The Doum Tree

by arielyoung

Ariel Young

The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid is a story told by a young traveller that will, according to the old man, surely leave the next day. The village’s community is steeped in tradition and spiritualism, which in some cases slows the ‘progress’ that a few government officials have tried to make.

The heart of the story is tradition versus change. The old man’s story has the recurring theme, the Doum Tree irreplaceable and the water-pump and steamer and modern ideas unnecessary. The ever changing governments go unnoticed to the people of the village, but the tree is always there. It is the spirit of the village. When people are sick they go to the tree, they dream of the tree and they worship at the tree. The government suggests cutting it down, and they rise as one to protect it.

Another theme in this story is the argument against outsider ethnocentrism. The outsiders from the government come in and presume to know better than the villagers who they no doubt feel superior to. The old man makes a wise comment “There’s plenty of room for all these things: the doum tree, the tomb, the water-pump, and the steamer’s stopping-place.” The harmony of progress and tradition, a meeting of the outsider’s world and the village’s world. The young man does not quite understand the meaning and need of these traditions. The old man is close to understanding that eventually the modern ideas will become the new tradition. His son ran off to school, and there’s no doubt that his son’s son will not “dream of the Doum tree.” The water pump and steamer will come, whether they are wanted or not.

“Tomorrow, without a doubt you will be leaving us.” The old man declares as if trying to brush off the younger man as the village and Doum Tree has brushed off change before then. 

-Ariel Young


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