Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Mali

 

Richest person ever: Mansa Musa, Timbuktu, Mali, and the next richest in history

You surely heard of Mansa Musa, the richest person ever.

The 14th century emperor from West Africa was worth a staggering $400 billion, after adjusting for inflation, as calculated by Celebrity Net Worth.

To put that number into perspective — if that’s even possible — Net Worth’s calculations mean Musa’s fortune far outstrips that of the current world’s richest man Carlos Slim Helu and the  other rich people combined.

According to Forbes, the Mexican telecom giant’s net worth is $69 billion.

Slim edges out the world’s second wealthiest man, Bill Gates, who is worth $61 billion, according to Forbes.

Mansa Musa Of Mali Named World’s Richest Man Of All Time;

Gates And Buffet Also Make List

Some of the oldest fortunes in question date back 1,000 years.

No. 7 on the list, for example, is William the Conqueror.

The illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy, William lived between 1028-1087 and gained infamy for invading and seizing England in 1066.

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, when Musa died sometime in the 1330s, he left behind an empire filled with palaces and mosques, some of which still stand today.

But the emperor really turned historic heads for the over-the-top extravagances of his 1324 pilgrimage to Mecca. (Mecca royal family must have reaped wealth due to these pilgrimage?)

The trip, which he embarked up on during the 17th year of the monarch’s glittering reign, was hosted by the leaders of both Mecca and Cairo and apparently was so brilliant, it “almost put Africa’s sun to shame.”

Musa’s wealth was a result of his country’s vast natural resources. The West African nation was responsible for more than half of the world’s salt and gold supply, according to Net Worth.

Of course, the entry also notes that the fortune was also fleeting. Just two generations later, his net worth was gone — wasted away by invaders and infighting.

As The Independent points out, while the numbers bandied about by this newest list are shocking, many aspects of the run-down aren’t surprising: there are no women included, for example, and only three of the richest men are still alive today.

Americans dominate the list, however, taking 14 of the 26 spots, including slots two and three. (In just 2 centuries?)

The “poorest” man on the list is Warren Buffet, who had a peak net worth of $64 billion. Buffet, a noted philanthropist, has since given billions of his fortune away, and Forbes now lists his net worth at closer to $44 billion.

Try to add up the net worth of the Rothschild family below and this family has amassed worth trillion from wars in Europe, USA and the rest of the world. They also own the Federal reserve bank.

Patsy Z  shared this link

Meet Mansa Musa, one of the wealthiest people in history:

Jessica Smith tells the story of how Mansa Musa literally put his empire – and himself – on the map.
ed.ted.com

Click through below for the 26 Richest Men Ever:

The Richest Men Ever

1 of 21

 

WikiMedia:

1. Mansa Musa I – Ruler Of Malian Empire (1280-1331)
Estimated worth: $400 billion

And the rest:

21. Jay Gould (railroad tycoon, 1836-1892) $71 billion

22. Carlos Slim (business magnate, 1940- ) $68 billion

23. Stephen Van Rensselaer (land owner, 1764- 1839) $68 billion

24. Marshall Field (Marshall Field & Company founder, 1834-1906) $66 billion

25. Sam Walton (Walmart founder, 1918-1992) $65 billion

26. Warren Buffett (investor, 1930- ) $64 billion

Natural reforestation of desertified regions in Africa

About 50% of the population of Niger are menaced of famine.

Famine in Chad has receded for the time being. Desert has been gaining on lands in the Sahel (dry savanna  in the States of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad south of the Sahara desert.

Satellite images of the Sahel region in Africa show the regaining of forests in particular spots where desert had occupied fertile lands in the last three decades.

Forest of local trees are sprouting west of the Capital Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and in the south of Niger on the borders with north Nigeria.

About 200 million trees are covering an area of 3,125 square-kilometer.

What’s going on?

Local people are doing something that neither international aids nor technologies have proven to be efficient.  People are reverting to ancient agro-forestry techniques called “zai”.

They have been digging large holes (not deep but large enough) called “poquets” in large numbers.  The scarce water retained during the rainy season in these poquets (that are filled with local manure) helped grow natural tree shoots from grains in the manure.

The trees stabilize the soil, give shades, and permit growing abundance in harvesting mil and sorghum or sorgho (the main food staples in these regions).

In addition, people are now able to cut dry wood for cooking meals.  Cattle production has increased for the same size of lands.

Three decades ago, peasants had to saw their fields 4 times a year:  Dry winds ruined harvests.

With the rejuvenation of forests (natural assisted regeneration), peasants need to saw once and the harvest are abundant enough for self-sufficiency.

In the 1980’s, the under-ground water naps were being reduced by about a meter per year.  With the natural reforestation of local trees such as acacias and zizyphus (sisiphus?) the under-ground water has increased by 5 meters even with the demographic increases.

It appears that non local trees die 80% of the time within two years.

Cutting down forests has an interesting story.

During colonial period of France, French administrators declared forests to be national reserved areas so that only France could harvest forests; the local people were forbidden to satisfying their need in wood.  After independence, most of these African States had terrible reactions to colonial power and started purposely cutting down forests as symbol of revolt.

Sawadogo says: “In the beginning, I used to mix trees and harvests.  I tend now to preferring growing trees.  The more trees the better the revenue.”  Trees serve in construction, heating, and traditional pharmacopoeia.

International aides were targeting different alternatives such as “millennium villages” where vast amount of money and technologies were infused to providing seeds, chemical fertilizers, clinics, extracting under-ground water.  These projects failed and newer investments have slowed down after the financial crash.

“The old wise man died; an entire library is burned”; (Mar. 4, 2010)

African author, Amadou Hampate Ba (1900-91) was born in eastern Mali and had said “In oral culture Africa, when an old wise man dies then an entire library burns with him”.  Amadou focused his life gathering all the stories, myths, and history of the tribes living in the States of Mali, Senegal, Burkina Fasso, and Ivory Coast.  In every tribe or clan, there is a few storytellers or grios entertaining people around bonfires in evenings.  The storytellers teaches children of the history and traditions of the tribe, of nature, and the changing seasons.  In one of his books he wrote: “Aissata told her son: “Learn to cover the material nudity of man before you cover by word his moral nudity”

Author and poet Wole Soyinka received the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1986. Soyinka was born in western Nigeria from the tribe of Yoruba in 1934.  During Nigeria civil war, Soyinka was jailed for two years in secrecy (1968-69); he wrote in jail “This man has died”.  In his speech at Stockholm during the Nobel ceremony and titled “Let this past talk to this present” he lambasted the philosophers and thinkers of Europe’s 19th century (such as Voltaire and Hegel) for accepting the principle of slavery.  Wole said “All who have the passion for peace must make a choice: Either they include peace in this modern world, bring it to rational situations, and let peace participate in the spirit of human associations or force Blacks in Africa to kneel in abject conditions and deny them human dignity.  There is nothing more pressing than suppressing racism and apartheid; their structures have got to be dismantled.”

Historian and Egyptology from Senegal, Cheikh Anata Diop (1923-86) published “Negro Nations and culture, 1954”.  He claimed that African civilization precedes Greek civilization that borrowed form and content via Egypt of Antiquity.  Colonial powers were ready to admit that the black skinned (from head to toe) and the frizzled hair Egyptians were no proof enough to claim that the civilization of Egypt of Antiquity was necessarily African. This awkward logic was necessary in order to colonize Africa as devoid of civilizations, rational people, and high spiritual capacity.  European Egyptology erudite went as far as proclaiming that it was “inadmissible” that Ancient Egypt in Africa was a Black civilization.  Diop book was published in several languages and the Blacks in the USA used it for renewal of their civilized roots.

Note: You may refer to my new category “Black culture/Creole” for short biographies and literary samples of Black leaders and intellectuals.

“The Che was assassinated at age of 39; I am only 37”; (Feb. 20, 2010)

Tomas Isidore Sankara (1949-87) led a coup d’etat in Haute Volta (Burkina Faso) in 1983. He was Captain paratrooper and remained captain-President while other “leader sergeants” in Africa promoted themselves to generals and emperors.

Three months before the coup, Sankara was Prime Minister until France (colonial power) ordered he be sacked and demoted from the army.

The first announcement after taking power was changing the name of his State to Burkina Faso (Land of Integrity) and then Sankara took his distances from post colonial organizations.

The second commandment was selling all luxury cars used by public servants and ministers and replacing them by R5 (French small Renault cars).

The third commandment was ordering all high officials to wearing garments made in Burkina Faso with own cotton grown and weaved in the State.

The fourth commandment was forbidding high officials travelling in first class in planes and trains.

The fifth commandment was instituting equality among men and females in high positions and in government openings.

The sixth commandment was encouraging learning and eradicating illiteracy.

The seventh commandment was forbidding women wearing veils and sexual excision (widespread customs among Moslem families; Sankara mother was a devoted Moslem from the majority tribe Mossi).

During his short reign of four years “Tom Sank“, as called among university students, was famous for his integrity and sober life style which angered most African leaders and France.  Tom Sank realized that his years are counted because all his neighboring States could no longer suffer “his teaching lessons” for integrity behaviors.

 Tom Sank closest friend was Blaise Campaore, another captain paratrooper. Sankara’s father raised Blaise as his son, and he assassinated Sankara and took power in 1987.

Campaore is referred to by his countrymen as “The man who killed his brother”. 

Campaore is still President of Burkina Faso. Currently, Burkina Faso is prime State for the US multinational Monsato, growing genetically altered grains (mainly tomatoes and cotton)

Note 1: Robin Shuffied directed the movie “Thomas Sankara: The honest man”

Note 2: Bruno Jaffre wrote “Biography of Thomas Sankara, 2007”

Note 3: I visited Burkina Faso in 1981 and lived there for over a month; I visited the cities of Banfora, Bobo, and the capital Ouagadougou.  During that period, French companies were supplying almost everything. The brief skirmish with giant neighbor Mali prompted Haute Volta (at the time) to purchasing arms from France in cash and at premium price.

Julia or Julie (May 1, 2009)

I happened to know Julia intimately: I was forced to observe her behaviors and sometimes succumb to her will.

Julia is the type of women who are always on alert; she is ultra prude and claims that she has never been on a beach or wore any kinds of swimming trunks.

Julie cannot sit down, relax, or let anyone relax.  She has to worry about everyone and everything.

Julia loves money but never handled money wrote a check or had a bank account: She is thrilled when she sees construction and buildings going up and sounds envious.

Yes, Julia has never set foot in a bank or wrote a check or withdrew money, I think.

Julia is an excellent cook, a talented dress designer (currently you say a fashion designer), and sew clothes to all her sisters, daughters… for every major event.

And loves to remodel the house when she can afford it, a gene that my sister inherited.

She wants her family members (especially the girls and ladies) to look as well dressed and as coquettish as she used to be; a tendency that forces her grandchildren and children to avoid passing by her when they have “sinned” against dignified fashion (like looking pretty nude).

Julia has humongous pride and she would not visit a patient or go to any anniversary when she cannot afford gifts (her unique daughter is taking after her in many ways).

If she receives a gift (and if she cannot afford offering a gift) then she has to rummage through her secret “depot” in one of the closets for a suitable counter gift.

Lately, cooking something for the returned dish is what she could offer. Julia believes that she knows something and has to offer her recommendations and guidance to people of professions, even if they are over sixty.

In 1939, Julia’s mother Eugenia left Lebanon to West Africa in order to join her husband Tanios in Segou (current State of Mali). The four sisters were left alone and joined a boarding school in Beit Chabab.

And the WWII started and they had to skip school for the duration.  The sisters did not attend school for 3 years during the war because all schools closed, although Lebanon was not directly affected.

The eldest sister Josephine was 13 and Julia 11 years old at the time.

Julia’s aunt and her extended family lived across the street. When Josephine eloped (got married “khatifeh“) at the age of 20 the other three sisters were re-interned in a school of Beit Chabab for two years.

The summer before the non-married daughters had to join their parents in Segou, they lived alone a mile away from Beit-Chabab (to what is now called Konetra) so that they don’t emulate their eldest sister in eloping.  In the meanwhile, Eugenia gave birth to many other children and at least three died in child-birth.

Julia once believed that she had scabies “jarab” when she was in a girl school in Beirut and aged 18 years.  Scabies was pretty common and when her between hand fingers  were itching she tried to cure herself secretly.

Julia told me said that “jarab” was very contagious; she secretly spent a whole week in an upper room at her sister Josephine’s who got married recently.  Julia said that nobody in the village knew about her ailment, a convenient assumption for this dreaded disease at the period, and she washed her clothes and bedding almost everyday.

This story came about when an overseas grand daughter called saying that her physician was uncertain about his diagnosis of her catching “jarab”; the diagnosis turned out to be wrong but it generated a secret story that Julia told me.

I really have no idea what Julia learned in school except cutting patrons and learning sewing and fashioning clothes. She always said that she got dizzy when reading.

Julia joined her parents in Africa by sea. The captain of the ship heading toward the port of Marseilles never believed that she’ll make it alive: Julia spent a month in her cabin unable to eat, drink or move because she suffered sea sickness.

Julia was as thin as a stick with a tough will for survival.

Any moving object makes Julia dizzy; heights make Julia dizzy; tree climbing is out of the picture.  Hell for Julia must be a rotating platform; worst, a wobbly, jerky, and seesaw habitat.

In fact, Julia never played games in school or anywhere else.

Physical games, especially for girls, are not dignified. Reading is extremely dizzying to Julia; watching someone reading intently must be giving Julia grounds to believing that the reader is “dizzy” in the head.

Julia married in Africa a handsome, loyal, over generous and devoted husband whom she fell in love in the same town in Lebanon before she travelled to Africa.

George must have sensed that he is marrying a handful of expectations and constraints.  Youth always turns a blind eye to potential troubles because youth can handle anything and never ages.

This valiant couple worked hard in harsh conditions as the sole white people in remote African villages.  They were robbed of every dime several times; once, in the town of Koutiala (Republic of Mali) and what they had saved was gone overnight; Julia was on her last week of pregnancy (of me) and George suffered kidneys problems out of grief.

Right now, when any neighboring house or shop is stolen Julia plays the investigator; everyone is suspect until the culprit is discovered: she does roam her house after every robbery story, checking exits and entrances; mouse and cats should no longer be susceptible to be entering the house.

Those 15 years in Africa must have been the best and most glorious years for this couple. They were the first to purchase an electric generators in the town of Sikasso.

This undaunted couple resumed their joint adventure to above average fortune.

Julia knew how to combine business with charity; she would offer every poor pregnant woman a “trousseau” for the new-born for free. Thus, she retained life-long customers and the competitors could not match her business acumen.

Julia sewed and altered dresses that she ordered by catalog from Paris.

When Julia returned definitely to Lebanon, her unique daughter among the other 2 boys, (well spaced them out in age, an advanced serious family planning), was never seen wearing the same dress twice in any ceremony.

Since two identical dresses take as much time to sew as one, then her niece Joelle was observed as a replicate twin, regardless of whether Joelle liked the dress or the color.

This couple was the first to install a generator for electricity in this remote town.  They transferred their three kids to boarding schools in Lebanon for fear of African diseases  because the eldest son barely survived Typhoid. And the couple would visit them one summer every two years.

Julia spent a month in Paris in 1980 to care for her first grandson William who had an open heart surgery at the age of 16 months.  William had a hole that mixed the blue and red blood in the heart and an artery that was twisted. The hospital offered a makeshift bed for Julia to sleep on for 23 days in William’s emergency room.

Julia also cared for Joanna, her favorite grandchild, for over 6 months when Joanna’s parents were in the USA on military training mission in 1985.

Joanna likes to return the favor and she volunteers to driving Julia to shrines such as Mar Charbel, Mar Rafka, and Harissa of the Virgin Mary; these are occasions for Julia to confess her grave sins for caring too much and doubting occasionally.

Julia spent 6 months in the USA in 1990 when I lived with my sister Raymonde’s family; Victor was then appointed Military Attaché to Lebanon for two years and Julia enjoyed that reprieve from war torn Lebanon and the constant blackmailing of the militias for more money when there was nothing to pay. She had to pawn her few gold rings or necklaces to appease the frightened husband.

Julia recalls that it was the hardest trip ever when she visited in the US: Victor had a terrible backache and she had to carry Victor’s bags which were packed with heavy gifts.

Julia is suffering from arthritis and a whole gamut of blood problems but she forces herself to work hard everyday as means to letting pain forget her.

She has excellent memory of ancient events.  Currently, she barely can recall names and I barely can come to the recall rescue.

Julia is currently prone to letting two casseroles burns and barely save the third: she cannot waste time and has to do several tasks simultaneously.

Julia cannot believe that she aged and has a wrinkled face. All mirrors must be destroyed but Julia would never break anything consciously.

George neither cannot believe that he aged; he just want to be left alone and not be immersed in problems that should not be of his concerns, especially that he is no longer a provider and almost destitute; but to whom are you chanting your psalms George?

George is happy to realize that his hearing is not that sharp and gets terribly frustrated when he has to repeat muted answers to Julia’s unending queries and requests.

Julia barely sleeps at night because in the solitude of the night her brain is working full-time inventing all kind of catastrophic events that might befall on any one of her extended family.

Her dreams are of the cataclysmic kinds, though one individual at a time, one dead person after another parading in succession in her dream.  Apparently, nights are more exhausting for Julia than charged days’ work.

When Julia walks out now she is constantly observing changes in her environment; such as the progress in the construction of the villa next door, the new design for neighbors gardens…

There was a time when Julia walked straight ahead and never deigning to turn her head:  She must have been convinced that she was the center of attention; she stepped out in utter elegance and vigorous gait.

Julia’s nemesis is death: when she gets upset from any member of the family she tends to ward off this fatal enemy by threatening: “This winter would be my last and you all would be delivered from my trouble making”. She has a white fancy gown stowed away for that occasion.  I hope that Julia has let someone on the proper location of the dress.

Julia is the strong type of women. Julia cannot be circumvented.

Julia is every bit on alert, the “mustanfara“, even at 83 years of age.  She is totally broke financially but that would not constitute a valid reason to let down her purpose in life: Keeping everyone on his toes.  Julia is my mother.

Note: Four years after writing this article Julia is unchanged: She is in much pain, more forgetful, and taking all kinds of medication, but Julia is undaunted. I realized that Julia is chatting far more than usual: She is thinking aloud, kind of her thinking keeps the right track if accompanied by words.

Julia wakes up at 6:30 am and begin her day, working non-stop till after 1 pm as her back aches and her fingers are crippled. Her husband, only 3 years older, doesn’t take any medication but his health is deteriorating fast and George is almost bed-ridden.

George is in  care and recovering. Julia refuses to go home to rest even for a couple of hours: She has to stay and sleep in the hospital room of her husband. The nurses tell Julia not to feed George what the hospital does not bring to eat, and I tell Julia not to feed George, and Julia believes she knows George better and what is good for George…

I tell Julia that George enjoys loneliness and would not recover as long as she never leaves his side and keeps chattering. Maybe I am wrong: I was showing George how to ring the nurses for emergencies and George chuckled softly and replied: “Why would I ring anyone when Julia is around?”

Julia is saying: “It was a good tradition to marry a husband at least 5 years older than you: So that the wife can care for him in old age...”. Joanna flew from London for a weekend just to give Julia  a boost. The moment Julia receives a boost, it sounds trouble for the extended family.

Note 2: Julia passed away at age of 92 on January 31, 2020 at 2 pm at the hospital of Beit-Chabab. Except for her heart, her vital organs started to fail. She endured unthinkable pains for an entire week, every minutes of it. She was Not feeling good before she fell in the bathroom trying to undress: there was no one at the time and I found her lying on the floor in great pain.

My tour in West Africa

Note: Re-edit of “Touring West Africa (Introspection, continue 30) January 19, 2009”

I stayed with the Lebanese  company CAT about less than 6 months, all in all, before the company decided to transfer me to Cyprus.  

Actually, I never received a formal transfer order of what I should be doing in Cyprus.  And frankly, I believed that Cyprus would be a brief stage before official dismissal, fired and sent to Lebanon. 

 

I had a mind to tour Africa, to visit with my brother the dentist in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and a few relatives in neighboring States before going to Cyprus, but my tour extended for over 6 months and I lost my “position”. 

I did visit my brother Ghassan without a visa; he must have bribed officers at the airport to let me out of the airport. I visited a couple of friends in Abidjan, was invited to a night out and a day at the beach. 

I was not impressed with the “Paris of Africa” Abidjan.

 

I visited my cousin Joseph and his wife Silla in Burkina Faso (Haute Volta at the time) without a visa, but I am not that sure. Later on, Joseph told me that once his brother Nassif came to visit without visa and he was turned back on a chicken train.

 

I boarded a somewhat comfortable train for long hours.  Years later I was reminded by Silla that I taught her to drive  I met with the little Sa7ar (2 year-old).  Joseph gave me once a ride to the Capital Ouagadougou, hopeful to find  job.

After three weeks Joseph gave me a ride in his Peugeot 604 to Segou in Mali, without a visa, I think.  

 

I spent over a month in Segou at my cousin Samira’s.  Her husband Sessine drove me to Bamako to apply for a work permit and I took advantage of the trip to retrieve a copy of my birth certificate.  (I was born in Bamako in Mali). 

 

I had the opportunity to visit Niono (up north and close to Mobti) with a Lebanese merchant living in the open air there. I guess that it barely rains in that flat and vast town that was denied asphalt and you had to endure dust hanging in the air.  I guess my hosts were getting short on ideas of how to fill my time

 

I met a US Peace Corp girl from Boston and had the opportunity to dust off my American slang and I learned a little bit more of how this organization is aiding Africa.

At a certain level in my subconscious I wanted to visit Sikasso where I lived my first 5 years, but it was not to happen because I didn’t ask. I guess that if I inquired of any acquaintance there, then I would have managed a ride to Sikasso.

I still want to visit my birth place, where I almost died of Typhoid fever at the age of 5, an illness that precipitated my sending off to Lebanon and changed my life.  

 

Uncle Asaad, father of Samira and Joseph and married to my aunt Josephine, had the only bakery in town and was doing well. He used to have acupuncture sessions for his back and leg pains. I tried a session out of curiosity but it had no effect on me: I suffered of nothing in the first place. 

 

I was and felt practically redundant because I was not that needed in the bakery or the shop of Samira. I was in a very confused  situation because I had Not decided to return to Lebanon and had no idea what to do in Africa. I had no idea of what I wanted to do next after I overstay. 

My decision to leave was forced upon me by a mean procedure that I think was not necessary.  I was shipped in a Taxi to Banfora where I spent a few days at Joseph’s.

 

My return to my brother’s in Abidjan was not a cheerful occasion: my brother’s wife Diane alluded that her apartment is not to be considered a hotel, simply because I turned in around 11 pm. 

I slept at a friend of mine and in the morning, waiting for a taxi to the airport, my two suitcases deposited on the street were robbed.  I stupidly followed my friend to his shop across the street to retrieve a gold necklace as a gift to his family in Lebanon. Actually, I am pretty sure that this friend assured me that it is safe to leave the suitcases for a minute.

 

I arrived to Lebanon with nothing but my handbag and the cash in my pockets.  Among the lost items was an expensive local ceremonial robe that Samira hand ordered for me. I had to endure days of humiliation; the guy that came home after a year with just a handbag!

Something about my stay in Lebanon from late 1979 to mid 1985

 

We had a large apartment in Beirut and it was almost vacant for the duration of the civil war. One day, I passed by for a couple of minutes, for no reason, and the phone was ringing. A secretary for a local company was summoning me to an interview the next morning. I had no recollection of submitting a resume to the CAT Company. Next morning, I was meeting a high level representative, who came from Cyprus for a couple of days, just to hire new engineers for their expanding business in Nigeria.

 

Nigeria

 

The hiring representative did not ask me questions. I did not ask him questions. I needed to be off and out of Lebanon. At the airport in the Capital Lagos, two agents from the company met me and facilitated my entrance. I flew the same day to headquarter in the district of Benin and was lodged temporarily at a motel. I met an American young man at the dining room and ended up sleeping with a very young girl, sort of she was sent to me in my room.  I stayed in this motel for maybe 10 days and I realized that my hidden money was dwindling everyday; the cleaning woman didn’t confirm or deny but I carried al my cash with me.  I gave ample details on my stay in Nigeria in my piece “I could break your eyeglasses”.

I spent four months in a field compound, out in the nowhere, at a poor town lacking television transmission, called Okitipupa, and at 5 hours from headquarter.  The engineers, I was one, were supposed to wear regulation tall brown boots for discrimination purposes. Within a week I had malaria, even though I was taking the quinine pills regularly; an Egyptian physician was sent for me; I had a harrowing four days.  I lived with a civil engineer and we had a “boy” to clean our boots and prepare the table. I think that we had no cafeteria for the compound; as far as I recall, the menu of the “boy” was roasted chicken; the “boy” had a peculiar smell that made feel like vomiting and I could never get used to that smell; I should have thought of offering him soap and discover the difference but I was not an imaginative person.

The golden rule, as a member of the higher staff, was never say to subordinates “I don’t know”.  That rule was whispered to me by an English mechanics foreman; I had many occasions to verify the rule. Our plant engineer in Okitipupa, a Palestinian by origin called Sami, never handled anything; somehow, he once was in the mood of showing off his dexterity; he ruined three expensive pairs of fitters without succeeding and then got up as if of nothing; I tried my gentle touch at it and did it from the first time; I think that this person didn’t forgive me for taking over the task.  The next day, Sami assigned me a heavy duty vehicle to “fix” all by myself; I had never before touched any mechanical tool; I am an industrial engineer and had nothing to do with mechanics or mechanical engineering; a notion that it is hard to dissipate due to the wrong connotation given to industrial engineering which is basically managerial and not into mechanical design by any long shot.

The Lebanese and Syrian mechanics used to bring me, in secrecy, voluminous maintenance books to read sections and explain details; I had this feeling that management was very reluctant to instruct workers through manuscripts; as if the engineers were assigned to be the sole “priests” for the interpretation of the written manuscripts.  A Syrian foreman mechanics had an objective of opening his own heavy duty maintenance shop after he ends his contract period and was eager to purchase the appropriate expensive tools of the trade and the precision processes.  Obviously, management was not happy with my smooching with the workers: I used to go out with them after work in town and meet girls.  There was nothing in town for entertainment and the compound was a vast prison camp where I had to wear long brown boots of the bosses in that blasted hot and humid country.

A few thugs entered the compound one night; they killed three guards and threatened the manager to open the safe. We were awakened at three in the morning by the Lebanese manager, from the district of Koura, and we lodged a complaint at the town police quarter.  We drove by the slaughtered watchmen.

 

I was recalled and ready to be shipped out to Cyprus, supposedly the mother maintenance headquarter or something of that nature. I was somewhat reluctant for this sudden transfer even after this harrowing experience. I had to stay for another month redundant at headquarter.  This old English “personality”, supposed to be the official writer of letters, and from whom I used to borrow books from his private library in his allocated rented house, enjoyed repeating “Are we redundant today?” thinking that I didn’t know this word and wanted to impress me with his flatulent language.

The company accommodated me at a house with a private driver and a house male servant.  At night, the Nigerian driver would take me to a dancing place in the open air that was surrounded by a few huts.  It is from there that I was introduced to paid girls. (I wrote about this experience in my file “songs for women” under the title “I could break your eye glasses”). We were paid in Sterling pounds to an account overseas, mine in Lebanon; they had a complex money mechanism that served two purposes of avoiding taxes and keeping us under strict control financially. I had to borrow cash from my manager which was offered as gifts.

 

During that month I had the opportunity for several “adventure” trips.  I recall one particular trip that was truly an adventure in the nowhere.  I drove with a Lebanese foreman at a very remote tiny project site; after four hours of land driving we had to board a canoe to cross a murky river where people lived on the river; I think National Geographic would have made me rich if I had a camera; I am pretty sure if I fell overboard I would have been eaten by an alligator or piranhas. Well, after seven hours of crossing lands and rivers we reached destination; I looked around and found nothing of a project.  We did nothing; I would like to believe that we left a piece of tool and we were back and arrived by midnight.  My friend had another well hidden project, somewhere in Alice Wonderland: I declined. Nigeria is a vast country and that adventure trip was an eye opener to the extent of miseries. 

 

My return trip to Lagos airport was not a happy one and I was not accompanied by any agent from the company.  I boarded a ten-seat small plane; I thought that they have mistaken me for a parachutist.  The rickety plane was noise of hell and we experienced several air pockets and free falls; I was not perturbed: I had seen Nigeria.  At the airport I was searched four times, my suitcases completely ramaged through, until all my little alcohol bottles were accepted as gifts.  You need company agents to go in and go out of Nigerian airports; it was true then and true even more so today.

The house in Beit-Chabab, (continue 8)

My grand dad had a house in Beit-Chabab but it was been rented for over 30 years, and the house was rundown and needed major repairs.  After the death of Dad’s father Antoun, and the definitive return of my family to Lebanon in 1961, and the children about to join universities, my father had to start a lengthy legal ejection proceeding. 

Father spent plenty of money to repairing this crumbling house.  We enjoyed barely two summer vacations in it, before dad’s mother and his younger brother Jean decided to return to Lebanon and stay in it. 

I used to watch one of my grandmother’s father Toufic (about 80 of age) plowing the large garden, but mother never encouraged me to walk and care for it because of probable snakes and other insects that she was terribly scared of:  Mother had close encounters with snakes in the house in Africa.  

Yes, extra safety is not complementary to happiness and natural development. When Jean and then grandmother died ten years later, one of dad’s sisters decided to return to Lebanon and she stayed in the house.  The whole lot cannot be sold because of the many inheritance problems with a large extended family; two of dad’s sisters are still alive and they are refusing to dispose of the property when we are in great need of financial support.

Something about our childhood, my brother Ghassan, sister Raymonde, and I

I read auto-biographical accounts of Edward Said and Carlos Ghosn and I found similarity in our upbringing and I said: “why not?”  I was born in Bamako, the Capital of Mali that was then under French mandate or colony, and mother breast-fed me for at least 3 years and mother never let me off her sight. 

I started schooling in Africa (Sikasso) when I was five, with the French White Brethren for 3 months and I was doing great and mother told me that I had memorized the multiplication tables in such a short period.  The deaf black boy used to take me on his bicycle to school. 

Shortly after, I suffered from Typhoid fever in 1954 and almost died. The French commander (Mali was still a French colony) flew me and mother to the Capital Bamako and I stayed for weeks in a refrigerated chamber.  When I got up from bed I had to re-learn how to walk and talk.

My parents decided to whisk me to Lebanon where the climate is more favorable.  My 3-year old brother Ghassan, three years younger than I, and I were enrolled in an intern school (boarding school) in Beit-Chabab belonging to the Christian Maronite brethren.

I didn’t know a single word of Arabic and it was a completely new world for me who lived at home for the last 6 years.  In the same year of 1956 Lebanon experienced a major earthquake and I remember someone carrying me in his arms at night and depositing me in the open parking lot where everyone converged.  Dad once lambasted the government for exacting the “earthquake tax” for over 20 years.

It seems that I was bright, but mostly I was much older than my classmates, and the next year the school decided that I could skip a year and that was my downfall.  In Lebanon, most kids start schooling at the age of three.  I cannot remember a thing of my first year in Lebanon; maybe I was too traumatized and my brain decided that burying my memory of this year is beneficial for my mental health.

My parents used to visit us every two years during summer and we had to re-learn that they were indeed our folks.  We used to flee the rented summer-house and walk up two miles to school, taking shortcuts.

School used to take us on walking trips on Sundays and when we passed my grandfather Toufic shop in Haret Al Ta7tat (the lower part of Beit Chabab), I used to stop at the shop and I was handed a handful of sweets and “kdameh” (dried cabanza beans).

My much younger sister (6 years younger) joined us in Beit Chabab and was “incarcerated” in the nuns’ boarding school of Sacred Hearts.  My sister had a rough time there…

My early years (Continue 7)

I don’t remember much of my first five years in Africa; maybe the trauma of my typhoid disease erased most of my early memory.  Mother BREAST FED ME FOR THREE years, as she did with my brother later, and she was very protective and kept a close watch over her first-born child. I had a hard birth and the physician didn’t expect me to live more than two days; I would not breast feed and in desperation, mother forced milk into my mouth.  Mother told me that I was made to spend my days on the counter top of the shop and I used to drill holes in the Nestle milk cans.  I tend to corroborate Amelie Nothomb hypothesis that lack of palate sugar voluptuousness is a main factor for slow brain development.  Most probably, mother didn’t indulge me with chocolate or sweet condiments; thus, I took my revenge destroying valuables or maybe to licking the sugary Nestle.

On the other front of verbal development I had a “boubou” or a very young African mute as personal friend or “body-guard”. I have a picture with Boubou sitting on his heels while I am riding a small tricycle.  It is natural for babies to learn easily all languages, including sign and eye languages; I assume that I communicated well with “boubou” and we had great friendship and affection since maybe my first fully developed language was the mute related language.  I can assume that verbal communication in three other languages simultaneously might have been very hard; Lebanese/Arabic, French and “Bambara” (the main language in Mali).  Not that comprehending multiple languages is difficult for babies but the people are difficult to understand for the contradictory meanings they convey.  Not that homonym and synonyms and all the “yms” in languages are serious obstacles to a baby’s flexible mind, but the minds and emotions of mature talking people are insurmountable barriers for clear directions.  I guess that I have set the grounds for plausible sources of my verbal unintelligible adventure.  I went to school at the french Brethren for only three months before I fell dangerously ill and managed to learn the multiplication tables.  An African helper would take me on his bicycle to school.

Why my parents decided to leave Africa?

My parents had a very prosperous business and were very liked in Sikassou; they had to sell their business and house in 1961for cheap after the Independence of Mali from the colonial power France:  Dad was too afraid to end up in prison if he were caught smuggling out his hard-earned money.  They sold their properties to the White French Brethren who paid the money but my folks never received a dime.  It seems one of my “uncles” who received the money on behalf of my dad invested the money for his own benefit and lost his money again.

The English language uses “uncle” to represent any older relation to the family but Arabic has special names to discriminate the sort and relative side in the relations. For example, my mother has five sisters “khalaat” and their husbands are called “3adeel” (the number 3 is used in Arabic internet to represent a special Arabic vocal close to aa); dad has five sisters “3amaat” and their husbands are “sohor”. Thus in Arabic specific names differentiate among these uncles; even the real close uncles, from the mother and father sides, have words of their own.

All of us, kids, were born in Mali and were transferred to Lebanon in order not to be exposed to the numerous tropical diseases.  In actuality, we were not saved physically or emotionally or mentally from other kinds of diseases that plagued our development and we had to suffer the consequences of hard decisions that our folks were faced with.

When dad opened a shop in Lebanon then he had to close it within three years because clients would not repay their accounts.  Mother used to go with her sister Therese to Downtown Beirut to shop for dad and she enjoyed that part in the business very much.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

August 2020
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