The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid

by angelakm

Angela Matthews

The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid serves as a bridge between two worlds, the modern and the untouched. Unfortunately untouched is not be the correct word to use as it becomes apparent that this village has in fact had its fair share of visitors.

The story begins itself with one of these visitors being led through the village by a wise old man. The man speaks in a sincere tone and with a voice of experience that gives the sense that this isn’t the first time he has had to do this, as if it had become some kind of routine. He confesses to the visitor that yes their life is hard but that they have become a “thick-skinned” people. Upon the mans visit the old man makes it of most importance that he see the Doum Tree of Wad Hamid and hear of its story.

The tree is described as an amazing figure visible to everyone all over the village and its’ presence is felt by all who inhabit it. The old man stresses continually the importance of the tree by recounting the many strangers’ visits in which the tree had been endangered of being cut down and the villagers had battled against the foreign influences.

Tayeb Salih bridges the two worlds in his story by enabling our foreign eyes to peer more closely into the intricacies of their simple lives, village and tree. We are able to see and hear first hand from the villager, in the position of the visitor, what their lives are about and understand that there is much more to their tree but that it is the core of their culture. The vagueness about the whereabouts of the village allows this village to not represent one lone village but the cultures throughout our shrinking world that have been and continue to be endangered of being lost through colonization, modernization, and globalization.

As we glimpse into this far off world so removed from our daily lives, we are also forced to quiet the noise in our heads and listen to the soft unheard voices of far away that are rarely asked for their opinion. Like mentioned earlier they are a “thick-skinned” people and have become accustomed to living in such ways, but they like it. As a reader I believe we are challenged to recognize the effects that our ethnocentric attitudes may impose on these people and like the old man says “think well of us and judge us not too harshly”.

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