National Geographic : 1931 Sep
SAILING FORBIDDEN COASTS THE "ALTAIR," BUILT LIKE AN ARAB, RIGGED LIKE A CUTTER This 40-foot sambuk, on which the author cruised, is sturdily built of Indian teak and is provided with a Diesel engine as well as sails (see, also, page 356, and text, page 367). The deck is coated with fish oil to protect the planks from the blistering sun. man his power; they bring the small pox, the famine, and the pest; they alone are responsible for the curse of sterility, that saddens so many Dankali marriages and is slowly but surely reducing the num bers of the tribe. Women, because of the fear of sterility, have particular dread of the jinn. Morn ing and evening, they light the incense pot to rid the air of unseen abominations, and the incense hole in the floor of every Dan kali hut is destined for internal fumiga tions. Fear of the jinn makes the Dankali women endure without a murmur the bar barous practice of infibulation, in which the sharp thorns of the mimosa become surgical clasps in the hands of the local sorceress. The Dankali girl submits to it at the age of seven to safeguard her eventual marriage; the wife, to protect her unborn child; and the old woman, as a guarantee of a serene old age. But even incense and mimosa thorns may not always avail. As we sat that eve ning in Tadjoura, munching dates and sipping syrupy coffee, as the guests of Maki, a Dankali chief, the quiet of the night was broken by the hollow beat of drums accompanied by a chorus of fren zied cries. "ZAR," THE MYSTERIOUS RITE OF WOMEN It was a car, Maki explained, the mys terious rite of women. I had already seen a zar among the Gallas of Ethiopia. But there it was limited to old women and widows and represented a species of mys tic compensation for their unattached state. The local sheik, the holy man, presided; and the participants, drunk with kat,* whirled and chanted for hours on end to the music of the drum, dancing themselves into an ecstasy that left them at last col lapsed like dead things on the beaten earth of the hut. Among the Danakil the zar is for the young married women, a closed and secret rite to propitiate the jinn and assure fecun dity. The sorceress shuts herself up with the women in a dark hut-no man is ad mitted-and the drums, the dancing, and the hysterical shrieking continue for in terminable hours. * See, also, "The Flower of Paradise," in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for August, 1917.