The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
The Story of Um Regab
This is the story of the Mother of Regab, told by her one evening, after she had carried Regab's evening meal, balanced on her head, from the Company Harrimat to the Camel Picketing Lines. Sitting on the sands, she told her story naturally and simply, and all Little Englanders should hear it, then ponder over it, and think.
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I was the wife of an Arab, who lived in the country to the west. He Look me to wife before I had grown my full height, and before I knew how to bake Kisra, or how to brew good strong Marrisa. (native bread.) But for five years I lived with him, and we were happy, and each year I had a child. Our grain pits were always full, and we had there grass houses in our Hosh, and cows, with much milk for our children.
One night I was carrying grain in baskets with my sister to the market when merchants from Kordofan sprang on us. My signer was younger than I, and had not borne children, so could run faster; she escaped, and fled into the night. But I was caught, tied on a camel, and the thieves carried me away. I have never seen or heard since of my husband or five children, and that time has past and gone; but the children must be a long time grown, and scattered now, with other children of their own. A slave told me my sister married a man, and went with him to Mecca, though that story may not be true.
Tied to my camel, we travelled fast towards the East. My camel was rough and I was unhappy and t red, and at night the merchants used me. For eight days we travelled till we came to a town with a market, and there I was placed for sale; but the market was full, and I was a woman who had had many children, and my captors refused the offers made for sue. Then one merchant took me from the rest, and we travelled many days, still to the east, to a mountain standing high by itself in a plain; end there the merchant exchanged me for a female camel. The camel was a strong Nagar, and always bred. My new owner was half an Arab and half a Black; he married me, and then Regab was born.
Regab had been born for eight rains when one day men on horses with spears came down on us like locusts, between the village and our mountains. They said they were the true Mahdi's men, but they drove our cattle away and tied a fork of wood on my husband's neck, and the neck of the other men; and then drove us all like thirsty sherp, in herds to El Obeid, to cultivate for the Mahdi's army. Thank God, Regab could walk, and had seen tight rains; other children died by the road.
We lived with the army, and Mahmud, who ruled us, and worked hard cultivating grain for the soldiers. My husband one day escaped while a sand storm blew, but Regab and I were left, and worked every day for the army for two rains. Then, when I was picking the heads of the durra stalks in the cultivation close to the town, when the durra was higher than a man's height, a thief crept through the standing stalks and threw me to the ground; he kept me hidden until it was dark, and then made me walk with him beside his donkey throughout the night. By day we hid, and at night we travelled until we came to Dilling and the Nuba Hills, and he sold me then to a Baggara Arab with cattle, for nine rials (about £2.).
This man only wanted me for work; I was ageing and tired and fit only for that; but I worked so hard with these arms that I made much money for my master, and with it he paid the marriage dowry for a wife, whom he married. The wife was unkind to me, and kept me always tired; but I lived, and the wife had seven children, and I worked all the time with these arms.
Regab, my little son, was taken with Mahmud's soldiers to Omdurman, and when the English came he was a man. When the English entered the town, Regab was frightened, and ran with the others to the South; but when no men or women were harmed by the white soldiers, he came back, and then went with Mahon Pasha (now General Mahon, Commanding Troops in Ireland), to El Ebeid, where he joined the police, He rode a camel, which he took from a villager, to do his patrolling. But the Pasha said, "Now this Government has come, the villagers are to keep their animals, and the Government servants must not take animals and women, as they did in the old days". So Regab had no animal, and left the police. He travelled many days until he came to the Mountain where he was born, and then found his father, and his father said. "Your mother is dead by now, thieves have killed her". But Regab said, "Now there are to be no more thieves in this country, the Pasha has said; and I will search for my mother till I die." He searched and searched, but got no news. Then he met some "brothers", who said, "Join the Hagana (Camel Corps); the Hagana travel the whole world, and know everything; their pay is given to them twice a month, and the days of these months are never short, and the new Government is their father." So Regab joined the Hagana and made many treks and patrols to the north and south, and always he asked for me.
Three rains ago, a woman said, "Your mother lives, and is a slave in the south near the mountains of the Nubas." Regab had searched and searched, and heard no news of me, so he said, "It cannot be true, she must have been killed by the thieves." But he went to the office of the Commandant, and said, "They say my mother lives, she is in the south." Then the Commandant gave him leave to journey to the south, to see if the news were true.
Regab journeyed to where the woman had said, and found me, but I was old and had changed by the hard work; and when he saw me, he did not know me a first. Then, when he was in great doubt, he told me to walk on the smooth sand, and there saw my footprint, printed in the sand as in those old days when, a little boy, he tracked me in the tall green stalks of the cultivation, following my foot steps. Regab recognised it as mine, it had not change Tke my face; and then I told him things he remembered, and he knew me for his mother.
After this, Regab returned, and gave the Commandant the news; and the Commandant said, "We are soon going to patrol to that country, you will come, and then I will give you your mother." Later they came, and I went with all the people to see the Hagana ride into our town. The women welcomed them with songs and cries of joy. I was happier than them all, but wept and cried, and could not sing like the other women—I knew my troubles would soon be ended. I was frightened when I went with Regab to see the Commandant, but Regab said, "Don't be frightened, he is our friend and your father now". The Commandant freed me, and I returned north with the Hagana, to live in the house of Regab and his wife.
Now I am very old, but I am happy all day, and never frightened that Regab may be seized from us or his wife carried off, and the home broken up, as in those old days that are past. Regab says my Kisra is baked better than all other Kisra, but I do no other work. I must die soon, but at last I have been made very happy.