Thursday, March 8, 2012

the Adel tribe

Somewhere in his book Young Nega describes entertainingly the dangers of encountering men from the Adel tribe, a tribe inhabiting the area west of Jijiga – which had to be crossed during the exodus from the town, ahead of the invading Somali army. (The Adel are Afar people, who inhabited the Adel Sultanate, in the southern extremities of the Afar region.)
The Adelmen had to prove their man-hood for the tribe, and for their future wife, by beating an enemy from another tribe in an open contest. To prove they had done this, they were required to cut off the penis from the defeated, and triumphantly carry it home. But with fewer and fewer tribal wars, life became increasingly difficult for the men, they will have to go further and further from home. In the 1970s they started to attack lonely travelers, or bus passengers that stray off the bus too far during a pee stop – the last time they will pee, for sure! Truck drivers, farm workers, nobody was safe, especially during the traditional Adel wedding months. Size matters:  a boy’s penis would not do, and if there could be any doubt, the conqueror had to cut off the entire pelvis, to prove it had been a man. For obvious reasons Adelmen were not welcome on public transport anymore, so were forced to cross the desert on foot, a time consuming business – and risking that by the time they finally got home they would be accused of having robbed a grave, instead of a man, judging by the state of the trophy!
(No pictures to illustrate this story, unfortunately…)

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