A Quest for Water, Chapter 1: No Water Without Rain (2)

QUEST FOR WATER: (Based on actual events in the southern Sahara)

Thinking of her daughter’s wedding reminded Sadouan of the day, sixteen years ago, when at age thirteen she had married her own cousin Alhassan. Arranged marriages to cousins was a centuries-old tradition for these Tuareg herders in the Azawak, a huge plain of sandy grasslands in northwestern Niger, on the southern rim of the Sahara Desert. Yet, Sadouan did have concerns. Would Abdoul be a good husband to her firstborn, she wondered? Would he be able to provide, so that her daughter and her unborn children would have food to eat every day? And most importantly, would they have water? A constant search for water had become an ever-increasing preoccupation in the Azawak over the past ten years.

“Mother, I wish you would not remind me about Abdoul. I do not want to marry him.” Mouheini knew that in the end she would not have a choice. But she wanted her mother to know that the situation was not of her own volition. “My dear,” responded Sadouan sympathetically, “I know you are not happy about it. But you are fifteen, and most girls have already gotten married by your age. Your aunt is starting to wonder if you will ever marry Abdoul. She and the entire family are becoming impatient.”

Mouheini knew she could not convince her family to change their mind, so she changed the subject. “Anyway, Tabaski is a few days away, so why are you braiding my hair today?” She winced as Sadouan tightened a braid. “I do not want to sit here in the heat, I want to go with the other girls now. It’s much cooler underneath the acacias. Please, Mother!” she begged.