Darfur question: the story of Samah of our village

By: Ahmed Alhaj (Site Admin)

The camera rolls: a remote village in one of the vast Darfur of west Sudan that was the scene of this story, a real-life tragic episode.

It was Mother-of-Samah Village – the daughter, Samah, is a blossoming 19-year-old exquisite girl, living with her old mother and her aging father who, despite his age, is struggling against bitter life and hardship, and with her little sisters.

She is dressed in shabby, dirty clothes that depict misery and wretchedness. The village has no school or any other prominent building that stands for any public service.

Samah follows a fixed programme in her life; she fetches water from a 55-meter-deep well that is a five-hour walk from Mother-of-Samah Village. She feels delight with this trip, which she makes twice a week on Sundays and Thursdays, in the company of the young women and young men of the village, including, in particular, Ibrahim, the love who permeates within her soul without pronouncing his name or talking about him in public.

On one of those days of fetching water, Samah's mother woke her up and said: "Get up, you will miss the group. Get up, say your morning prayers, prepare your tea and saddle the donkeys."

Samah moved lazily, and asking her, the mother knew she was ill, but no way, the trip is inevitable. She made tea and rubbed her face and hands with dust, instead of ablution with water, to perform prayers before joining the group on the trip to the well.

Ibrahim watched her all the way as she chatted a little with the accompanying girls. After bringing the water to the delight of her brothers, Samah falls ill, motionless.

The father decides to take her to the nearest hospital and everyone feels at a loss about who will accompany her and about the water trip schedule. All the villagers decide that Samah will be accompanied by her mother and Ibrahim and the villagers donate what they can afford.

The party arrives at the big village where there is a hafir (reservoir) which, from a distance, appears to Samah to be a mirage. She insists to go into the water for a bath; and her mother, succumbing to Samah insistence, permits her to go into the water of the hafir. Joyfully, Samah sinks into the water, disappears and drowns.


            F I N


First Scene (Mother-of-Samah Village)


It is in a remote village of which aridity and misery are reflected on the dry shrubs and the scorching air. Twilight appears on the distant east. Mother –of-Samah casts a look at a group of empty jerrycans. She enters a collapsing hut to cast a sad look at three girls lying on the floor and their sister Samah covered with a black cloth, only her face discernible. (Sad music)


Mother-of-Samah: Say : "in Allah's Name. We have woken to Allah's sovereignty." Get up.

Samah: Yes mother; how are you this morning? How is my father?


Mother-of-Samah: Thank Allah. He went out to lead the people in prayers. He will be coming back soon. Get up, my daughter, it is Thursday.


Samah: I know, my mother.


Mother-of-Samah: Get up; perform the morning prayers; prepare tea and saddle the donkeys with the jerrycans.


Samah: Okay, my mother; the girls will not gather now.


Mother-of-Samah (stepping out of the hut): What is wrong with you today? You are not normal.


(She gets out, placing her hand on her back in pain).


Samah: It's nothing.(She gets out, looks at the jerrycans, looks for water in all of them and finds a little in only one. She pours some of it in the tea kettle and the rest in a small pot on a tripod stand; she places the kettle on the fire before moving away to rub her face and hands with dust for prayers.


She returns and pours tea for her mother, her father and her sisters who enter. (The camera enters with her to take a shot of her father and her mother).


Mother-of-Samah: Abu Samah, I suggest we leave this village. Life has become hard and water has become the hardest for us.


Abu Samah: Nobody leaves from his homeland. We have said this before and that's all.


Mother-of-Samah: We have become old and Samah will next fall reach 19 and every year we expect she will get married and if she gets married, nobody will bring us the water. For this reason we have to leave for a village where water is close.


Abu Samah: We leave the farming and the land to live in a village where we become strangers? This cannot be.


Mother-of-Samah: Abu Samah, I am worried about the girl on the water trip. She sets out early in the morning and returns only when the sun is about to set down. (Samah enters and greets her father).


Samah: I hope you are well this morning, father.


Samah father: Fine, my daughter; Have you served tea for your sisters?


Mother-of-Samah: Have you saddled the donkeys? Increase the number of the jerrycans; have you put four jerrycans on each donkey?


Samah: The water, mother, will be heavy for the donkeys on the return trip.


Mother-of-Samah: The water, my daughter, will not be enough.

Samah: Mother, at the well they do not allow us to take more than two jerrycans.


Samah father: May Allah strengthen you, my daughter, for this trip. Come back quickly. Don't get late. Saddle the donkeys firmly. Don't miss the village group.


(Samah, who is extremely beautiful, gets out and saddles the donkeys with the jerrycans. She feels a headache and slight giddiness).


Mother-of-Samah: What about, daughter? What's wrong?


Samah: It's nothing, mother; it's this slight dizziness which occurs to me each time and disappears; there's nothing, mother.


Mother-of-Samah: Take care of yourself, my daughter; ride on one of the donkeys from here and even on the return trip, put the jerrycans on one of the donkeys and ride on the other. We should have left this village only if your father has agreed.


Samah: Those, mother, are our folk, our people; we have come to know them and they have known us, too; this is where we farm and where we have been born. There is no way for us to desert it; we only have to bear the summer days which will certainly be over.


Mother-of-Samah: I am worried about you, my daughter, and the task of fetching water from a distant place. (Samah hugs her mother and climbs on one of the donkeys and ties to it the other one which is carrying the jerrycans. At a distance, she sees the girls and a few boys gathered…


They all exchange greetings and chats, while Samah anxiously search for Ibrahim; he is not among the group. She gets close to a girl who seems to be Ibrahim's sister.


Samah: Good morning, why are you alone today?


Ibrahim's sister: Good morning; how are you and how are your sisters?


Samah: They are well. What about your other donkey? Is it sick?


Ibrahim's sister: (winks as she has understood the question): The other donkey is well, but Ibrahim rode on it for a trip very early in the morning.


Samah (relieved): takes the lead and waves to the group to move on fast. The caravan, consisting of 13 donkeys, each loaded with jerrycans and its owner; others are walking; one boy is holding a flute playing emotional melancholic tones. A while later, appears the sight of corpses and short grass, the land is an arid desert. Mirage is seen at a distance; and judging from their shadows, it is obvious that the donkeys are moving in the scorching midday heat. Far away, Samah catches sight of the Ibrahim's specter and she smiles.


Samah: Ibrahim Is catching up with us (She relishes in her mind a picture of hers and Ibrahim's, a bride and a bridegroom, sitting inside a howdaj on a camel-back, the folks and friends uttering trilling sounds of joy, moving above the water-surface; Ibrahim comes, holds her from the arm, leads her down from the howdaj while he is swimming in the water; Ibrahim's sisters rushes up to congratulate her; but, alas, her dreams are disrupted by Ibrahim's sister voice).


Ibrahim's sister: Samah, what are musing over? I wish Allah would grant you intellects.


Samah: How are you, Ibrahim; You have set out early today.


Ibrahim: I thought you have gone far ahead of me and therefore I have hurried up to catch you before you arrive. Samah, I long for the water-fetching days to come to accompany and chat with you all along the road (checks his words, being aware the youths were close) conversation shortens the way.


Samah: And so am I, but I pray to Allah to make things easy for us and to have our own well with a big… big tank and get relaxed.


A girl from the group: And settle down for learning.


Another girl: And wash our clothes everyday and become like the girls of the nearby villages.


Samah: The most important thing is education. .. We waste our time going to the well and coming back from it (she feels dizziness).


Ibrahim: What is with you, Samah? Is there anything wrong?


Samah: No, it's nothing… I'm fine… it's only the sun.


Ibrahim: Tomorrow, Allah will, things will get better and we dig the well and the water becomes close and available – in both summer and autumn.


Halloam: When will that tomorrow come around, Ibrahim?


Ibrahim: I heard the Umdah saying this would be next year from the money of the harvest, thank Allah.


Samah: May Allah grant them the strength so that we can relax. (She glances at Ibrahim).


                     Second scene


At the Village


Umdah: My friends, if we do not cooperate and place piaster on the piaster, our sons will not have rest.


Khalil: Umdah, when do your sons go with the boys and sweat? The way is long; you send your sons to the school to learn and be treated; it's our sons who are tired.


Mustafa: Abu Ibrahim, this is not correct… the Umdah has got money and he hires people to bring him water. Let's discuss our problem and find a way to solve it.



Umdah: My friends, there is no way other than to collect money and bring the vehicle to drill the well, install the pump and a big tank from which we and the thirsty people in the neighbouring villages can drink.


Khalil: How great if this dream comes true… the first thing that follows will be the opening of the dressing post and the health center.


Abu Samah: And the teachers will come and open the school, the boys will earn and grow up, Allah willing.


Umdah: The coming step is the important one… if the rainfall is good, I want every one of you pay his harvest and the dream will come true, Allah willing.


Abu Samah: and the boys and daughters be relieved from farming in autumn and fetching water in summer… they are so tired.


Khalil: We have grown up in this hardship since our early age… do you remember the old well which was 40-man in length.


-A scene of the old well, the men standing around it, the rope moves; the picture then moves from the old well to the one to which the boys and girls have gone; the camel moves, dragging the rope a very long distance and the bucket emerges and the water pours from it. People are shown waiting to fill their jerrycans. At this point, Samah feels giddy and Ibrahim takes her jerrycans and stands in the queue and, from time to time, glances at Samah who has withdrawn in the shade of the tree near the donkeys. He ponders on her beauty. The queue moves on, a row erupts, settles down and the queue restores order … Samah moves to the queue -


Samah: Ibrahim let me stand for a while for you to take some rest.


Ibrahim: No, Samah; you are obviously ill.


Samah: I cause you much fatigue, Ibrahim.


Ibrahim's sister: Samah, please get me the covers of the jerrycans.


Samah (smiles to Ibrahim): Okay, coming.


Third Scene


Pictures of water pollution, donkeys drink with people from the same basin; people fill the jerrycans in turn, Ibrahim fills the jerrycans too, pulls them one after the other and loads them on the donkeys. The caravan then sets out on the home-bound trip. All people are happy going back with water, except Ibrahim and Samah.

After a few meters, Samah fells down; Ibrahim and his sister try in vain; Ibrahim fixes the jerrycans, makes a bearer from a rod of wood and rope, and carries the jerrycans on his shoulders; he helps Samah ride on the donkey. Ibrahim continues to suffer until they reach Um-Samah Village long after the caravan.


Mother-of-Samah: Where is Samah … where is she?

Halloam: Samah is behind; she is coming with Ibrahim and his sister.


(To their brother): Take the jerrycans down from this donkey; I will go back to see them.


(Despite her age, Mother-of-Samah moves towards Samah, her husband, with tears running down his eyes, moves behind her; the donkeys move back towards Samah; melancholic music in a climate of unknown danger).


At a distance appears Ibrahim carrying the jerrycans on his shoulders and his sister supporting Samah on the back of the donkey and they are moving very slowly.


Mother-of-Samah was the first one to reach them.


Mother-of-Samah: What is, my daughter? How are feeling? Since the morning I knew that you are not okay.


Samah: I'm okay, but I feel my head as if going to break up.


(The young man arrives with the other donkeys, places the jerrycans on one donkey and assists Samah ride on another donkey and the party sets out to reach Um Samah village).


Abu Samah: What shall we do Mother-of-Samah? No medical assistant, no doctor, no healer.


Mother-of-Samah: Smoke her with qarad (acacia fruit). Frankly speaking, I don't know what to do.


(The Umdah and several men arrive ad are welcomed by Abu Samah).


Abu Samah: Come in, please.


Umdah: No, no; forget about tea. You did not come to sunset prayers?


Abu Samah: Frankly, I have not performed my prayers yet; may Allah curse Satan; let me do it now.


Umdah: Do it and after that we shall discuss what we can do.


(Abu Samah moves for prayers while the men sit down on the palm-leave mat and in the light of the fire before them, they begin to talk about Mother-of-Samah and Abu Samah).


Khalil: What shall we do, my brothers? The girl is very ill.


Abu Hammad: And her father is old and her mother is as you can see.


 Mother-of-Samah voice: Abu Samah, come in quickly. Come in.


All people move in. What is it? Whatever happens is Allah's will.

Umdah: Take this smoke away. It has suffocated her.


Abu Samah concludes prayers, implores to Allah, weeping.


Khalil: Women, please go out and let her breathe.


Ibrahim (exhausted, extremely horrified, moves towards the men): My father, you must take her to the eastern village where there is a health center.


Khalil: It is night, my son, and it is a long way to reach there and the girl… (The Umdah disrupts him).


Umdah: What Ibrahim says is quite right. The girl must go; we must take her to the eastern village (addressing one man) Ishaq, go to the house and prepare for the travel – the white camel and the two horses.


Khalil: Who will go with them?


Ibrahim: I will go with her.


Abu Hammad: You should not go alone; she must be accompanied by you, her mother and your two daughters, Khalil.


Umdah: The camel for Samah and her mother and the two horses …. Two men only must go; with Allah's blessing.


They move for the preparation of the trip. Each one takes money from his pocket and places it on the mat.

The caravan sets out at dawn. It consists of a camel with a howdaj prepared for the ill person – a bed on which Samah lies and her mother at her side, a horse on which Ibrahim rides, and a donkey. All men and women of the village come out to bid them farewell. It is a scene that makes her feel as if her dream has come true.


Ibrahim (to his sister): Listen to me carefully. If we don't return till after tomorrow, don't forget to take the jerrycans of Samah family with you and fill them with water and prepare food for them.


The caravan moves away and when it disappears, the villagers return to their homes. Their arid village disappears and far away appears the eastern village with its brick buildings. The caravan stops and its members get down at a big pool of water (a reservoir). Ibrahim comes along and holds Samah by the hand. At this point, Samah opens her eyes and smiles to Ibrahim as if that scene comes true before her eyes.


 She climbs down and asks Ibrahim: Take me to the water… Take me, Ibrahim.


Her mother and Hammad get busy unloading the things. Ibrahim lets Samah hand and she unconsciously wades into the water. Ibrahim follows her.


Ibrahim: Enough, Samah; it's deep, enough.


Mother-of-Samah: You are ill, my daughter, get out of the water.

Ibrahim attempts to hold her but she fells down. Hammad and her mother run towards her. Ibrahim takes her out and carries her in his arms, reflecting on her beauty. He places her in front of her mother. She shows up the last smile and at this point tear-drops from Ibrahim fall on her lips.


These were the last moments (at last the drops of water fall with no effort) and she passes away like what she hopes – something from Ibrahim moistens her to quench years' thirst.

Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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