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Timbuktu 1

Najati Al-Bukhari

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

1) Jawhara was in some kind of an excitement when she woke up in a morning of a day that was stormy, wild and furious and full of winds and waves of heavy rain. It was really so cold that Jawhara could not raise her head from the woolen cover. The black woman could not sleep in the preceding night for a short period of time. Her eyes used sometimes to close by themselves and without the will of the black woman.

The waves of rain were striking intensely and continuously on the glass of the window of the bedroom. Sometimes, lightening penetrated the darkness of the room and filled the space in which Jawhara was sleeping with light and illumination. Thunder was echoing inside the room.

For a wink of an eye, Jawhara witnessed in the light that penetrated the room a miraculous scene full of joy and happiness, hope and aspiration. The scene which she was seeing was full of serenity and tranquility. She saw in that splash of light the creation of a new world other than the one in which she was living. She witnessed the birth of new type of a sun as well as the birth of a new moon, also of a new life.

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Jawhara saw in front of her, and for a wink of an eye, the green pastures spreading in the infinity and beyond the horizon. She also saw an endless garden that was full of all kinds of flowers specially the roses of all colors and sizes.

Passion
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

With more scrutiny and observation, she looked at the scene that survived in her memory after its disappearance from the actual world in the bedroom in order to examine the exact nature of the scene. Jawhara could not see any living human being in the small world which she was seeing in front of her.

Children
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

She had the feeling that in few minutes time there might appear in this small world a new life, a new reality. But all of a sudden darkness prevailed in the bedroom of the black woman when the sun was still hiding itself behind the horizon.

But now it was the morning. The sun light was penetrating into the room and Jawhara was extremely pleased that the day would be sunny in spite of the fact that it was the middle of the winter season.

Looking around her, in the semi obscurity of the morning, the black woman was looking for the mirror of the wall, the marvelous mirror. She wanted to know whether the mirror would reveal anything in it. Of course, she was looking for her great, great grandfather who promised her to come back very soon and talk to her about the Immortal City of Timbuktu.

She waited for a long time, but with no avail. Silence was dominating in the room and her ears were ready to catch and hear the slightest noise produced by any movement either in the room or in her neighborhood.

Anonymous Dream
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

After waiting for a long time for the appearance of the wrinkled face of her great grandfather, she decided that there was no use to waste more time in expecting that the black old man would speak to her from the City of Timbuktu and about two hundred years ago. The miracle did not take place and the mirror did not reflect some pieces of furniture of the bedroom.

Jawhara took the important decision to wait for more time and to be patient and more indulgent. She was preparing herself to leave the room. While she was about to leave the room she thought that she heard the strange voice of somebody talking to her. She stood in the middle of the room puzzled and amazed and tried to locate the source and identify the nature of the noise, the voice.

But to her surprise and amazement the noise and the voice disappeared as soon as she was ready to listen attentively to the voice. Silence prevailed again in the room. While she was about to leave the room again she saw outside, nearby the glass of the window a small bird that looked like a pigeon of black color flying in the space outside. The bird was continuously moving its wings in a very harmonious way. For several times the bird let its beak to touch the glass as if it was trying to strike its beak against the glass.

Jawhara thought that the bird wanted in fact to enter into the room. Maybe, the bird had a message to be delivered to the black woman. Jawhara thought that the black bird that was flying outside the closed window did not stay long. Not being able to enter into the room, the bird flew away, away in the sky. When the bird was about to disappear totally behind the horizon, Jawhara could see that the bird was bleeding and crying as if it was a wounded and a suffering human being. Jawhara was not able at all to follow watching the black bird that was hitting its beak against the glass of the window few minutes back.

Jawhara left the window after some reluctance and indisposition and came back to the middle of the room not knowing what to do. Just by chance and involuntarily she touched her waist as well as her belly as if she was under the impression that something, unidentified was moving in her.

She was imagining that the bird, like a holy spirit, delivered a message to her which she could not recognize and identify. This was a feeling, an impression, or a passing thought on the part of the black woman. Jawhara could not explain to herself why she put her two hands on her belly, on her waist and her bosom, the centre of gravity of the whole universe where man, the human being is made, is created.

Jawhara all of a sudden smiled and then she started to utter words with no meaning at all. She realized that she might have been hallucinating. Or she might have been experiencing some kind of a day dream. Therefore she thought that at that particular moment she was detached from the real world. She thought that she was living within a dream, or in fact, in another world.

Jawhara wiped her eyes several times as if she thought that she was living for few seconds in another world. She wiped her eyes for several times in order to bring herself again back to the actual state of life.

The black woman was at that particular moment in confusion. What could she do after the appearance and the disappearance of the black bird? What was happening in the room? Was her room the place where a miracle would take place or has taken place? For a while, the black woman was in a loss, was in a state of confusion or in a state of forgetfulness.

The black woman was lost, completely lost. She did not know what to do or what was happening in her bedroom. The room was actually in a very ordinary and normal situation. Nothing has changed, or was changed in the room of the black woman. Silence was prevailing in the bedroom. Perhaps, something would take place, would happen in the room; thought the second and the preferred wife of the farmer of the quarter.

2) Jawhara, at last, sat in a chair, an ordinary chair that has been there for the last eight or nine years and on which she used to sit very frequently in the past. The chair was the oldest piece of furniture in the room.

Without any introduction at all a kind of a light earthquake took place inside the bedroom. Some pieces of furniture moved a little bit in their places, or have changed their places. But no drastic event has taken place in the room, Nothing fell down and there was no trace of any dangerous repercussions of the earthquake in the bedroom of Jawhara who had no past experiences of the anger of nature or the dislocation of the surface on which the room was found.

More important and above all was the condition of the mirror hung on the wall of the room. Jawhara was extremely worried about the safety of the fragile mirror which was for her the main point of attraction in her life. The mirror has become the only source of information for her in these important days of her life and may be in the community as a whole.

Through the mirror Jawhara could travel back in history and in time and she could speak to her ancestors, to her forefathers and her great grandfathers. Through the mirror she could speak to her forefather, the imam and the Mouazzen of the mosque of the quarter in Timbuktu and the father of her grandfather who left the immortal City of Timbuktu with his wife and came to the east, to Mecca for the main purpose of performing one of the pillars of religion, the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

From this young man of Timbuktu, who came to Mecca two hundred years ago, a great number of his descendants spread all over the Middle East, all remained freemen and masters of their destiny. One of these descendants was the black woman of the farmer of the quarter who was watching at that time the mirror hanged on the wall in front of her.

Jawhara went leisurely to the mirror and reached it just to be sure that it was still in a good condition and that she could see her beautiful and twinkling face reflected in the mirror. Jawhara was satisfied and even she felt that she was happy and full of joy.

Up till now nobody knew anything about the miraculous mirror and that through the mirror Jawhara came in contact with her roots, her ancestors, her home-land and her history and her heritage.

Jawhara, unconsciously kissed the mirror as if she was embracing a human being, somebody whom she adored and loved more than anybody or anything else.

Jawhara was feeling all of a sudden exhausted, completely exhausted, tired and fatigued. She went back to her chair in the centre of the room. She instantly sat on the chair in a very pensive mood and was expecting something to happen either in the room or around it. While sitting on the chair she became alerted and a little bit vigilant and heedful. Leaning of her head, she looked around; she examined the place and the space in which she was found.

3) The black woman heard a sound, some kind of a noise, uproar, a tumult, a resonance. She listened attentively to what she heard inside the room and realized that she never heard such a noise or uproar before in her life. She was hearing at that moment a sound coming from inside and outside of the room. It was something like the resonance of striking on a drum or even several drums.

It was not only the sound of one drum but rather more than that. The sound and the noise were produced by striking on several drums. Jawhara could not understand the nature of this bizarre sound. She never heard the sound of big drums when she was young in the Valley of the Spirit. In fact, she had the chance, sometimes, in some social and artistic occasions, to listen to one or two persons playing on small drums in company with other traditional musical instruments such as the lute.

While trying to identify the exact source of sound of drum beating, Jawhara was surprised to see in the mirror of the wall of the bedroom six or seven young black men dressed in white robes and having on their heads some kind of a white turban playing on the drums in a very clever and harmonious way.

The black woman looked at the mirror hung on the wall. She was totally stunned and astonished to see there and inside the mirror the group of African black men, playing on their drums, beating and striking the drums with their hands and in some cases with a stick. Jawhara sat in the chair and began looking at the mirror. She enjoyed what she was seeing and what she was listening to. She was in complete relaxation after having been in confusion and very excited.

The black woman realized that there, where these six young black men were striking their drums, the time was almost the morning more or less like the time of the place where she was living in the withering heights of the East Bank of the Valley of the Spirit.

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Then all of a sudden, Jawhara saw there in the mirror a young charming girl twenty years old or around that who was passing in front of the drummers. The girl was carrying some kind of a head-load that was not very heavy. It was something like a pot either full of water or some other kind of a liquid, like milk or perhaps oil. The young girl had a very charming stature and a charming and illuminating face. The moment the young drummers saw her passing in front of them they began striking the drums more intensely than they did before.

Jawhara saw that entire taking place in front of her in the mirror inside her bedroom. She became fond of the mirror, of this miraculous mirror. It was for her, like an illustrated book in which she could understand events by the way of seeing moving pictures, colored pictures. Jawhara thought that what she saw now of young black men playing on the drums could be of those same days of her forefather who appeared to her in the same mirror but who lived two hundred years ago.

Could this young woman she saw passing in front of her in the mirror be her great-great-grandmother, the wife of her forefather who left Timbuktu eastward with the main aim of going to Mecca for pilgrimage. In other words, Jawhara was contemplating the idea that she could be the direct descendant of this young and beautiful woman who passed in front of the members carrying the pot on her head.

This beautiful and charming young lady carrying the head load could have been the wife of her forefather. Jawhara moved her chair nearer to the wall of the mirror. She was very excited and at the same time she was full of apprehension. She was asking herself at that moment questions concerning the possibility of letting one of her friends, either Suha, the youngest wife, or Helwa, the sister of the master of the house, to share with her this unique experience of enjoying seeing and watching this audio-visual representation of the glorious past.

The black woman never heard in her life that somebody had in his house such a fantastic and a miraculous mirror. She heard of old women in the community who could tell fantastic tales about the past, about ancestors of the near or the far past. But she never heard that she was told about mirrors that can show people of the past alive and who could speak to each other.

For Jawhara, what she was having in front of her in the mirror was really a miracle and even a mystery. She was wondering whether others could see the same thing in their mirrors as she was seeing and watching.

Again and by itself, the scene of the young men, the drummers, disappeared from the mirror. The black woman, Jawhara, stood up and left the chair and walked hastily towards the door of her bedroom. In a flash of an eye she was outside in the corridor and as it happened in the previous days she saw the first wife running in the corridor. The black woman was wondering what this woman was doing outside of her bedroom.

The first wife and the youngest wife, Suha, whose room was adjacent to that of Jawhara, met somewhere in the house. They chose this place in such a way that they would not be seen by others. It was a small room that lay in the back of the house which was used from time to time by the farmer as a small office and a place where he took some rest without being noticed by others.

It was the time before lunch when all the women of the house were preparing themselves for their daily activities and tasks that they had to carry out. It was also the time when the husband was not in the house.

We do not have a lot of time to talk. I have an important event to tell you about. said Suha, the youngest wife.

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Please tell me and with no hesitation so as not to waste time. Please, start talking. Yet we can be absent from this lunch. We can wait to eat till dinner time. Please start talking. said the first wife.

O.K., I will tell you the story without any preliminary introduction. I heard this morning some kind of a noise coming from the room of my neighbor, the black woman. It was a strange noise like that of a big drum. But it was not the sound coming from one drum. Probably, there were many drums because the noise which I heard indicated that it was the sound of several drums. I cannot tell you the number of drummers because it was not in the room of the black woman. said Suha to the first wife.

But how there could be the sound of several drums in the bedroom of a woman, of a black woman. Most probably she has a drum which she brought with her when she first came here from the Valley of the Spirit. Yet, you say that it is more than one drum. This is strange. I cannot understand or explain such a phenomenon.' The situation, the case and the event which we are facing is full of riddles, puzzles and mysteries. How could the black woman have a number of drums? We do not know the exact number of these drums. How could we explain this strange event? Did our husband buy these drums for her, for his black African woman." said the first wife who was few minutes back standing in front of the bedroom of Jawhara. She was supposed to have heard the same noise of drums as Suha.

Really, I cannot add any more to what I have already said. said Suha to the first wife.

Then, let us leave this little small room at once. I think that the others are waiting for us in the dining room. I think Jawhara is already there and she would behave in the same way as she did after she had been talking to the old man. We would be looking at her attentively. No doubt her face would tell us a lot of things. said the first wife.

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4) The secret meeting of the two women came to an end. The two rushed outside the small room and walked towards the dining room. Each tried to behave in a normal and a quiet manner. They smiled as if nothing has taken place. Each one of them took her seat around the round low table.

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The three old maids were still bringing all kinds of dishes and pots of various sizes, all full of the many kinds of food. It seemed that not all the wives were present. An important member of the group was absent. Jawhara was not there sitting in her seat. Of course, everyone noticed her absence, her nonattendance. But only two knew what could have been the reason for her absence. The first wife and Suha were reasoning for themselves.

Baby Plant on Table 8
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

So, these two intelligent women were really worried for the absence of the black woman. For them, the two wives of the farmer, who knew something of her concealed and secret life, they knew the reason for the absence of the black wife. Was she still in her room listening again to these mysterious drums and the strange noise they produced?

Nobody knew the reality. The bedroom of the black woman was considered a mysterious place where some secrets were hidden by Jawhara.

The lunch meal was finished in a very short time. Practically nothing was eaten and the maids had to take the plates practically full of what they contained when they were brought from the kitchen. Tea was brought after the end of lunch but no woman wanted to have some tea. Of course, everyone knew the reason for the tense atmosphere that was prevailing in the dining room.

All of those present were more or less worried. All were expecting that a curious bizarre event was going to take place in the farm-house. Something was going to happen in the house but nobody knew the nature of this event, of this important episode.

Yet by now all eyes and ears had one target only to monitor and to observe. This target was the personality of the black woman. Whenever Jawhara came out of the bedroom she was followed by the eyes of the residents of the farm-house. She was more closely controlled and observed in the bathroom and the dining-room.

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In the bathroom, all eyes were skillfully focused on the black woman's belly, on her waist, on her breast. Many of the women in the bathroom had the strong inclination to touch her breast or to examine her belly.

Of course, Jawhara was aware of all what was going on around her. She could see the eyes of others being focused on her body. But she did not care for that at all. She was confident that there was no change in her body which would have indicated that she might have committed an offence, a trespass or even a crime. She was sure that so far she was more or less innocent of any wrong doing.

Notwithstanding all of this noise concerning her conduct and even her private and personal life, Jawhara did not lose confidence in herself. On the contrary, she was having more confidence than before and she did not care what others were thinking of her or were talking about her. In spite of the fact that she spent more time in her bedroom than before she had enough time left for her to participate in all the routine activities undertaken in the farm-house by most of the members of the family of the farmer of the quarter.

5) The three maids of the farm-house were the members of the family who were concerned by what could be said as strange developments in the personality of the black woman. First they were the only members of the house who had the privilege to enter into the bedroom of the black woman and at any time with the exception of the time when Jawhara was supposed to be in deep sleep or when her husband was spending the night with her.

Most important of all, the maids had never noticed anything strange and extraordinary or mysterious in the mirror hung on the wall of the bedroom. Nothing was noticed in the room which might have indicated that she was visited by any person, other than her husband, the farmer of the quarter.

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The three maids never heard any strange noise coming out of the bedroom. For the three maids, everything was normal in the room of the black woman, the wife of the farmer. Nothing could have been noticed to attract the attention or the suspicion of the three maids.

In the kitchen they led their life as before. They carried out their duties in the kitchen, but, at the same time, they talked a lot and they gossiped. They talked about all without exception, the wives, the concubines, the sister of the farmer and even, and above all, the farmer himself.

They also talked about the three agricultural laborers, the three young men who were practically neighbors to the farm-house where all the eight women lived.

All the three maids made some indirect hints to some kind of new patterns of behavior exhibited by the three young men employed by the farmer. The maids saw that from time to time one of the three laborers was absent during the night from his house in the annex. The absence of the young man from his house was not for the whole night but for some part of it.

The three maids were in total agreement that this occasional absence during the night from the small hut-annex was well programmed and planned. It never happened that more than two were absent from their houses. It was always planned that one of the three laborers stayed in the house. It seemed that this absence of some of the three young men was coordinated among the young laborers.

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It was sure and certain that the wives of the three laborers and the mothers of several children were quite aware of the absence of their husbands in certain nights of the week.

However, the maids were certain that the wives of the young laborers were verbally told about the place which was the target of their visit. However, the wives of the laborers were not told exactly where their husbands went. On the other hand, their husbands never told them about the persons whom they have met. Moreover, each of the three wives knew, more or less, where their husbands went during the night. In many cases the wives could smell the special perfume that came from the body of their husbands.

The guessing of the three old and intelligent maids could not go to a point further than that. This guess and these rumors exchanged and told by the three maids were nothing but a kind of whispering that took place only in the kitchen. They could not discuss such a topic outside the kitchen so as to avoid any possibility that it would be heard by others, by a wife, a concubine or the sister of the master of the house himself.

However, in order to prove the validity of their reasoning, the old maids were looking for proofs and evidences. They sought for substantiation and indications for their reasoning. They were looking for evidences for their accusations.

There was so far no proof that any of the three laborers had some kind of a physical relation with some of these gossips and rumors. There was no evidence that an intercourse with any of the three members of the farm-house has taken place. There was no proof, for example, that any kind of a liaison or contact has been established between any of the young laborers and the sister of the farmer, Helwa.

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The three old maids could not go any further in this kind of argument and reasoning because so far they have not witnessed any change in the physical appearance of each of the eight females in the farm-house.

The three old maids could not discover that any of the eight women, got pregnant or gave signs that she was about to show these signs of pregnancy. There was no evidence at all that any of these females of the farm-house has kept herself in her bed more than normal. The maids controlled the underwear of each of the eight females and saw that each was having regularly her blood of the monthly period.

More recently the three old maids were under the impression that the three young laborers went somewhere else in the area, outside the boundaries of the farm, or more precisely to the neighboring town.

The three maids heard a lot of things about the drastic and radical changes that took place in the community. The maids came to know that the three young laborers were having pleasure and amusement during the summer as well as the winter seasons nights in some parts of the neighboring town.

However, it was not expected that the three old maids remained blind in the midst of a farm-house that was a place where some kind of curious and unusual events, of miracles, were taking place. They noticed easily that all eyes were focused on the beautiful and attractive black woman of the house. The three maids, in those days, knew of some other families in the community where there was in each house a black woman who was a wife like the other wives in each family.

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Nevertheless, the three maids were discovering day after day that the black woman of the house in which they were serving was a very special type of a woman. They could easily see that the black woman of their house was extremely beautiful and charming, more beautiful than any of the other six women of the master of the house.

They noticed that the black woman, Jawhara, was more than others observing all the religious daily duties including praying five times a day. She rarely missed a single prayer specially that of the morning. The other women of the farm-house were not practicing regularly the other daily religious duties and rituals. However, during the fasting month of Ramadan, all of those who were living in the house observed the fasting duty throughout the days of the fasting month.

The three maids were in fact expecting something. The house and all its members were preparing themselves to receive and to witness such a miracle or an extraordinary and unexpected event.

6) The master of the house, the farmer of the quarter, was not an exception to this general rule. He was like the other members of the family feeling that there was something invisible which was moving in the house from one room to another and from one hall to another in the farm-house.

There was nothing visible or concrete that could be observed in the house. But yet, whenever anybody used to pass in front of others, the eyes of those watching would follow the passing person until they discovered the exact nature of his visit or just his passing by in that place.

All eyes and thoughts were always looking for, searching the whereabouts of the black woman. It was very important to know her whereabouts. It was most crucial to know that she was taking refuge in her bedroom and for a long time. By now everybody was well informed that the black woman had some meetings with someone, an old man with whom she exchanged ideas and thoughts. All members of the family knew that these meetings lasted for a long time.

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Yet in spite of all of these rumors and gossips, the black woman did not lose her balance and her equilibrium. She was aware of the fact that in such circumstances she should be in control of her nerves and her courage and audacity. She did not care to what others said about her because so far she did nothing that could be considered as a challenge to the status quo in the farm and to prevailing customs, values and traditions in the community.

7) One day, when it was perhaps midnight and when the bedroom of the black woman was covered by the veil of darkness and obscurity, and when it was raining very heavily, and when the bed-room, between now and then, was lit for some instants by the illumination of the frequent lightening, and when the deafening noise of thunder filled the empty space inside the bedroom, and when all the members of the family were enjoying their deep delightful sleep, and when the voice of a black cat was coming into the room from outside asking for help, and when somebody was walking in the corridor in his or her way to the common toilet, Jawhara was at that time, at that particular moment enjoying her sleep.

The black woman was well covered by very heavy blankets and woolen quilts. She felt well protected from the severe cold winter weather of the night. She was dreaming, as usual, some very happy dreams and she was smiling between now and then when she was still asleep. Jawhara was in fact living in another world full of joy and happiness.

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But abruptly and in an unanticipated manner, she woke up from her deep sleep. She did not know why she woke up from her deep sleep. Did she hear a far voice of somebody calling her to wake up and to come to him? But who was he? And where was he?

Jawhara looked around her but she could not see a lot in the room because of the prevailing darkness of the night. It was not possible for her to find out what was going on in the room.

She wanted to resume her sleep because she estimated that it was almost midnight and she had still about five hours of sleep before the arrival of the dawn and the appearance of the sun from behind the horizon. She closed her eyes to try to sleep but she could not at all. She was still hearing the voice echoing in the room. The voice increased its intensity and the black woman at last decided to wake up and to abandon any attempt to sleep again.

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Jawhara left her bed and lit a small oil lamp. Still the room for her was almost full of the obscurity of the night. She put on her feet the slippers and enveloped her body with a heavy woolen robe. She was now attempting to let the oil stove work so as to overcome the cold weather that was dominating the room.

Unconsciously, she sat on a chair, the one she usually used when she wanted to get some rest. The calmness and the serenity were dominating in the bedroom and there was no indication that an abnormal event would take place.

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At that moment she never thought of the mirror which was hung on the wall and which had shown her miracles in the last few days. The mirror was there in its place on the wall. It was almost empty, with the exception, and like all other mirrors, that it was showing in its screen some of the things that were there in the bedroom of Jawhara.

Calmness and serenity were dominating in the room and the black woman was really feeling almost losing her power to stay awake. The moment she was about to be indulged in deep sleep, she heard again the voice that was addressing itself to her few minutes ago. The woman, after much concentration and contemplation, could recognize the voice of the old man who appeared to her several times before and during the last few days.

She looked around her, astonished and even somewhat frightened, looking for the source of the strange voice but she could not see anything extraordinary in the room. The voice repeated itself with the same intensity and vigor.

At last and after some worry, Jawhara could understand the message which the voice was conveying and communicating to the black woman: "Listen to me, I am going to speak to you in few minutes time, you have nothing to do except to wait and look at the mirror."

Jawhara, somewhat excited and overwhelmed by curiosity and interest, obeyed willingly the instruction of the old man and she was looking full of excitement at the mirror hung on the white wall. She was in fact stimulated and could not wait any longer, anymore. She wanted her forefather, the old black man, to appear to her on the screen of the mirror and to start talking to her lucidly and explicitly in Arabic which he mastered in addition to his mother tongue about the City of Timbuktu, the cradle of her roots and her origins.

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She was hoping that the old man would be communicating to her important ideas and thoughts about her city of Timbuktu. Still nothing appeared in the mirror. The black woman was confused and did not know when the old man would appear in the mirror and start talking to her about the cradle of her roots and her origin, about Timbuktu.

She was about to close her eyes when abruptly she saw some kind of a faint light coming to her from the mirror. She waited for the miracle to take place, to see the black old man in the mirror talking to her.

Miraculously, the mirror was flooded by light which was an undisputable indication that something very significant and crucial would be seen in the mirror. So she had to wait and to be patient.

The mirror became bright and full of illumination. This state of affairs continued for a while. The black woman thought that it will take some time for the mirror to bring this black old man from the past, two hundred years back. In few minutes time and after the appearance of some confusion on the screen of the mirror, the black woman saw her forefather, the ancestor, the black old man appearing precipitately on the screen of the mirror.

Good morning, Jawhara. There I am again in the illuminating mirror. I will speak to you from a far distance of space and time. I would be speaking to you about the place where you have your roots and where your ancestors were born and were buried in Timbuktu. said the black old man.

The black woman kept silent without uttering a single word. Jawhara was not asked to speak or to answer. For this reason she was taciturn and was looking at the mirror and waited for the old man to talk about Timbuktu. The black woman was very patient in waiting for the old black man to resume talking to her.

Empty Shirt
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

Timbuktu is an immortal city; it has come into existence seven hundred years ago. You should not forget that I am addressing you from the seventeenth century. If we start counting the life of our city from its birth in the tenth century up till your time, the 19th Century, then we would arrive to an age for our City of about eight hundred years. There, and in few minutes I will show you our own City, Timbuktu, as it was in the tenth century when it was built by the brave, bold and intrepid people, the Tuareg.

The Tuareg have built the City in the heart of the Grand Sahara with the main objective that it would be the symbol of immortality of the existence of man in the heart of the Grand Sahara, of the desert of sand, oases and mirages.

Gradually, and with the passing of time, our City has grown in size and in importance in the intellectual, social and commercial fields of human life. Timbuktu, which is a little bit far from the Niger River, established itself as the centre for commercial transactions for countries found in North Africa, in the Middle East, in the West of Africa and in the South of the Great Sahara.

Black Africans especially from the West of the black Continent came to live in Timbuktu starting from the first years of its establishment. The black people of various ethnic and linguistic backgrounds came to live in Timbuktu starting from the first years of its establishment.

Sunny Day with Mom
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The black people, who came in waves to settle in Timbuktu, gave the City its permanent characteristics and personality as being the heart and the centre for the black culture and traditions and for the immortality of their existence in the heart of the Grand Sahara.

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Time passed by, years after years and centuries after centuries and Timbuktu was establishing itself as the spiritual and the intellectual centre of the Black African Culture and as the source of enlightenment for their religion and for their faith.

Timbuktu gradually became, and starting from the Tenth Century, a City of majestic and beautiful mosques crowned with their elegant and graceful minarets. So many mosques were built during the so many years of the history of Timbuktu. Still, these mud built mosques stand until now defying time and space.

Men of all ages went to pray in these mosques five times a day. Most men prayed in the mosques while women preferred to pray in their houses near by their small children. According to traditions women were not prevented from coming to the mosque for praying purposed. The Mouazzens called for prayer from the minarets of these magnificent mosques. The immams led the group prayers in the mosques

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In these splendid and glorious mosques of Timbuktu, and starting from the early years of its life, in the tenth century, various wide and functional spaces were established which accommodated scholars and learned men and their followers and students and disciples.

Learning spaces annexed to the mosques contained learning and instructional spaces as well as residential spaces for the scholars and disciples. Special spaces were also provided to function as libraries where books and manuscripts were kept and consulted at any time of the day by the instructors and their students, followers and disciples.

With the passing of time, Timbuktu became one of the main centers of learning in the civilized world of the time. Scholars from Andalusia in western Europe and from various parts of North and West Africa and the Middle East came to Timbuktu to get acquainted with the intellectual heritage of the present and the past.

Seekers of knowledge came from all the centers of learning in Andalusia. Others came from Morocco and other North African countries. Scholars came to the Immortal City from Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem and Bagdad so as to be enlisted, registered as students in the centers of learning in Timbuktu.

For centuries and centuries Timbuktu was the objective of all people who devoted their life in the pursuit of knowledge and all the disciplines of human learning. Timbuktu was considered as one of the centers of learning rich for its manuscripts and books that dealt with all branches of learning including the mathematical and the scientific. Caravans came from the north, the south, the west and the east, to Timbuktu. They were carrying with them persons who wanted to be followers of learned scholars whose names were known all over the civilized world of that time.

It is said that one time the number of students at the University of Timbuktu exceeded fifty thousand who came from all over of the civilized world. For more than five hundred years or more, this Immortal City was considered as one of the main centers of learning in the world. Scholars, who wanted to widen the scope of their knowledge and learning, came to Timbuktu for that purpose. They used to stay for years and years in the educational institutions of the Immortal City of the Sahara. At the end of their studies in so many disciplines of human knowledge they used to go back to their homelands, northwards, southwards, westwards and eastwards. They went back to their countries to teach others what they learnt in Timbuktu.

In the golden years of the life history of Timbuktu, it is said that wisdom and the word of God were to be found only in Timbuktu. Caravans came to the Immortal City bringing with them men who were looking for knowledge and caravans left the City carrying with them men of the civilized world who spent a number of years in the City as students of very famous men of knowledge and wisdom.

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After the sixteenth century Timbuktu lost some of its intellectual brilliance. With the passing of time it lost also its supremacy, its superiority and its preeminence in the intellectual domains.

Timbuktu for the remaining years until the one I am living in never gave up its intention and its determination to be a source, a center of knowledge and scholarship for anybody who wanted to learn and become a wise man.

Timbuktu had implanted in its soil and in its ever living spirit this love for intellectual scholarship and pursuit. Young and old men from all over the civilized world, from the east, the west, the north and the south, continued to come either individually or in groups in order to seek knowledge and learning in this immortal source of intellectual pursuit, the City of Timbuktu.

8) "My dear offspring and adored and beloved descendant, our city has not only been famous for its intellectual richness and its learning pursuits and activities, or for its being the Mecca of human knowledge for those who were anxious always to acquire more knowledge and more learning, but it was also known as being a vivid center of commercial transactions throughout the long centuries of its long life."

Timbuktu has been a center of commercial transaction between people coming from all over the world, and from all directions without exception. Caravans were coming from all parts of the world to Timbuktu. It has been the center of culture that was all the time different from all other centers of the world that had the same functions as the Immortal City of Timbuktu.

Other centers of learning, and may be of commerce, were invaded all the time and in the zenith of their intellectual and cultural achievements by invaders and uncivilized armies which came from the outside sphere of cultural life.

Cultural activities and intellectual learning and pursuit have stopped during the invasions of these cruel invaders in the entire civilized world at these times. Yet, Timbuktu remained intact and had been taken care of by the golden dunes of sand and its remoteness and often its inaccessibility. One could say that the hand of God was always protecting Timbuktu.

Yet this Immortal City of Timbuktu remained intact, undamaged and untouched by evil and the Devil. My City remained intact, unhurt by the forces of evil. The Immortal City remained for centuries a center of learning and cultural illumination. The people of Timbuktu carried throughout the long centuries the torches and the flames of knowledge and learning.

9) "Here in our city, as it is the case until now, we are always, and all the time, looking for salt. Throughout the day and the night we think of this white material, called salt, which all people of the city use for making our food more savory and more delectable."

I do not know how to explain to you about the magic power inherent in this thing called salt. People of all ages like this important white component of most of the food people prepare. Children starting from a certain age, young people and those who are old, all like and adore their food containing salt. People in the various quarters of the city know very well which family or families have an abundant quantity of salt in their family stores. If a family has salt in a considerable quantity then it is called rich, very rich. Those families, which lack salt or have a little quantity that would disappear in a month's time, are described as poor!

In this city, salt cannot be sold in the market like any other commodity. Salt is completely invisible in the community. Local merchants buy salt from dealers coming from outside in the weekly caravans that come to the city. They wait for those who want to make business with salt in return for a commodity which is found in some abundance in the city of Timbuktu, Gold.

Salt is brought to the city of the desert to exchange it for Gold. It is not yet known if there is a city in the world that values salt as it is valued by the people of Timbuktu. Business in salt and Gold, or in the exchange of Gold for salt, has become the main commercial activity in the city. Historians sometimes exaggerate in saying that in Timbuktu Gold is exchanged for an equal weight of salt, one pound of salt for one pound of Gold.

Of course, merchants bring with them various types of textiles, of food and even of olive oil, but people in the city look always for salt and first of all salt. I am sure that the human body is always in need of this commodity called salt.

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10) "There was a time when in the civilized world, Timbuktu was considered as the center of the world, the most important city in the desert and in the black world. This City has a message. It addresses always the intellect of man, his mind and above all his spirit"

Our immortal city, Timbuktu, has not only attracted scholars and men of intellectual pursuit, and it has not only attracted merchants, traders and salesmen from all over the civilized world, but it has also attracted world famous travelers who made a name for themselves in the annals of human history."

Our city, Timbuktu, was and is still seen as a shining star in the heavens of the Grand Sahara. Timbuktu has been seen high in the sky of excellence and perfection everywhere in the civilized world. Our city has been always and up to the present time, in the seventeenth century, considered as the woman with whom all men aspire to live.

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In every caravan, there used to be one or more than one person who did not have any purpose other than that of looking at the charming city from a distance or inside its narrow streets and lanes. They want to come in touch with its spirit and with its real charm and lively beauty."

Travelers and visitors were attracted from afar to come and see the magnificent and the marvelous city. They were attracted to come and touch the city while it is asleep. They were invited to come and contemplate the mosques of the city at dawn time. They were invited to come and adore the city when it goes to sleep.

After the Battle
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People from all directions, east, west, north and south came to Timbuktu only to touch the walls of this magnificent city that had been made out of mud but which has been standing there for centuries and centuries.

Visitors always believed in the holy and sacred nature of the city which they were visiting. For them, it is very important to go into the mosques and to have a look inside these learning edifices. There, inside the holy sanctuary, the visitor prays to God who gave him the chance of seeing and visiting this marvelous place.

It is important for the visitor to exchange some thoughts with this palpitating heart of the Grand Sahara, this splendid and glorious city of Timbuktu. The visitor stands amazed and stunned in the heart of the Immortal City because he feels that a magic invisible hand has raised him high up, there, in the paradise of God. Timbuktu is the purified way to heavens and paradise.

Anyhow, visitors and travelers, who should all be believers, stay for a while, for few days, or for the eternity, in the Immortal City of the Grand Sahara. By nature and by definition they have to see, or they have already seen the other parts of the world. But for them, they are sure that they would not see any other city in the world which could be more beautiful, more intellectually rich and more charming than this city of Timbuktu, the city of the adorers of salt and of the intellectual pursuit.

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As I told you, my dear Jawhara, many visitors came throughout the preceding centuries to Timbuktu. Some of them talked about our Immortal City in their memoirs as they talked about other cities which they have already visited.

My dear Jawhara, I am going to tell you about two important figures and personalities who visited the city during its long life history. The first one came to the City of Timbuktu in the middle of the 14th Century from Tangiers in north Morocco and the other one visited our City in the middle or almost at the beginning of the 16th Century coming from Morocco but originally he was of an Andalusian Arab origin. He was born in the city of Grenade almost before it was conquered by the Spanish in 1492.

My dear descendant, Jawhara, I am going to stop talking to you now. I will resume appearing to you in the screen of the mirror after I take rest I do not know for how long. But I am sure I will not be away for more than one day, till tomorrow morning. So, au-revoir till we meet again, my dear Jawhara. I am going to vanish from the screen of the mirror. You would not see me till tomorrow morning, au-revoir Jawhara.

11) Jawhara did not want that the transmission in the mirror come to an end. She was ready to continue listening and for hours to the presentation of the forefather. After much hesitation she left her chair. Actually she was pleased, all of a sudden, that the transmission of the mirror came to an end and because she was really tired. She did not want to be seen by the other wives of the farmer to be tired and exhausted.

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When she opened the door of her bedroom she saw nobody in the corridor that was dimly lit. But she did not know exactly whether her neighbor Suha whose room was adjacent to hers, was listening to what was taking place in her bedroom. Jawhara did not care at all whether anybody was listening to the black old man who was miraculously addressing her in the language used in the Valley of the Spirit. In few minutes time the beautiful and agitated black woman felt a little bit relaxed although she was more or less expecting that an extraordinary and a mysterious event would take place to her somewhere in the farm-house. This important event might take place soon in the coming few days.

For the whole day the appearance of the black old man in the mirror of the bedroom of Jawhara was not mentioned to anybody and was not discussed at any time at any place. All the residents of the farm-house were showing some tension on their face and in their daily behavior and comportment. All of them were looking for the black woman, Jawhara. They had the feeling or the intuition that the black woman would disappear very soon, or that she would experience in the coming days some unexpected change in her body or in her life.

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But the black woman did not care for the worries and the reaction of people living with her and around her in the farm-house. She was waiting impatiently the arrival of the next morning, the time for her rendezvous with her forefather, her ancestor, to speak to her from a time that stretched in the last two hundred years.

Also, Jawhara could not visualize how much distance separated her place of living from that of her ancestor in the middle of the Grand Sahara.

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Dinner on that day took place somewhat earlier than usual. Of course, the farmer of the quarter was present at the supper time. He did not eat much and he did not talk much. Although he let others speak amongst themselves in whatever subject they wanted.

The black woman did not talk and kept totally silent for all the time of the meal. She was asked once or twice by the various wives and concubines but she did not give an answer. The dinner was finished earlier than usual. The dreaming black woman rushed to her bedroom. She walked in a rapid manner as if somebody was following her.

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It was cold, very cold. Jawhara was shivering while walking. It was the beginning of the severe winter season which so often becomes so unbearable to the extent that snow falls down in the mountainous parts of the community.

Jawhara lit the stove of the room so as to warm the atmosphere before going to sleep in the bed. She dressed herself up the evening robe. She went to the bathroom and stayed there for a while. She carried out the necessary washing of certain parts of her body.

Woman with Hat 1
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© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

In a short time, the black woman was in her bed covered very well with two heavy blankets and one woolen stuffed quilt. She wanted to close her eyes and try to sleep, to sleep and to sleep without dreams or nightmares.

Again the lightening illuminated the obscurity of the room for several times. Then thunder was heard echoing inside and outside the room. The black woman did not care for the anger, wrath and fury of nature. She was accustomed to see and hear that fury of nature since many years.

She closed her eyes and was finally able to sleep very easily and comfortably. Mentally and physically speaking she was well prepared to sleep with no difficulty.

In the morning, Jawhara got up early as if a call from a far distance was calling her to awake up, or as if an invisible hand was shaking her violently and forcefully to wake her up from her deep sleep.

Jawhara was remembering immediately and instantly after she opened her still drowsy eyes that she had a rendezvous with the black old man, her forefather, her ancestor. Precipitately, she left her bed, put on her sleeping robe and looked for the chair on which she sat yesterday in looking at the mirror.

The black old man was talking to her. She rubbed her eyes so many times so as to prepare them for watching the mirror and for listening to the talk of the old man. Some kind of illumination covered the whole screen of the mirror and in an instantaneous way there the old man was visible in the mirror with a smile of his face decorated by a small white beard.

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He was dressed up in his white shining robe and a white small turban crowning his head. In the background of the front scene it could be seen that there were mud built huts and fences. The scene did not reveal indications that persons other than the black old man was there in the screen of the mirror.

It seemed that the old man was pleased, excited and extremely glad and delighted to find Jawhara sitting on the chair looking at him with interest and curiosity in the mirror.

12) The old black man, the forefather of Jawhara was glad to see her looking at him seated on the chair. He resumed his talk as follows.

Ibn Batuta was a man who liked to travel not only in the countries of his own culture but also to other countries of South Asia and the Far East and as far as China.

Ibn Batuta was of a Berber origin. But like members of his people, he was fully arabized and mastered Arabic like any other Arab member of his society and of his ethnic origin who are still living in all North African countries.

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Ibn Batuta was born in a city that was strategically located overlooking both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Since his childhood he came in contact with persons of various national and cultural origins. Since his childhood he was dreaming of visiting and seeing as many countries as he could when he would be able to do so.

In his youth, his young age, he pursued the intellectual activities. Ibn Batuta did not waste a single minute of his life. He was always busy in the pursuit and in the quest of knowledge and the perfection of his intellect. Wherever he went as a visitor and as traveler he made himself known to the learned circles as well as to the power and authority centers. In most countries he visited he was invited to be an instructor in some important disciplines of these years in the intellectual learning institutions. In many cases he was invited to be a judge and for a long duration of time.

In each country he travelled to he left a trace of himself, some descendants who would belong to him and to his blood through his marriages to women of the countries he visited. He travelled to countries as big as China and as small as the Islands of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

Of course, to have offspring in the countries he visited he had to marry women in these countries he had visited in the various parts of the world. He married by legal contracts at the beginning of his visits to the country and he divorced these women before his departure.

His visit to Timbuktu took place almost at the middle of the 14th Century in 1353. By that time Ibn Batuta had already finished a number of his travels, of his voyages to the various countries in Asia and in Africa. Sometimes he stayed for several months or years in certain countries.

The people of Timbuktu knew of his arrival for so many weeks in advance. Some caravans brought the news and the message of the forthcoming visit of Ibn Batuta to the people of Timbuktu. His fame, good reputation and celebrity as a roaming scholar of knowledge and enlightenment have already reached the city of Timbuktu which was at time a center of learning and intellectual scholarship.

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Some famous scholars of Andalusia and of the Middle East came to this center of intellectual pursuit so as to improve their knowledge and to add to their learning from the already established famous scholars of the intellectual institutions of Timbuktu.

With the arrival of the caravan in which the famous traveler Ibn Batuta was a passenger in the city of Timbuktu all the dignitaries and the scholars of the city came out to welcome him. It was Friday, a holy day for the inhabitants. His arrival on Friday was considered as a good omen and augury. Ibn Batuta was received ceremoniously at the outskirts of the city.

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The famous traveler, Ibn Batuta himself, got astonished to see the Immortal City to be more impressive and more magnificent and glorious than he thought it to be and more majestic and more splendid than what others tried to illustrate and describe. In the early morning of the spring time, the many minarets of the mosques of the Immortal City were reflecting the sun rays and illuminations. A group of five highly known scholars and dignitaries advanced solemnly to the caravan to welcome the famous scholar and traveler who was found mounting the first camel."

Greetings, homage and respect were presented to the famous traveler, Ibn Batuta. The famous visitor was exalted and satisfied. All necessary arrangements were made in advance to assure the comfort and the consolation for the famous scholar and traveler. The world renown traveler was considered as the guest of honor of the chief, of the Governor of the City. Ibn Batuta was given a wing in the sumptuous residence of the Governor of the City. Above all and starting from the first day the traveler was offered a very beautiful black girl of the age of twenty three years to be his wife. The young and the beautiful wife smiled to her future husband.

All necessary steps were taken to finalize and to legalize the marriage of the beautiful black girl with the famous traveler, Ibn Batuta. The marriage ceremony was carried out in accordance with all the traditions of Timbuktu community.

Ibn Batuta integrated himself and for a long period of time in the daily life of the Immortal City of Timbuktu. He performed all the five daily prayers in the mosque of the quarter. In most of these prayers the famous traveler acted as the Imam of the group prayer.

In the holy day of Friday, Ibn Batuta used to deliver the weekly sermon speech in the noon prayer to the believers who were participating in the prayer.

As it was his custom and tradition he got up one day from his sleep and told his wife that he decided to leave Timbuktu and start his final voyage to his home town, Tangier. An important decision was taken by the famous traveler and that was to accompany his young black wife with him to Tangier. In two days time, the world famous traveler left Timbuktu with his wife.

That was the end of the visit of Ibn Batuta to Timbuktu. I do not exaggerate if I tell you that people in Timbuktu still talk about the famous world traveler as if he left them just to-day or few days back while in fact it is almost four hundred years separate me from the time in which the traveler carried out his visit, from the 14th up to the 17th Century, the century in which I am addressing you.

O! My dear Jawhara, I am an old man. I cannot continue talking to you anymore this morning. I have to stop telling you the story so as to resume it tomorrow morning. I hope you would be there in your chair when I will tell you about another world traveler who visited our Immortal City, Timbuktu in the 16th Century. He is an important person but not as important as the first one, Ibn Batuta.

The second famous world traveler who visited Timbuktu was called since his birth as Hassan al-Wasan. Then later on, he was called Leo the African and he is known in the historical annals as Leo although his original homeland was Grenade. In 1518 while he was coming back from a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Sicilian pirates captured him and gave him as a present to the Pope of Rome, Leo X. There in Rome, Hassan, the Moslem was converted to Christianity.

Next morning I will be telling you more about the traveler, Hassan al-Wasan, or Leo the African. So, see you again tomorrow morning. Do not forget that you should keep what I am telling you as a secret. said the black old man the forefather, the ancestor of the black woman, Jawhara, the wife of the farmer of the quarter.

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I wish you would continue telling me more about Timbuktu. I am interested in the whole story of the Immortal City. I will be waiting for you tomorrow morning. I do not know how I can wait till tomorrow. I am sure that I will be seeing you. Take care of yourself. We would be meeting tomorrow morning. Au-revoir my forefather. said the black woman, Jawhara.

13) It was very difficult for Jawhara to wait till tomorrow morning. Starting from the disappearance of the image of the old black man from the screen of the mirror, Jawhara was counting minutes and hours which separated her from the next rendezvous with her forefather who lived in the 17th Century and was addressing her from that epoch.

As much as she could she avoided to leave her room as much as it was possible. Also, and as much as she could she would be avoiding talking to others during the three meals and during group social meetings with the other wives of the farmer of the quarter.

On that day, which was Saturday, the beginning of the working days of the week in the community, Jawhara saw, by chance, the oldest agricultural laborer, who was almost thirty two years old, passing in front of the farm-house. The young laborer saw, on his part, the black woman who smiled for him from a distance. He felt that he was so near to her that he could touch her if he wanted. He was about to say to her a word or two but at last he did not.

She was in reality very far from where he was. Again he had the feeling that the black woman wanted to talk to him, to tell him something. This was a feeling. Or was it only, hardly, a dream. The young laborer was asking himself whether it was possible for him to talk to her.

Jawhara was now in her bedroom. She was preparing herself for a very deep sleep. At that particular moment she thought that there was some low and soft knocking on the door of the bedroom. She rushed to the door and opened it. She found in front of her a corridor that was completely deserted. Maybe the knocking was part of her imagination. Did she want somebody to knock at the door of her bedroom so as to let him enter into her room?

But for what purpose was she wishing that a visitor or a guest should come to her room? Was she imagining the knocking on the door? Was this a possibility? Was this the proper time for visitors to come few minutes before sleep?

Jawhara forgot this entire atmosphere in which she was living and decided to sleep so as to get up early in the morning and meet her forefather, the black man on the screen of the mirror. There was no difficulty at all for Jawhara to sleep and then to wake up extremely anxious and enthusiastic to listen to this wise man.

Next morning, the moment she opened her eyes, she could see that the room was in order and as she saw it yesterday before sleeping. But unexpectedly, she heard some noise coming from the mirror. She looked at the mirror and she got worried because it was possible that the old man would not appear that day in the screen of the mirror. He might have fallen ill or he might have been still asleep.

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For a while, Jawhara forgot the mirror and she remembered her husband, the farmer of the quarter who had not visited her in her bedroom for the last two weeks. Perhaps, she thought that he was busy during the nights with his other women, or he might have been thinking that Jawhara was suffering from some worries, or from some kind of inquietude. But at the same time the black woman was sure that the farmer loved her and preferred her to others.

14) At that particular moment, the mirror was abruptly full of light and illumination. The black woman rushed to the chair that was found in the middle of the room and sat there while she was looking at the mirror. She was pleased to see her forefather appearing on the screen of the mirror. The old man looked to be very lively and in good health. He was dressed up in the same traditional Timbuktu dress for old men, a white robe and a white turban on the head.

Good morning my dear Jawhara, I hope you have slept very well last night. I had a very good sleep throughout the night. I got up early in the morning and I went to the mosque to pray the Morning Prayer. Of course, before that I mounted the stairs of one of the two minarets of the mosque and called the believers for the Morning Prayer.

You know, all people of Timbuktu are extremely religious. Most men prefer to go to the mosque to perform their morning payer. Some of the men of the quarter take with them to the mosque their young sons. As you know young people prefer to remain sleeping rather than wake up early and go to the mosque.

As you already know I act most of the time as the Imam of the group prayer although in our tradition any adult believer could act as the Imam. It is now almost two hours since I finished the Morning Prayer.

When I decided that I have to talk to you, you have instantaneously appeared in front of me. I talk to you, although two hundred years and about four thousand miles separate us in time and space. said the forefather.

Please do not go on in presenting your introductions and preliminary talk. Please, my adored ancestry, I want now that you talk about the second famous traveler who came and visited Timbuktu. I am anxious to know more of his story and how he decided to come and visit the city of my ancestors, Timbuktu. said Jawhara to the old man.

Yes, yes, I agree with you. I should not waste time at all. Time is very precious. O! My dear descendant, you want to know that famous traveler who was called Hassan al-Wasan who had changed his name later on and was called in the annals of the history of mankind as Leo the African.

This famous traveler came to our city in 1512 when he was about twenty four years old. Do not forget that this traveler was of an Arab origin while the first traveler, Ibn Batuta, was of a Berber origin.

Do not forget, my dear Jawhara that the person who conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the seventh century was also of a Berber origin. He is Tariq Ibn Ziad, whose speech, which he made before crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, became more important than the fact that he opened the doors of Europe to his people and their culture.

Coming back to Leo the African whose true name was Hassan al-Wasan, it should be remembered that his name was more attached to Timbuktu than the name of Ibn Batuta. This famous traveler was born at the end of the 15th Century, a period which is considered as an important period in the history of humanity.

In the beginning of that period in 1452, Constantinople fell in the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Then two very important events in the history of mankind took place in 1492. The first was the discovery of America by Columbus. The second event of this important year was the fall of Grenade in the hands of the Spaniards and the departure of the last Sultan of Grenade from Andalusia.

Hassan al-Wasan was born in Grenade just three years before the fall of Grenade. The precious jewel of Arab culture fell in the hands of the Spanish after much negotiation with the besieged Arab inhabitants.

The family of Hassan al-Wasan decided to stay in Grenade and try to adapt themselves to the occupation of their city by their enemies, the Spanish conquerors. After a hesitation of two years under occupation, the family of Hassan al-Was an, Leo the African took the important decision to leave Andalusia and to join the other members of the family who left Grenade few years before its final fall in the hands of the invaders.

Hassan al-Wasan stayed in Timbuktu for several months. He enjoyed his life in this city of gold and learning. I would like to tell you some of what he said about Timbuktu. 'The rich king of Timbuktu hath many plates and scepters of gold, some of which had a weight of 1300 pounds. He hath always 3000 horsemen and a great store of doctors, judges, priests, and other learned men, that are bountifully maintained at the king's expense.'

The image of the black old man suddenly disappeared from the screen of the mirror. Jawhara left her chair full of emotions and sentiments. She could not believe that her forefather could speak to her though de died two hundred years back. Anyhow, the black woman became fully informed about her roots and her origins.

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She was totally enchanted by the city of Timbuktu. She was under the impression that there have been still some spiritual links with the Immortal City of Timbuktu from where her great grandfather came two hundred years back for pilgrimage purposes to Mecca. This great grandfather decided to stay there in the Middle East and more specifically in the Holy Land around Mecca as a starting point for the settlement of his descendants all over the Middle East. The forefather of Jawhara who came from Timbuktu became in a sense the head of a tribe whose members were distributed and scattered by the hand of Destiny in the Fertile Crescent especially in the Valley of the Spirit, in the land of the Holy River of Jordan.

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