merchants crossed the desert to buy ivory and goat-skins from the people who lived farther south. In these next two chapters we shall read about these people south of the desert. Their land lies in the very middle of Africa, and so is called Central Africa. It is a beautiful country, with many rivers and great lakes and mountains. Central and West Africa are also the very hottest part of this continent. Now when plants have a lot of water and a lot of sun they grow very quickly, and so Central Africa, with its hot sun and its great rivers and lakes, is a land of great forests. In these forests there are lions and leopards, elephants, and deer; and ivory and skins, as well as gold, have for many years been sold by the Central Africans to the traders from the desert. On the eastern side of this country there are more mountains, lakes, and small rivers; on the western side there are great rivers, all of which join one very large one called the Congo. In this chapter we shall read about some of the people who live on the eastern side on the shores of the largest of all the lakes--the one called Victoria Nyanza. These people are called the Baganda, and their country is Uganda.

2. The Baganda

The Baganda are dark-skinned Africans. They all belong to one tribe and speak one language, but all around them are other Africans belonging to different tribes and speaking different languages. About sixty years ago, when the grandfathers of the men who are alive now were still young, the first Europeans went to Uganda. Until that time the tribes in Central Africa had spent most of their time fighting one another, killing many and making others slaves. Some of these slaves were sold to the Arabs to take away to Zanzibar and across the sea, or to take across the desert to Egypt. Some tribes were much stronger than others, and some of these drove everyone else out of the country they had chosen for themselves and made a kingdom of it. One of these strong tribes was the Baganda. Others liked to wander from place to place, but the Baganda chose to settle down on the shores of the great Lake Victoria Nyanza, and to stay there always.

When Europeans went to Uganda they found the Baganda had a king to whom they paid great honour. The king had many officers under him. Some of these were the chiefs of different parts of the kingdom. Others had special work to do--one to hear all the lawsuits and to settle disputes, another to command the army. Others had to work in the king's household, to wait on his wives and children, or to beat the big drum to call the people when the king wanted them, or to take care that no one entered the palace unless the king wished them to do so. But whatever their work was, all the chiefs and officers and people honoured and obeyed the king, and, because in this way everyone was ready to fight or to work for the king and the rest of the nation, the Baganda were one of the strongest and wisest of all the African peoples.

The old dress of these people was a cloth, not sewn, but simply twisted tight round their body under their arms, and reaching nearly to the ground. Sometimes it was fastened also by a belt round the waist. The cloth is made from the bark of certain trees soaked in water and beaten hard for many days until it is soft and thin and strong like woven cloth. Their houses were round and built of reeds, with steep roofs which nearly reached to the ground. The smaller villages had only a few people in them, everyone in each village being related to the rest. But the Baganda also had big towns, the biggest to-day being Mengo, where the king lives. Here there were people gathered together for the king's work, and many others brought food and bark-cloth to market to sell. The houses of the king and the great chiefs were large and beautifully decorated with plaited reeds.

The chief food of the Baganda is plantains or bananas, which are peeled when unripe and wrapped in smoke-dried banana leaves. These packets are slowly cooked with very little water in earthenware cooking-pots. When the food is cooked it is pressed and beaten, and then the leaves are opened out and make a plate. Other things, such as beans and vegetables and fish, are cooked in the same way, wrapped in banana leaves and then eaten with the bananas.

People of Africa - 3/7

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