This Blog is concerned with myths and currency. As befits myths these tales were passed on orally, whereas the currency was only too real and was literally taken, in the form of salt, that commodity which was extremely valuable.
It mimics a vivid sketch book of words denoting beliefs and cultural traditions and in the case of the `beast` some essences of reality. From Diana`s diaries we have entries that are repeated, or numbered backwards. It is as if she is trying to make sense of what she is witnessing as she goes along. Reader beware!
We begin with a tribal belief which has echoes in 20th and 21st century films. Directly from the diaries we hear of a man –like beast (that) lives in these hills.” “He is covered in grey hair.” “Rampage”, or “King Kong” anyone? “(He) has no joints in his knees which makes it difficult for him to get up after falling down.” This sounds familiar to some of us!
To catch him- “plant a stout pole in the ground and go away; the waat (the beast) will be watching you...” “then come back, at night, rub your back against the post 4 or 5 times. The post will collapse. Thus he is easy to catch.”
Myth? Or some truths? Apparently he was a “terrible liar”, ran with incredible speed and had a language of his own. This sounds much like a chimpanzee, or a gorilla. Something a little more solid was written about next, more than taken with a pinch of salt, this was a whole bar of salt, an `Amole`. This was the name given to the crystallised salt bars from Tigre, which were used as currency. Four bars were worth 1 Marie Teresa dollar. They were kept in bundles of cotton and each donkey could carry 40 bundles, covered in cow hide. Each bar was inspected for cracks. One wonders how refusals were taken. Less salt on your eggs perhaps!
Today we have bitcoins, then they had Amole, today we have oil, then and now cotton. Materials still play a large part in our trade. Diana notes that in 1934, she rode to Port Sudan by donkey, then went by ship to Liverpool, via Marseilles. Other routes may have used the`Bibby` line, with a ship called the `Yorkshire`. Unlike the Tea Clippers of the `Cutty Sark` era, we are now in the era of steam. Perhaps they had races to see who could reach port first. Wool remained a rival product, hence the `Woolsack`, rivalling `Cottonopolis`. However, `Mythical Man` and `Tombra` have marched alongside.