As my “young adults” were at home last week, I decided to spend some time watching some television with them, in between our other activities. No, not Disney Channel, not the Khardashians, not BET, instead, rather unwillingly, we ‘stumbled upon’ Joanna Lumley’s documentary on her trip down the River Nile (previously shown in April of this year). Really enlightening stuff. Africa is full of such rich history, that surely, civilisation must truly have started there. It doesn’t matter which part of Africa they choose to document, there is always astonishing revelations.
Being Joanna, with her entourage and special privileges, she was obviously entertained in a way no normal tourists would have been. So if you are interested in finding out more about the mysteries of the River Nile, and the people who live there, then do catch up with this documentary (DVD, ITV Player or I am sure it will be repeated again on ITV).
Anyway, some of the gems that we gathered include:
- The Nubian Royals who ruled for centuries and how they were buried in the pyramids. There were women among them, and some of them were warriors – beautiful, brave and astute!
- In Ethiopia they have their own language Amharic based on their own alphabet
- In Ethiopia they have their own Calendar which is seven years behind the rest of the Western World!
- The national dish in Ethiopia is Injera . It looks like pancake, but it is not pancake, and they tend to have it cold rather than hot. Joanna had a bit with spicy potato and thoroughly enjoyed it.
- There is a local alcoholic drink called Tej which is an Ethiopian wine made with honey, water and gesho. This drink is mainly available from a “tej bet,” or “tej house,” a commercial establishment, very often owned and operated by a woman, that specializes in serving tej. I suppose if you are from Jamaica this drink would be tantamount to “fire water”, if you are from Ghana it would be tantamount to “aperteshi”. Put it this way, there is a “Tej” in most countries! Obviously, good old Jo had a sip, and describing it as sour/sweet and potent, she lapped it up and exclaimed that it was “gorgeous”.
- There is an unusual beauty treatment called a ‘Dukhan’, which Sudanese brides take part in as they prepare for their wedding and then after childbirth and regularly through their married lives. The treatment is associated with sensuality and eroticism, as well as with cleansing and smoothing a woman’s skin. It is such an unusual treatment that I couldn’t find much information about it on the internet. But a pot is buried in the ground, surrounded with what looks like the rim of a large straw hat. What seems to be hot smoking coal is placed in the pot and then a firm chair with seat removed is placed over this ‘equipment’ the woman then sits on the chair frame ( with no underwear – I think Jo kept most of her clothes on). Oils are rubbed into the lady’s feet, and a sandalwood burner placed near her. This treatment is meant to cleanse, freshen and “tighten the area”! Anyway, if there are any readers with first hand experience, please do enlighten and correct me.
- Joanna met up with the Simien Girl Runners. A group of girls from the market town who are poor and ill equipped with the normal tools that athletes need but are determined to make it to the Olympics.
- We learnt a piece of news which I am sure will upset the Rastafarians around the world – unless of course I have missed the point. Rastafarians claim Haile Selassie as their God, but Ethiopia is a mainly christian country which has Saint George as their Patron Saint! Anyway, Jo went to visit the Island with traditional monasteries and then went on to visit the Healing Springs. To her utmost surprise, she was baptised by the Priest there, and given a new name “Welete Tsadick” meaning Child of the Righteous. So Jo, as you are born again, no more of your Absolutely Fabulous antics!
- Next stop for Jo was Southern Sudan, to chat to some beauty queens who were busy getting ready for the national beauty pageant. She marvelled at the simplicity of the girls beauty regime – a bit of powder, some makeup and a little lipstick and they were done!
- Then on to the Wild Life Reservation in Uganda where she met some very rare animals including the rare hippopotamus whose only surviving relative is the whale; the largest, rarest, extra ordinary bird which lives up to fifty years and which looks more like an animal than a bird; the Nile crocodile, one of the world’s oldest specie of animals (Jo reliably tells us that the Nile Crocodile actually outlived the dinosaurs). In response to Joanna’s question about why the crocodile sat with its mouth open, the guide simply replied, “temperature regulation”, I thought that was hilarious.
- It was now time for some “drama” starting with Jo’s cars getting stuck in mud and having to be dug out and pushed by the local people on their way to visit a Rhinoceros called Bella and her baby. Bella was very protective of her baby and did not really appreciate the visit, so she kept moving towards the visitors in a very threatening way. The Guide was very competent however, at controlling Bella. On a lighter note, at one point, Bella passed wind and in the politest voice, Jo quipped, “well there is a Rhino’s fart!”
- Then on they went to the final leg of the trip, to find the spot which has been designated the Source of the Nile, and which was “discovered” by explorer Cam McKay and his team. Donning her wellies and her hat, Jo took one look at her Versace Glasses and said, “I think not”. They followed the Rukarara River, literally chopping their way through the forestry along the river bank. I take my hat off to Jo, because at her age I think she did really well. Several times her wellies got stuck in the mud, but she just laughed at herself and kept going. Imagine the look on Jo’s face,when after two hours of trekking through treacherous swampy bush, Cam confessed that he had mucked up the orienteering, and so they had to go back. Another three hours later, they were still at it and just when Jo appeared to be reaching breaking point, Bingo, there it was, the source of the river Nile, 4199 miles from the Mediterranean Sea.
- The show ended with Jo setting a wooden caricature of a little man in a canoe downstream on his Journey from the Source of the Nile to the Mediterranean Sea. I wonder if we will get to know where the man ends up!
Absolutely fabulous documentary that shows Joanna at her very mellow, but entertaining best.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/amharic.htm for the link to Amharic http://www.selamta.net/Ethiopian%20Calendar.htm for the link to the Calendar http://www.squidoo.com/injera for the link to Injera http://www.sudantribune.com/Light-my-fire-Sudan-s-sex-and,25119 for the link to the Dukhan http://patriciaeortman.com/girlsgottarun/teamggr/simiengirlsvideo.html for Video link to Simien Girl Runners Images courtesy of Google Images, Amazon, ITV player