“Tin Hinan” Book II, Chapter 4


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LadyNyo wordpress.com: A mountain Ksar in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco

I am working to finish this novel by this summer.  A reader can see this chapter is far towards the end, and I hope to conclude in a matter of weeks.  Of course, there is a long period of rewrite, but I can do this. It’s just one key in front of the other.

This chapter is about Tin and Immel and company leaving their mountain ksar.  A ksar is a mountain settlement, usually built into the side of a mountain, and in some regions, a forested mountain.  Some ksars look like beehives.  The lower parts are grainerys and the upper parts are residences.

Over the course of writing this novel, I had to do a lot of research into foods. I was fortunate to know modern day Berbers in Atlanta, and tried to consult them with the issues of ancient grains, foods, etc.  I found that much of what was researched was also eaten today in families, not restaurants.  This is more particular to desert tribes, but today in Morocco much of this food would be recognized in some form.

Thank you to the readers of these chapters of “Tin Hinan” especially those in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and the general Middle East.  All misinformation is mine in the writing of this book.

Lady Nyo

Tin Hinan, Chapter 4 of Book II

Although I knew my purpose in returning to the desert, I felt reluctance in leaving our mountain.  The lush meadows, the pastures, the fruit trees and the early-planted fields of millet were a delight to my desert eyes.  Everything was so green and blooming around me, this first spring of my life in the mountains. 

Everything so different from the desert.  The smells were different too, not of the howling winds, but of budding leaves, blossoms of mountain wild flowers, even the soil smelled of life and regeneration.  I would miss the sharp smell of the walnut trees, when I crushed a leaf in my hand and saw the stain appear.  I especially would miss the beautiful apricots, the tender blossoms and the sweet fruit that would fill my mouth like honey.  And I would miss Niefa. She would have calved by the time I returned, and I wanted to be there, to help her in her first labor, and to guide her spindly-legged calf to her nipples.  Immel laughed at me, saying  Niefa would not need my help in this, but Immel was a man. What did he know about birth and especially Niefa?  She was hand raised by me, and would miss my presence as much as I missed her.

Ah, but by Isis, it could not be helped.  I had a purpose for leaving the mountains, and to return to the desert of my birth. I could not forget this.  I must revenge my tribe, my family, the great insult done to them. I must revenge myself by blood.  Each night I prayed silent prayers to Tanit, to Tinjis, and especially to Ifri, the War Goddess. I asked all that I remember my purpose and that my liver be not steered from my destiny.

But we did leave our mountain, and with Takama behind me on a war camel, this big beast who groaned and moaned like a tiny donkey, we came out of the mountains and approached the desert of our journey, the mighty Sahara.  We would cross other mountain ranges, as this route was different and longer than the way Takama and I had taken.  The course of our small caravan was set by the elders and Immel had purpose for this: he was still a raider, and still a mountain Berber, and he would seek the safety of a big caravan to travel with.  We left with only twenty men, but they were all warriors and skilled in fighting.  Perhaps we would increase our caravan’s wealth along the way, but this had only a secondary purpose.  We had a good flock of sheep and goats herded before us and some of these could be traded for salt and other essentials.  These would also make a greater impression on my tribe, though we carried enough booty to do that.  The bales of cottons and silk, hidden amongst the pack camels were something of great wealth, especially to my desert tribe.  There were even some steel needles and knives especially valuable to my tribes.

We didn’t find a caravan after a weeks travel, and had just left a small oasis. We watered the camels and replenished the water bags, when the fierce dogs accompaning us found a den of a desert fox.  A great howl and fury was heard, even by us in the middle of the caravan, and I saw Immel and other men kick and whip their camels to the source of the dog’s turmoil.  They were too late to save the nursing mother and two of her kits, but Immel grabbed two kits from the dogs and held them high over his head, kicking and shouting at the dogs as he did so.  They were only a few weeks old, and Immel hurried back and with a grin, threw them into my lap.  I looked at these tiny, terrified babies and my heart melted.  They were the color of sand, with huge ears, and big black eyes showing their fear.  Takama pushed her paw forward for one and I gave her a kit.  We knew enough, though I hadn’t seen a desert fox in a long time, to cover their heads, as the sun would blind them.  They came out at night, to hunt the rodents, the lizards of the night desert, and slept during the day.  We tucked them in our robes and they whimpered for a while, squirmed and then fell asleep to our heartbeat.  Later one of the men would make a small cage to fit over the cool water bag on the camel and we covered this with cloth.  They were babies, and I wondered if the rich camel’s milk would nourish them, but one of the men, who took a kindness to these babies, said  if we dilute the milk with water, it would do fine.  They also could eat fruit, if we tore it up into small pieces, or chewed it ourselves to a pulp. Within a few hours, they seemed to adjust to our feeding.  Mostly they slept during the day. During the night, they played in our tent, and would dig through the sand, making small burrows as their instinct directed them.  They had a strange yip, and would get into anything  not secured.   Finally, Takama put them under a loose woven basket during the night, as they tried to burrow under the tent.  The dogs outside would have killed them on sight, and we had grown attached in only a few days.  Immel  laughed at me, as I played with them during the evening hours, and said soon I would be replacing these foxes with my own babe to play with.  Perhaps, but that was away in the future, regardless his and his mother’s desire.

We approached another oasis when we spied a small caravan.  Immel and some of the men rode forth and talked with the leaders.  They were Berbers from the East,  travelling part of the way to Morocco.  That night, we joined their larger caravan and pitched our tents apart, which was the usual custom, but we slaughtered two goats and brought dates and salt to a shared dinner.  These Berbers were nomads, who came from pastures with great herds of sheep and goats. They were driving them as trade to the west.  They were very much like my parent’s tribe, wearing some of the same woven cloth and colors I was familiar with.  Of course, I did not ask any questions, as to my tribe, but Immel did find out that there had been wars and raiding to the west.  Information was vague enough but I could only wonder if Hasim and his tribe had been involved.  There were many tribes, and many raiders, some of them the hated Arabs, but I knew little of the world.  Now, from my position in the Spirit World, I know much more of history.  Then, as I said, I knew little.

Their women were like women everywhere. The young ones were shy, the older ones suspicious, and the few elderly on the caravan were wiser than all else.  Of course we sat together, as women would want to do, and exchanged gossip and some minor gifts. We ate their dishes with great relish, as Takama and I were not the best of cooks.  Our porridge was plain and only filled our bellies, but their dishes were so much better for not being made by us. 

Though we found our food was of a common kind, their taguella, a flat bread made from millet and cooked on charcoals in the sand, was eaten with a heavy sauce of spices and dried fruit.  They had yogurt, made along the route, by pouring goat’s milk into large skins and letting it ferment in the sun.  The roll of a camel’s pace stirred it nicely, and the essence of the leather bag contributed a smoky taste to the yogurt.  Ah! Their eghajira was the best I had ever tasted! For those who have had inferior drink,  it is a thick beverage drunk with a ladle, made by pounding millet, goat cheese, dates, dried apricots, camel’s milk and honey. Of course, there was lamb on a spit over the fire and gunpowder tea, sweetened with mint and honey.  Our mouths were greasy with the food and our bellies full. 

 Just when I saw Takama’s eyes close with sleep and mine doing the same, the sound of the rehad floated towards us. Soon bendirs, drums, added their rhythm to the one-stringed fiddle. An ajonuag, the reed flute joined the music,  and a woman started to sing., a strange song half way between a moan and a melody.

Some of the women got up to dance,  holding  large  walnut shells  in their hands, like castanets, as they added their own music to the night.  Stomping their bare feet in the cooling sand, tossing their long hair in circles, they would scare or entice a Zar in the desert night with their wild beauty!

There is nothing so mystical on earth as the sound of music in the desert. It floats like a benediction over the day. The night time air seems to draw forth the beauty of the voice and the pathos of life. Though it was not a song I knew, it didn’t matter.  Our lives, our souls, were of the same material, and we went to our tents late that night feeling cradled in the knowledge  wherever we were, we Berbers were part of the great stream of humanity and never alone in the world.

 Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012

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2 Responses to ““Tin Hinan” Book II, Chapter 4”

  1. brian miller Says:

    wow this is rich with detail….that i like much…from the action of the last this is a great respite, would def follow with a change of pace though…a few of these paragraphs need to be broken up to give a chance for breathe…def a great piece and would like to see how you blend it in…


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Thanks, Brian. I am the QUEEN of run on sentences~ It was even worse yesterday! Will work on that more…I understand the need to breathe in these things.

    This is rather unfair to readers…it’s at the end of the book (a few more chapters already written, ) and I am playing around with the very last two chapters..and then the finish. Damn, I will be very glad when this is done….4 years in the making.

    Some chapters are ‘transitional’….I guess it’s a respite, or a way for the writer to gather thoughts and plot action? I don’t know, but I hope it all hangs together.

    Thanks so much, Brian for reading this.



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