The old Ismail has offered me the strangest of walking sticks.
Ismail is the holy man of this piece of Sahara, the Tuaregs have seen in him the signs of a Man of God, although they concede that he is a little disturbed in his mind.
However, after having known him for a few weeks, I realized that he is intelligent, kind with his family, of a noble soul, and well-grounded in religion. Only my restricted knowledge of Arabic stops me from appreciating him fully.
A stick is useful in the desert because one can always encounter a snake or a roaming dog. If you have a stick in hand the dog does not come near.
When you walk over long distances the stick allows you to refresh and rest, putting t over your shoulders with your arms over it.
When you go through rocky places, walking with a stick you are much less likely to fall.
A stick is also useful to move away the thorny branches from the earth when one seats for a tea under the shadow of the trees, and also for many other things.
The old Ismail digs under the thorny trees looking for their roots. Their contorted forms fascinate him and he has a collection of them.
He lets his guests admire them, they pretend to be interested in respect for him, and he offers some to those he particularly likes.
Yesterday he found a root that stupefied him, a root the like of which he had never seen before.
It is a stick that divides itself into two pieces that interlace each other until they weld together at the other end.
Ismail said: âI thought immediately that this stick is for Abdus-Salaamâ, and I am very happy about this because since I have seen the poisonous snake that Sheikh Adda has killed, I have realized that a stick is really necessary in the desert.
Ismail has said that there was a secret in this stick, but only who knows understand.
While going back to Timbuktu with Ibrahim and Ali Attiram, I was looking at the stick that was lying under the windscreen of the car and I said: âIt is really like some snakesâ
– âtrue, Ali replied, it is as if they were snakesâ.
Then came to my mind the stick of Moses that turned into snakes in front of the Pharaoh and ate the snakes of his magicians, The words of the old holy man had become clear to me.
It is really a special stick, I am sure that if I go around with my best-embroidered dress, my âpresident Bubuâ, no one will see the dress but all will look at the stick.