With thanks we declined his offer to sell us the meteorite. Our argument, we were here to find meteorites ourselves, was acknowledged with a cheerful laugh. We encouraged the finder, as we used to repeat mantra-like on similar occasions, to properly document find locations and find circumstances, and to forward this information together with the stone to the new owner in case the meteorite changes hands.
Our search continued. With the exception of a fearsome dud we came across nothing of particular interest. At the base of the 105 mm HESH-shell (High Explosive Squash Head) with base fuze and spent tracer, chisel marks told of a daredevil craftsman’s unsuccessful attempt to gather the main charge. At noon we headed for a shallow Qued where we sat in the shadow of an old umbrella acacia around a large plate with stew and potatoes.
When we arrived, under Mohamed’s close supervision Hassan was busy kneading a giant lump of dough, composed of flour, water and a pinch of salt, from which the famous Xubs al-Malla, or Lmilla, which is Tamashek for ash-bread, would be baked.
For this purpose Mohamed had prepared a fire on a smooth sand surface. After the fire had burned down, he brushed the embers aside with an acacia branch. Then he prepared a shallow pit in the sand almost a meter in diameter in which he placed the flat circular dough. Subsequently he carefully covered the dough with an even layer of sand on which he finally distributed the remaining embers again.
About an hour had passed when Mohamed took the acacia branch anew and brushed both, embers and sand aside, and pulled a crisp and tanned baked bread from the sand. A sweet fragrant scent spread across the camp. Then he tapped off the bread with the flat hand. The perfectly baked bread tasted excellent and like on previous occasions I was amazed that not a single grain of sand remained in the coarse crust of the Lmilla.
After our lunch Mohamed quite ingeniously organized himself a toothpick by picking a long thorn from a particularly spiny acacia branch with his teeth, without taking the slightest scratch.
We decided to leave our camp in place and made arrangements to search the wider surroundings of the Wadi. An hour before nightfall we would meet there again. Apart from finding a number of bifacial Neolithic artifacts flaked from brown silex which were spread on a beautiful bright limestone terrace approximately five kilometers southeast of our campsite, the afternoon went by without further unusual events. In the early evening dark rainclouds clustered in the eastern sky, but due to the prevailing northern winds they didn’t scare us much. As a measure of precaution though, I had our tents pitched not on the comfortable sandy bottom of the valley, but on the adjacent gravel terrace on its edge.
While searching a place for my tent I ran into Roger who was also scouting the edge of the Wadi for a suitable campsite. He walked with a slow pace and he was followed by his already assembled tent which the wind blew somersaulting after him. While this was already a curious picture in its own right, the really bizarre fact was that the tent by no means took a straight direction as one could have expected, but literally followed its owner patiently in his deviations to the left and to the right around the bushes, as if guided by a ghostly hand. When I approached him about this fact Roger matter of factly answered, “Yes, of course, the tent obeys today”.
Anyway Roger and his tent shared a most peculiar relationship. One must add that it was in no way an ordinary tent. This was a special and most sophisticated self-erecting construction, which, after releasing a built in mechanism, and similar to an umbrella, unfolded itself gracefully within seconds. At least that was how it was supposed to be. In practice though, faulty deployments occurred frequently, asking for complicated manoeuvers to fix the malfunction. Roger performed these under frequent threats to his uncooperative habitat. The latter caused Hassan to remark, that the strange structure obviously housed an evil Djin, one that had to be soothed by patient and recurring incantations.