The Journey

©Samuel Mogbolu

Lorius Midel


I was shocked by the sight awaiting us outside our compound. There were at least forty camels standing in the field beside our wall and on these camels sat men clad in turbans.

Some of them had their eyes thickly lined with kohl and bantered loudly with one another in the Fulani language.

Long ropes attached big black boxes to the camels. I wondered what the boxes carried. One of the men that was standing by his camel, on seeing us, walked up and addressed Lameer.

“Are we set, young master? We should leave now while it is still early; for soon the sun would be so hot and we would be grateful to be well on our way by then.”

 Lameer nodded.

Jumia Men's Accessories

“That is true Hassan,” Lameer said “See that their belongings are properly saddled.” he added.

A man took our belongings and burdened a beast. I mounted a camel with one of the men while Traore mounted another and once Lameer was set on his own beast, we took off.

As we went, Lameer steered his camel to ride beside me.

“We would have to stop at the field in front of the market place to join the rest,” he said to me.

“The rest?” I asked, quite amazed.

“Well yes we still have ninety more camels laden with goods… those ones are a late leg of another caravan, and have just returned from the Ivory Coast, bringing  some slaves with them.” he answered.”

“In fact this is a small caravan compared to others that have up to a thousand camels,” he quickly added.

“Oh” was all I could say.

We got to the market and he rode off to meet the rest of the merchants while we stayed mounted on our camels awaiting him.

Some slaves turned out to be an endless procession of slaves all chained to one another. They were guarded by grim-faced horsemen.

The horsemen slowly surrounded the slaves (which were grouped into bands of fifty) as the merchants emerged from the market to mount their camels.

To each section of the slaves, Lameer assigned a man to pull them by long chains attached to the yokes placed around their necks.

 Finally, the party joined our group and then Lameer rode round the whole procession screaming out orders here and there.

When he was satisfied, he lifted his right hand and opened his fist. In obedience to his signal, the journey began.

What a sight we made, a large multitude of masked horsemen and camel riders, with a rather dark and unending line of walking men, being pulled by other robed men.

Even though there were some of our companions who had no choice but to walk (the slaves); we still moved quite fast (in my opinion).

Anyone of them that was courageous enough to complain about the speed or the dust, or even move in a manner considered as sluggish; was given a resounding whiplash from the closest horseman.

Buy Now on Jumia

For the first time, I was just a little bothered about slaves and the troubles they went through.

This was a passing thought though, as I revelled in the fact that I was travelling in a convoy. Some of the men screamed out lewd jokes to one another while others moved in twos, conversing quietly.

Traore and his rider rode ahead of me and were engaged in argument about some issue but the sound of thumping hooves and loud voices created a healthy din.So I could not quite pick up what was the reason for their dispute.

My brother always had the ability to incite heated arguments with fellows of all ages.

“Have you ever been to the city of Mouboukti?” My rider asked conversationally.

“No.” I answered jolted out of my surmising.

“Oh,” he said, “it is a beautiful city much like your city only twice as busy.”

“Really…I cannot imagine any city busier than mine.”

He laughed in answer.

“Oh, there are, believe me, there are…like at the coasts where tusks are harvested…it is a mad place, that’s what it is,” and then he started to speak to a rider who had rode up beside us.

 We had travelled for what I reckon now to be about three hours and had left behind the last signs of Kalahashian settlement.

The whole procession seemed to quiet down as we approached a path created by grey, tall and jagged rock pedestals that lined the way.

The terrain was transforming from the mere, dusty, terrain to complete wasteland and I could see lines of cactus littering the plain.

The wind blew towards us from the north so that we had to adjust our turbans in an attempt to shield our nostrils from the brutal and invasive dust.

Visibility had also reduced, as everywhere was misty brown, causing us to move with a moderate speed.

I was beginning to regret my pure black apparel as the sun settled right over our heads and bathed our convoy with intense waves of heat. Perhaps my rider noticed my distress because he began to chuckle.

“Welcome to the desert, boy…from now on, it’s all sweat, dust and cactus.”

The rider beside him, for some reason found this quip amusing because he threw his head back, laughing. As the sun smiled brighter, some slaves could bear it no more.

They collapsed to the ground coughing, some even coughed out blood but this only solicited anger from the horsemen who lashed at them with great fury.

The slaves in question hurried to rise up and continue the journey apparently finding the strength to carry on, in the pain meted out from the horsemen’s whips.

“Tis amazing how pain can motivate the most sedentary men,” a horse rider said to me with a grin when he noticed me watching.

I resented him. His teeth were as brown as the hideous dust haze.

“Hmm.” was all I could mutter.

He rode down behind us to a section of the trail and I could hear him yelling, “Get your gritty feet moving you lazy dogs! I know what I stand to gain from your hides…move on now or forever remain still!”

After what looked like ages of beating from the beaming sun, Lameer, thank the heavens, commanded the procession to a halt.

Perhaps he noticed that a great portion of the slaves could bear no more or because we had come out of the rocky path and climbed uphill.

But whatever reason he had, I was grateful as my bottoms felt quite sore and the thirst I felt overwhelmed me.

When every beast had climbed uphill, we halted. The men began unrolling long spools that they erected into tents, and then, to the slaves who were about four hundred, were given ten skin bottles of water and no more.

I watched with concerned fascination as they passed the bottles one to the other down the long line, each drinking no more than a few drops.

“Miletus! Stop standing in the sun and gazing…come into the shade before you fry what’s left of your already dry brain!”  Traore shouted to me from inside the tent.

I could see that some slaves were allowed into the tents to fan the occupants who had to go through this terrible, terrible heat and I went in to seat on one of the mats.

I could not ignore the ingenuity of the merchants, for in such a little time, they had furnished the tents with beautiful mats padded with feathers, red pillows and cream tapestries to make them appear cosy and appealing.

Soon tea was served, Traore holding a big piece of meat in his hands, came to sit beside me.

“What were you staring at just now?” he asked.

“Oh, I was just looking at the strange but beautiful and harsh scenery the desert portrays,”

This caused him to consider me with raised brows.

“What part do you find beautiful?” he asked “Is it the alluring cactus plants with their lovely petals or is it the charming, brown, dust that fills the nostrils with lovely fragrances when it wafts by,” he continued “or the lovely caress of the scorching sun? Tell me Miletus because I am indeed confused.”

“You are too cynical…you find it hard to see the beauty in things.” I answered and he shook his head.

“No brother,” he said, “what I am is clear headed, unlike certain folk who stand in the scorching sun at mid-day to admire the beauty of the desert….The desert, Miletus.

That is beyond doubt the silliest statement you have ever uttered till date.” and after saying that, he laid his head on a pillow and dozed off.

After contemplating for a while and laughing inwardly, I also dozed off.

I awoke to the sound of noisy merchants rolling up their covers and mats and then Lameer came to me.

“It is time to go Miletus; we can still cover some distance before nightfall.”

Traore was standing beside him, with hands akimbo and a look that said see who overslept.

I rose up forthwith and walked out of the tent.

The sun did not feel as exuberant right now, as his smile had dimmed in brilliance. Personally, I would have felt a lot better if he fell in a bad mood and sauntered down the horizon.

The men had started to mount their camels and the horsemen rode around the slaves perhaps to get them ready.

All in all I noticed we had about an hour’s rest as I spied the hourglass still resting on one of the remaining benches. Soon we rode downhill passing some scatterings of acacia as they willowed in the momentary breeze.

After a few hours’ worth of riding,  we were interrupted for a long while by a group of horsemen standing in front of another path close to a great stall.

This path was lined by two brown hills on either side and was the only way to the city of Mouboukti. Following any other way would be foolery as those parts of the region remained uncharted and more prone to heavy sandstorms.

The horsemen went around our procession while Lameer and Hassan conversed with their leader. They later walked into the stall and then after a short while, Lameer rode out with them to the line of slaves and selected ten of the slaves to go with the men.

“Every year they increase the levy…now they want a thousand coins of gold and ten slaves…these Moors are getting out of control,” my rider stated.

It was not a new thing to me as I overheard statements like this even in the city.

It was obvious to me that the Moors were beginning to lose their grip or rather; this was when I had begun to notice anything politically wrong with my environment.

Young people always initially make the mistake of thinking that just because they noticed a happening; it meant that this happening was of recent origin and that it somehow escaped those before them.

So was my thinking then, although, the discontent with the state of affairs in the empire was not a recent issue.

The men rode off with the slaves while Lameer came up to the front. His face mirrored his dissatisfaction.  Once he was done, the officials let our procession go through the path.

This path was rocky and we had to thread with caution although Lameer still hurried up the pace. We journeyed in this manner until nightfall was complete and the moon had arisen in the clear, cloudless sky.

Then Lameer called the procession to a halt, the men pitched tents and lit the fires.

I was weary now and all I wanted to do was collapse on one of those soft mats. Nevertheless, most of the merchants in fact felt the opposite, as some picked up the flute and danced around the firelight.

I turned to see Lameer with about seven men seated around a fire. The fire casted funny shadows on their faces as they ate and conversed with intent.

“If conditions permit, we should reach our destination within a fortnight.” one had said then another stretched his hands and yawned.

“But while we are here,” he said, “I did spy some beautiful wenches and I might as well keep myself properly warm this chilly night”

They all chuckled.

Therefore, they summoned some slave girls and retired forthwith.

Lameer came up to me while I sat under the moonlight.

“Why do you shy away from the shelters…are you not in the least bit interested in whatever is going on?”

“No.” I answered, “I am weary and need my rest…what about you?” I asked, noting that he had walked out to stand with some of the men that kept watch, before sighting me.

He smiled.

“I have too much on my mind right now and cannot entertain distractions.” he answered solemnly with his hands folded behind his back as he gazed at the moon.

“If you say so,” I said and then looked around “Where is Traore?” I asked suddenly concerned. This had him laughing.

“Well maybe your brother is not feeling weary,” he said with a glint in his eye, obviously amused by my apparent discomfort.

“Calm down…he went out with some of the men who decided to see whether they can find some wild animal to hunt…you know he is obsessed.”

“Oh,” I said. Still grinning.

He placed a hand on my shoulder “Well let me allow you get your precious rest…goodnight.”


“Goodnight,” I answered.

I went and lit a torch and then walked up to a tent, which was not as lit up as the others but was relatively quiet.

This turned out to be a mistake, for as I walked in, my light caught on sights, which both perplexed me and had my blood heating up.

There lay on the ground an entangled mass of nude men and women. I had never really seen a woman undressed before and was quite fascinated as I stood paralysed for a while until one of the merchants raised his head up from the navel of one of the women and spoke to me.

“Hey lad, you like this one?” he said, hiccupping a great deal, and then chuckled.

“Good taste for one so young.” he continued as though I had replied.

“…well you can have her as I have had enough and would like to rest now. Be careful though she is a feisty one.” he said.

His voice was slurry and I could tell that he was drunk.

A woman’s moan made me look up to see the silhouette of two images moving in a funny dance in one of the compartments of the tent.

This part was separated from the main tent by a light, red curtain. In fact, if one concentrated hard enough it was possible to see the figures. I quickly walked out of the tent and went to sit outside.

Now, I was not indifferent to the women in the tent. On the contrary, I on many occasions had entertained such thoughts in my tender fancies, but the problem was that I had begun to develop a sympathetic feeling towards the slaves.

They had always seemed so invisible, a mere necessity. Now they took a human form before me and I could see that they went through a lot.

This understanding and the natural apprehension a boy would feel when confronted with the situation of a nude female are what drove me out of the tent before I could let my urges take over.

I sat there lost in thought for a long time until I could no longer bear the chill of the night and walked into another tent.

Here the occupants were fast asleep and more privacy conscious as they all stayed in their various compartments with the draperies pulled down.

I quickly walked to an empty mat and collapsed there, pulling the thick rugs over myself and then dozed off immediately.

I remember my dream that night: I was lying alone on a white sofa in a chamber with red draperies hanging all around; and the man that had invited me earlier before, suddenly lifted the curtains at the entrance of the room.

I had turned from gazing at the ceiling to stare at him. He looked at me with very malevolent eyes and I thought that surely he must have some evil in store for me.

Then he turned and with an air of authority, clapped his hands and walked out. His odd behaviour puzzled me and I wondered about his motives.

I was about to get off the sofa, when suddenly, I noticed naked women crawling towards me from every part of the room. I knew not whether to be scared or fascinated as I just sat there looking at them.

Then strangely enough, more women seemed to crawl out of the draperies, from under the very floor and down the ceiling.

They shot glances at me, strangely suggestive glances. Some, from the floor, had already gotten to me and they proceeded to caress my feet, working their way up even unto my thighs.

I found this so overwhelming and was beginning to get worried as I was pressed under several bodies. My face soon got lost in the prominent mounds hanging from one of the chests above me.

Feisty are we not, say do you not find us feisty? They seemed to moan into my ears as I felt a hand grip me in the one place that cannot be ignored.

 Then the prominent mounds above my face suddenly began to smell funny, funny like the smell of decay. My half-closed eyes flung open and I woke up, springing to sit upright.

My face went right smack into the rumps of a dead animal my demonic younger brother had been dangling over my head.

He was all bright smiles and angelic charm “aha,” he said, sighing tiredly like he had just performed a very exerting task. 

“Finally brother, I have been trying to rouse you but to no avail…the trip really left you exhausted.” He said.

His eyes were the perfect imitation of sympathy and affection.

I just stared at him, quite unsure of what to say or do. He had just cost me a rather intriguing dream and I could not trust myself around him just then.

I ignored him, got up, and walked out of the tent.



I’m just Samuel, bony faced, laidback, absentminded Samuel. I don’t like to say much, I try to stay out of trouble. Some might say otherwise but that's some for you. Point is we don’t care, let’s just be chill and have fun. So come by whenever and ask me whatever.  It’s our party now and it won't start until your arrival.


back to top