Two policemen in civilian clothes erupted in my hotel one morning. It was early by Timbuktu police standards, that is to say, 9 o’clock.

One of them knocked at the door like a madman but without saying, “Police, open the door!” the way they do in films. His failure to announce himself as a police officer initially led me to think that it was a crazy person who was punching my door, so I did not hurry to get out of the shower to open. This made him even more nervous, judging by the increased rhythm of the punches on the door, but still he did not pronounce the magic words “Police, Open!” Later on, I asked them why they did not announce themselves, and they said: “If we say ‘Police,’ the people escape by the window.” Timbuktu seems to be like the Bronx! I thought that, when there is a place where everybody fears the police as in Timbuktu, either everyone is a criminal or the police are corrupt.

When at last I opened the door, I saw 2 young chaps whose eyes and behaviour effectively gave me the impression that they were insane. I thought “they are patients affected by the itching disease and that they needed urgent cures”. This disease actually drives people mad but I have a good remedy for it with the essential oils. “I am just getting out of the shower”, I told them courteously, (with crazy people always be courteous), “You should come back later”. The one who had been trying to knock down my door stuck a piece of coloured paper under my nose. “I am the Vice-Commissioner of Timbuktu. We came for a control.” “Well, let me dress, and I am at your service,” I replied. I brought them my passport, and the young Vice-Commissioner informed me that I had been anonymously denounced for illegal exercise of the medical profession.

I couldn’t believe it. The people of my quarter had been coming to me to get some cures for only a week. I could not refuse to help the mothers who came with tears in their eyes for the suffering of their child, the persons with scabies whose wounds oozed pus, those with headaches that rendered them like the blind, and the elderly that couldn’t sleep because of the pain in their joints.

These are all problems that I can resolve easily with my essences and my Chinese acupuncture needles. When I tell people to go to hospital, they either tell me that they have been there already without result, or that they do not have money to go. And if I give them the money to go, they would also find no result. Medicine is very expensive in Timbuktu, for the local population generally live on $2 USD a day, while the doctors prescribe too many medications, perhaps to help their cousin pharmacist. Some mothers showed me prescriptions for six or seven antibiotic coughing syrups for small children who were still chronically ill after the treatment. I took pictures of these, as it looked to me totally insane. So, the effect of the essences and of the Chinese needles are like a miracle for these people. They come every day, more and more, and I could not refuse to help them. How could I?

The nervy commissioners checked my room from bottom to top. He sequestered my essences, my acupuncture needles, and my passport. He brought me under escort to the police station and had me wait there for 5 hours, after which, with great kindness and humanity he let me go back to my hotel instead of locking me in a cell. I am now a prisoner in Timbuktu; I cannot leave the city or the country, like the French hostages held by the rebels in the Sahara.

PRECEDENT: Le roi des touaregs                                                                              SUITE: Les gens de Bokiat


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