The surroundings of the well, 15 km north of Timbuktu


I  went to visit Bir Amin, the dried up well of the Tuaregs which I repaired 2 years ago.


I went down the 30 meters deep well with Ibrahim the engineer to check its condition. It is still giving a lot of water.



By the well lives old Ismael and his family, with their sheep and goats. Ismael is said to be a holy man, and I can believe it, although in appearance, he is just a poor Tuareg of the desert with strange ways.


The old Ismael

Ismael informs me that the king of the Tuaregs has attempted to sabotage his own well, in order to continue getting money from the foreign NGOs. Fortunately Ismael prevented him from carrying out his mischief.


The king of the Touregs

The king of the Tuaregs has a house in Timbuktu. In this season his Bella slaves graze his camels up in the north. The well interests him only for making money, and in order to fill his pockets the well should be dry.
He brings the foreigners here, shows them old Ismael and his skinny sheep, then he starts crying on the fate of the poor Tuaregs, whose well is dried up.
Every one of the visitors leaves a few hundreds or thousands of Euros for the well.
After my departure  the chief brought an engineer to take out the cement bottom of the well, a cap that prevents the sand from rising inside the well. Removing the cap causes  the water level to diminish. and the well will be dried up again.
We examined the bottom of the well with Ibrahim, the engineer who repaired it with me 2 years ago.

According to him, his work was done so well that the sand level has stabilized even though the cap is missing. The old Ismael also reassures us that the water is sufficient.

I have understood with this trip to Bir Amin that my engineer which I had trusted with the maintenance of the well, has done strictly nothing, he did not realize until today that the well had been sabotaged.

In Africa there is a saying: “Trust is like water, if you spill it on the ground you can never put it back into the glass”.

This is why I cannot think of digging the new well with Ibrahim.

I could understand that he did not do anything, because I did not pay him in advance.
But the local herbalist which I had paid in advance to cure the Tuaregs and the Bellas for a whole year never showed up here, the Bella friends tell me.

Yet whenever I was calling him from Italy, he swore that he was just back from the well and that he had been very busy curing the Tuaregs.

As a further disappointment I saw that the king of the Tuaregs has shifted his servants of the Bella tribe.
I had brought them to the new well of sweet water because their previous location had a well of sour and unhealthy water.
He has now settled them in a desert place where he can use them to get money from the white men. He shows how distressed they are and he asks funds to better their situation. Then he shares the money with the one who brings to him those who have come to Timbuktu with finances to help the poor.

The old Ismael is explaining everything to us.
I have tried to bring betterment to the life of the desert people but I cannot end slavery in the Sahara, or transform the greedy into a generous one. The well is still giving water abundantly, this is enough for now.

Previouse episode: The wind rider                                                             Next episode: The police of Timbuktu


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