Nubian Quotes (6 quotes)
Although I have several agents who know the Niam-Niam country, I did not dare to make anything of their unreliable statements before I could orient myself. These Nubians are unpredictable to a high degree, they have a very poor memory for names and practically no human idea of the points of the compass; the agents of the merchants of Khartoum who are entrusted with such great journeys are to the last man absolute liars, braggarts and habitual fibbers.
Geographical concepts of the Nubians … differ from our own…. Amongst other things,… the Nubians refer to the … country between the lower course of two rivers that flow together … always … as an island.
Moreover, I am now well-informed about that part of the country to be traversed, as I can acquire the most exact information from the Nubian leaders, who are truly well-versed in regional knowledge, and thus supported in my route I could determine positions with the greatest certainty. I could not do this before, as one only learns how to interpret the statements of the Nubians by undertaking such a journey.
The most striking difference … from our way of expressing things is in the identification of the direction in which rivers flow: the Nubian custom is exactly the opposite of our own. The people say the Nile goes to the mountains, not: it comes from the mountains…
The Nubians never remember the native name for a river; thus their statements are of little value to geographical criticism. Hence they never speak of the River Bah or Ibba, for example, but always say the “Penio’s river,” because this is the name of the district head whose seat is on this river. In other places they are quite helpless…. This is a dreadful fact. Were the well-traveled and well-informed Arab leaders able to remember the names of the rivers, it would be wonderfully easy to draw a map of the entire country.
There appears to be a total absence of place names [in southern Sudan]; there are indeed names for regions, areas, but all hamlets (there are scarcely any villages) bear the name of their headman or district head…, which is as ephemeral as the existence of the bearer himself in this unquiet country. Furthermore, residences are shifted every few years, in order to have fresh farmland; added to this the frequent wars, many deaths etc. In contrast, all bodies of water, even the most insignificant ditches, are permanently named. These will be the only guides if future travelers follow my path in this country or wish to trace it.