Thursday, January 28, 2016
04 Khartoum 0490: Dinner with the Grandson of the Mahdi*
"Last night I spent three hours dining with the grandson of The Mahdi. (If you don't know who that is, rent the DVD of the movie Khartoum starring Charleton Heston & Laurence Oivilier.)
We dined on the veranda of the Imam El Mahdi's palace overlooking the Nile River. It was grand. There was just enough breeze for desert cooling (evaporating sweat). The Imam told me the story of his father, the only one of The Mahdi's ten sons to survive the war with the British. Abdel-Rahman was 13 when he was wounded in a battle that killed two of his brothers. By the time he died in 1959, he had helped his country reach independence from the British and had met Winston Churchill, who had fought with the British in the 1890s. Just the two of us talking under the stars about The Mahdi's effort to reform Islam and the sect's continued efforts to do the same without violence. The Imam is head of the Ansar, the descendants of the warriors – who the British called the Dervishes – of The Mahdi. A high point. The West has much to learn about Islam and they of us. Most want to have this exchange. The common enemy is the terrorists.
Most Sudanese are too polite to mention their outrage over the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American forces. (The Imam didn’t.) But it is a real black mark against us."