Saturday, December 17, 2011

Read Trans-Saharan Trade Journals!

Enjoy reading students' Trans Saharan Trade Journals below!  See previous blog post for the steps of the project here!  **If you have extra time to read, scroll to the bottom of this page for a 12-page/4519-word stellar descriptive set of journal entries by a super stellar student (catch that alliteration?)!**

STUDENT #!:

Dear Journal, (Day 1)
         Finally! I get to go on my first trip through the Sahara desert, along with some friends that decided to come along. I got out of my lumpy “bed” since it is just a blanket on the ground, but I was as happy as if I found out that the Sahara Desert won’t be as bad as my dad told me it would be. In Gao, the weather is hot, but not too hot that I can’t handle it. The only way my family survived and I actually have items to help me on my journey to Mecca is the Niger River, from this source I caught fish that I could take (I have to dry it first!), a pack of gold (my mom was saving it for me), a pack of salt with some salt rocks, 2 strong ivory my dad got me, a couple of dried fruits, and a bag of ripe dates. 
         When I was gathering all my trade items I felt warm winds that brushed my hair, the wind comes every now and then, so I guess it decided to blow harder than usual today to say its farewells, I’m sure going to miss this refreshing wind.  As I am walking to meet with my friends I am going to Travel with and a Berber I met at the Niger River who is also wanting to go to Mecca,, I see some common baby Baobab Trees, swaying from this wind, they looked like they were dancing like my baby sister trying to learn the traditional dances. I gathered my strongest camels that I know can survive the blazing heat and sun that is waiting for us in the Sahara Desert.
                                                                                        Sincerely, Nia
Dear Journal (day 14-15)
        This desert has the worst heat I have ever been through; it feels like I have turned in to a campfire! Since we have decided to travel north of our home city to get to Mecca, but then turn east, more towards Mecca, there are many oases we can stop and rest along the way which is why we chose to go through this route instead of just going east because there aren’t many oases. We stopped at the first oases we saw which I believe is in Salah, there were a couple of Arab merchants there and we decided to see if there are some items that we can trade each other. Through this trade I ended up trading one of my ivory with a prayer rug that I was very interested in to take along with me to Mecca to respect their religion. We got our blankets out and put up a blanket over our heads to act like a roof. 
        The next morning one of my friends, Shani, woke up with a scorpionas her alarm clock, she woke up alarmed alright! The Berber reacted quickly like a cheetah, killed the scorpion with one of spheres he brought along, and pushed it deep in to the sand, that’s when I knew I made the right choice bringing him along! I knew there would be more things like coming upon a scorpion happening, possibly worse. When we were up on our feet and fighting the scorching heat again, we saw a palm tree. Shade was the best thing to see after a couple of hours walking through a desert. 
        Then, out of know where, we see a shadow at the top of a palm tree, then the shadow jumps down to the boiling sand. The Berber held his hand out in front of us signaling us to stay quiet and stay put. In our view we saw a man, but he didn’t look like someone that would like to have a friendly trade, he looked like someone that would rather take it and run. He saw us. Immediately, right when we made eye contact, he darted to me and tried to take my gold he noticed in a bag at my waist. Shani got her ivory and made a direct hit at his head while I was trying to protect my most valuable item. Down he fell like a tree being chopped down. We hopped on our camels and tried to get away with all the time we had before he regains conscious and comes back for revenge.
                                                                                        Sincerely, Nia
Dear Journal, (Day 35-36)
        It has been nearly a month if I counted the sun sets and sun rises correct. We have been resting in any oases we see the last one we just came from was Siwa were we met some Islam travelers, they did not have any trade items, but they did give some useful information like how much further we need to get to Mecca and they told us a bit about their Islam culture like how they pray 5 times a day and they are on their way to Mecca as well because they are doing something that is part of their culture called a pilgrimage, it is when they have travel to Mecca towards a cubed shaped structure called the Kabah, they come here to pray, but they have to go to Mecca at least once in their life time. I was grateful I met this traveler, turns out his name is Aaqil and in his language it means intelligent, so I invited him to come along since we are heading the same way and I think he could help us to learn more about his religion.
        We decided to sleep at a palm tree we found, if Aaqil is correct then we are near Mecca and this is the last tree we will find from miles if we continue to go through this rout, we took the chance. We got our beds ready, but I couldn’t sleep because I was getting excited about Mecca like I found a gold mine! I couldn’t wait to find out more about this religion and possibly convert to this religion if I found out it was right for me. 
        In the morning we got everything ready to go back to walking to finish what we are aiming for, Mecca!  When we thought this weather could make this walking worse, I then heard a load shriek from my strongest camel. I then figured out a scorpion stung him! I should have been more cautious about the dangerous animals that are in this desert, 
but I can’t think straight in this blazing heat. The Berber noted that he doesn’t have much more time left, but he can handle the venom long enough for Mecca.
                                                                                          Sincerely, Nia
Dear Journal, (day 50)  
        My best camel passed away 3 days ago, he had a strong soul, but he couldn’t handle then venom to much longer since he had no medicine or any healing herbs for his wound. We left him in the sand with no one around or nothing around to disturb his peace. After that, we just kept on going, with one camel gone we still have a strong caravan to make it to Mecca. I know we are almost there because the land is changing, since the sand is starting to fade away more, it isn't as hot. Aaqil  did mention that Mecca is  hot and dry since it is in a desert, but not as hot as the SaharaDesert, after hearing that I got relieved the weather won’t be so hot.
        When we finally made it to Mecca I saw many Muslims that I decide to trade with, I ended up trading some gold for a couple of spices and I traded  my last ivory for some beautiful bottles of perfume, at least these merchants are nice!  There were  many other merchants as well, but I wanted to go straight to the Kabah like I was a bee attracted to honey and the Kabah was the bee nest. Aaqil was eager to go to the Kabah as well he did mention that this was his first time coming to Mecca, he lives in Tripoli, at least he did have to walk as much, but it is a good thing we found him, since he did teach us a lot of information about his religion. 
        While we were walking towards the Kabah there were many people going towards the Kabah as well, but they were wearing the color white, I never really understood why.  Aaqil did explain the 5 pillars: 1.Faith 2.Prayer 3.Charity 4.Fasting 5.Pilgrimage. These  are mainly the acts of Islam or what the concepts are when you are Islam.
                                                                                          Sincerely, Nia
Dear Journal, (day 55)
         We made it to the Kabah and there is a sea of people surrounding the little box. I then understood why they all went towards the Kabah and prayed walking around, and laying on their prayer rugs, they all came here  because the Kabah was built by Abraham who is the forefather of Islam and many other religions as well. I got out my prayer rug and followed Aaqil, being followed by my friends as well including the Berber. I then realized that the Islam religion is much more than I thought! I the converted in to this religion by say one phrase, "There is no God but the one God". By saying this I can convert to a Muslim and be in the Islam religion for now on. 
                                                                                         Sincerely, Nia
Dear Journal, (day 60)
        I am on my way home to teach my city about this fascinating religion. I decided to be a teacher about the Islam religion also know as a Sufi. I know I have a long way back, maybe we will run in to a robber again, or another camel will get stung by a scorpion, maybe one of us may get stung! I know I'll be more cautious on our way back, but I might stay here a little more before I leave, I walked many days to get here now I will stay here twice as long to take over all the time I went though. Maybe even longer...
                                                                                          Sincerely, Nia


STUDENT #2:

Dear Journal,
        It is early in the morning in Tripoli and I am starting to pack up. I walk outside to see the beautiful Mediterranean Sea for one more time before I leave to my life changing adventure. In Northern Africa, there is a nice breeze that is always blowing and reminds me of palm trees. The fish there is very good and so I ‘m bring some with me to trade. I will leave my house (made of palm tree leaves) to embark on my adventure. As I head out, I see the camel caravan that will take me to Mecca and the Berber is there, waiting for me. I noticed the other two men that were going to travel with me; their names were Chui and Safari. I walked inside my home and I grab all I’m going to need for this extended journey. I packed some Gold, Salt, Yams, dried fish, and ivory, which were the trade items. In another large oversized sack, I packed the items I would need to survive which was Water (lots and lots of water), dried fruit for me, and some fish (dried, for long lasting). I walk outside and I got into the caravan, who was full of gold and trade items, and I greet the gentlemen sitting there in a very uncomfortable way and sit. I think to myself, “There is no backing now, I am here and I will go to the beautiful Mecca with these men I hope I become friends”. As the Caravan starts moving…           
                                                                                  Sincerely, Thimba
Dear Journal,
        After 3 days, we finally stopped at the oasis in Jufra for trade and rest so that we can be ready for the next day. As soon as I got off my caravan, I saw many people being robbed simultaneously and as soon as I saw this, I held tight my bag of goods and a special knife in my pocket (just in case). The sand in my feet felt as if I was standing on the sun and the hot air blowing through my head gear was if it was taunting me. I saw some palm trees which meant that there was an oasis here and so I ran towards the refreshing, cool water and as I got in, I saw everybody bathing in it as if it was some kind of community bath and so I got out and hurried of to an Arab merchant so we could trade. We tried to do it by talking, but we couldn’t understand each other so we ended up communicating with hand gestures. He wanted to trade me a Qur’an for a pound of salt but I couldn’t allow because it was outrages! At the end, though, he ended up telling meal about the Qur’an and Mecca and everything else and we ended up trading two pounds of salt for a Qur’an and a book of the Arabic language and (I assume) he was pretty happy because I was happy. I left him and went to another merchant and this one was more reasonable because he traded me a prayer rug, spices, and perfume for a pound of gold, and some dried fruit and I thought that that was a very good deal and so I took it and went on my way. 
                                                                                   Sincerely, Thimba
Dear Journal,
        After I was finished trading with the people in Jufra, my caravan left and we headed of towards the desert. The desert was hotter than everand the hot blazing sun was burning my head as if it was burning in a campfire. As we headed towards our next destination (Mecca) we had to do things we never thought we were going to do. After hours of looking for a good place to rest, we found a rear palm tree.When we settled down at our campsite, I noticed a king cobra sitting there as still as a rock and that was when I went to warn the others, but it was too late, they were all  sitting there, in a corner all wrapped in ropes while three robbers with white head gear were taking all our goods. I couldn’t allow it; it would be outrages if I stopped now I had to do something right now before they see me. So I got some rocks, and I climbed the nearest palm tree and that was when he saw me. He started yelling and saying I was up a tree and so I threw a coconut at his face and he fell to the ground, unconscious. I threw many other rocks and coconuts until they were all unconscious and that was when I came down and untied them. They told me 
everything and so we packed up as fast as we could and we left, into the night, to our destination, Mecca.
                                                                                  Sincerely, Thimba
Dear Journal,
        After Months and months of traveling through the desert, we finally got to the city of Mecca. As we arrived, I saw a tower I recognized from the Qur’an the Arab merchant had traded me. It was a real Minaret! And there was the Muezzin on top of the tower and it looked like he was about to call the third prayer of the day and so I took out my prayer rug and I prayed since I had converted to Muslims back in Jufra(3 months ago). After I had finished praying, I noticed the air was so hot and that I hadn’t even noticed it was so hot until now, probably because I was too excited to be in Mecca. After I traded with three Arab merchants, I decided to visit the fabulous Ka’bah I had heard about a lot back in Tripoli. As I was walking to the Ka’bah, I remembered that my prayer rug was at the caravan and so I went to go get it. I saw many merchants and many robberies and so it reminded me a lot of Jufra and so I held tight of my belongings, just like in the other city. So I went to the caravan, got my prayer rug, and set off, back to the Ka’bah. I entered and it was more beautiful than all the descriptions they had told me combined. It like if I was in Muslim heaven, I wanted to cry of the beautifulness that was the building. The squared building in the middle was a nice bright black that made me want to bow down to it and there was like an invisible hand that was pushing me to do it. I settled down and I spread out my rug and I laid there, waiting and thinking. I thought to myself and I said “I am finally here, sitting down, and now what”. I wanted to do something but I just waited for the people to come and soon, people were coming in dozens and later, the place was filled with people from around the world and there, I saw the real Mansa Musa, Sitting on his throne and I felt special, being here and with someone important sitting and soon I remembered something that was bad news, I had to go back to Tripoli soon and that ruined everything because I was going to have to leave this but it would be good news because I would go back to my friends and I will be full of trading items I received from foreign citizens. After I left the Ka’bah, I went to the caravan and waited, waited for another adventure to come when we went back to Tripoli…
                                                                                    Sincerely, Thimba 


STUDENT #3:

Dear Journal, 
        Have you ever had strange feelings like if you know you are in danger but you also feel sort of proud and excited to do something? I have and I don’t like the feeling because I’m thinking I might not make it back but I have to make my family proud and earn their trust. I live in a wealthy city called Niani oh and, by the way my name is Eshe which means life. Niani is in Mali it is by the Niger River and there is many gold mines in Niani. 
        I am on a journey to go through the Sahara Desert to get to Mecca. Yeah to you it may seem like no big deal anyone can do that, but it is a very long journey and very dangerous. You don’t know what kinds of animals that can attack you at any time or a heatstroke and dehydration. The land here is a savanna and there are cool breezes. My caravan includes some of my best’s friends ever that I can rely on and trust their names are Kiara, Celeste, Alexandra, Jesus, and Ricardo. We have thought everything of we have a map, compass, dried fruit, jars of water, and some food. We are traveling by camels. We have prepared so much for this journey for so long. I am sad because I will miss my family and my grass hut. I will miss the cool breeze and how every day I go outside and see elephants, cheetahs, birds, giraffes, lions, zebras and antelope.
        Eshe 


Dear Journal, 
        It has been one month and a half since I have left my beautiful grassland and so much has happened. We were good the first week but then we could not take the dreading heat anymore. Most of our supplies are gone we need to find anything or anyone fast especially with an injured person in are caravan. This happened recently a cobra came across our path and Celeste tried to make it go away but then the cobra ZOOMED and bit her on the leg so I grabbed her and we covered it with a melon we found and she is surviving but if we do not find an oasis quick she will be in danger. Today it seemed to be boiling hot as if on the sun. We only had a little bit of water left and I knew a trick to do when trying not to run out of water drink some but instead of swallowing hold it in your mouth for a while and you will save water. We were short on everything. I saw was a sea of brown sand as soft as silk but as hot as the boiling sun. I didn’t see an end to this not even a tree but then could it be I saw some palm trees and bushes and water! An oasis I scream. As we got closer the tree’s looked like tall giraffe swaying back and forth. 
        Eshe 


Dear Journal,
        I was right I did see an oasis and I am here right now. My caravan is all safe even Celeste the one who got bit by the snake. We found this oasis on the map it is called the Reggan Oasis. When we got here we all immediately went to the water and drank my mouth was a dry as a river with no water. When the water touched my dry tongue I felt as if I have dove in the Niger River. Then I noticed we weren’t alone there were nomads here also on a journey to Mecca taking Muslims. They were not thieves and they wanted to travel together so we did. My caravan and I also traded with them we gave them gold pieces and salt, and they gave us prayer rugs, spices, candy and rubies. Then as my caravan made a fire I searched for fruits. I felt like a cheetah hunting for its pray. Then I fount dates on a tree and then one the of the nomads climbed that tall tree to grab the dates. He climbed tree like a monkey. The dates were so delicious even though they were a little ripe they still had flavor that tumbled in my mouth of sour and sweetness. 
        Eshe


Dear journal,
        We woke up extremely early because we wanted to get a head start. Since we had a fire last night we used the charcoal to put under your eyes so you won’t get burned and it will keep you cool. We checked all our stuff before we put it on because you never know there can be an animal inside. Then we are off. 
        Eshe


Dear Journal, 
        It has been a long time since the Reggan Oasis. We hope to stop at the Zawila to trade and to get supplies. I haven’t drunk a lot of water today so I am feeling out of the ordinary. To take it off my mind I asked the Muslim lady to teach me about her religion. I learned about their five pillars. One is faith (shahadah) which is belief in one god and it is the main religious belief. Another one is called Prayer (Sahah) this is all about praying five days and before you pray you have to get ready by cleaning yourself. The third one is called Charity (Zakat) and this one is where you give money to the poor and Zakat means purify and cleanse. The fourth one is called Fasting (saum) which means on the ninth month they do not eat when the sun is up only when it is down to show them how poor people feel. The fifth one is called Pilgrimage (hajj) and this is when they have to go visit the Kabah in Mecca, and that is where The Nomads are taking the Muslims.
       I got really interested in their religion and I wanted to know more. You know that feeling when you see a peculiar animal and you don’t just forget about it and leave unless you are not interested but I am so I follow it and think about it that’s how I felt about the religion. She told me about the Quran and how it is one of the most important thing to them and that there only god is Allah, and that Muhammad wrote the Quran. The Sunnah is guiding rules for Islam based on the example of Muhammad.  I also learned that Muslims don’t admire any other gods and they take that seriously they cannot have any other paintings of people or images or icons of anything because their god is Allah. This was all so interesting to me especially that they made medicine from herbs and they made mosaics and they invented algebra and so many other things. Suddenly I wiped my forehead and I was sweating as if I had a waterfall over me. I had nothing to cover my head and then I felt something come out through my nose and it was red as rubies reflecting on that boiling hot sum that felt like a fire on me. 
        Then BOOM! I fell to the ground and my caravan picked me up and put me on a camel and they covered me with some of silk the Muslim had then they gave me water which seemed to get me better. I felt as healthy as a horse, but nothing would make me feel better the only thing that would make me feel better is my little grass hut back home in Niani with the fresh savanna breeze, with animals all around but I knew I had to go on. Then from a distance I couldn’t believe my eyes I saw Zawaila. I was so happy I felt like a cheetah trying to run over there as fast as I could. 
        Eshe


Dear Journal,
        So we have finally made it to Zawaila. We have traded with some Muslims. I traded salt, gold, yams, and ivory. I got spices, rubies, silk, candy, prayer rugs, perfumes and incense. I think I got really good bargains because this old Muslim man even taught me to write and speak more Arabic he even gave me a book to study and it will help me learn Arabic and write it too. Then we gathered up food and water to get ready for the last of our journey to get to Mecca. We decided to leave at night so it wouldn’t be too hot. Then off we go with all the confidence in the world.
        Eshe


Dear Journal,
        We made it, we are finally here in Mecca. We had a lot of struggle to get here but we got here. We are finally in the hot Arabian Desert! It has been long since we left Zawaila. We had many struggles from the journey from Zawaila to Mecca and of course the whole entire trip. One of my camels died on the way here so we ate some of him, and we could have really used him. Then Ricardo fell in a quicksand and he was struggling to much so he was sinking even faster you are supposed to stay calm when in this situation so the Muslim lady told him to pull his legs out slowly one by one to get out sooner and it worked. He said it felt as if someone was pulling him. Also, Kiara went all crazy on us she saw mirages and would lead us to some spots with nothing but she would see an Oasis or a water source she acted as if she was a five year old playing tag and trying to find something that doesn’t exist.
        Who cares I am pleased with what happed because an adventure is all about risks and making memories and I will never forget this journey. I have traded mostly everything I had and I got some of the best bargains ever. I also went to visit The Kabah and I converted into Muslim and I am very respectful of their customs and ways or should I say my customs and ways. I do everything in the five pillars. I didn’t trade everything so I gave what was left to the poor. This journey was as long as a sea but fun when you get to the other end of the sea! I have gotten many goods and even some Chinese goods that the Muslims got from trading. This was a very successful journey I learned how to survive in the worst desert ever, and I am now a Muslim. Now when I go home I will teach my family the ways of the Muslims and hot to speak and write Arabic!  Now my new fear is going back home! 
        Eshe 


STUDENT #4 (An Egyptian Teen's Perspective):

Akila’s Journal 
June 16, 603 A.C. 
Dear Journal, 
        I am about to set off on a journey all the way to Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Right now I am packing my belonging to leave my royal temple in Cairo, Egypt. I told my parents that I could show them that I was responsible and mature enough to embark on a journey far, far away from Cairo. As daughter of the king and queen of Egypt, I am not allowed to travel to trade because I am part of the royal family. Traveling to trade was the servants’ job. I decided to go to trade to show that I wasn’t a baby anymore and to have some travel experience just in case (by the way I am a 16-year-old). I am going to trade ivory, gold, yams, dried fruits, and some jewelry from the temple. I hope to receive some perfumes, spices or other useful items. This is going to be a long trip, so I need to pack water and food that will last longer. Also what’s a journey without a camel? I am going on this journey by myself. My parents tried to force me to go with some of the villagers in case something happens to me for someone to know.  I didn’t want to travel by their rules. Oh well, it’s getting late! I should hit the road well good bye for now!  
Sincerely, 
Akila  

July 21, 603 A.C. 
Dear Journal, 
        Well it has been more than a month and I am still on my journey to Makkah. I am now in the city of Jerusalem. I have encountered a robber but he did not see me, me and my camel Khairi hid. Thank god that robber did not see me or else he would have stolen all my trade items then I wouldn’t be able to trade anymore! We also came across an oasis and some very dangerous animals, but escaped alive, and met some nomads along the way. Some were kind enough to let us camp with them. They also provided us with food. But now we have to move on if we want to reach Makkah. Boy is it hot! I feel as if I was inside a very, very hot oven and being cooked alive! I have traded some items along the way to Arabia. I met an Arabic merchant, he traded me some spices for dried fruits. I still have a long way to go. I really hope this journey is worth my time. And I hope I get some good items that are useful to the people back in Cairo. It has also been windy, very windy. The wind was as strong as a tornado destroying a city. My good and water supply is good for another week or two. I hope to get there fast and end this journey as soon as possible! Well I have to go now. I am trying to end this journey as soon as possible. Good bye for now. 
Sincerely, 
Akila  

August 3, 603 A.C. 
Dear Journal, 
       Well I am back! And in the city of Makkah! I finally made it! I am glad to be here trading with these Arabs, they are very kind people. I have traded my yams, ivory, jewelry, salt and some of my gold already. I have received some spices, fruits, perfumes, and some jewelry. I was offered by an Arabic man to speak their language and to become a Muslim. He told me about the 5 pillars and about the religion of Islam. He also told me that Muslims play 5 times a day, he told me many things about what Muslims do. But I declined this offer. I believed in many gods back in Cairo. I don’t think it will be fair to believe in one and forget about all the Egyptian gods that I already believe in. Well anyways, this place is very cool, but very hot in weather climates. Now I can prove my parents wrong about me not being mature enough for travel and trade. I can see the look on their faces when I tell them and show what I learned and received from this journey. I have learned to travel in very hot climates. Other than the very hot weather that made me feel as if I was going to be cooked alive, this journey was O.K.  But the best part was arriving in Makkah. Oh well now I have to go back home to Cairo. And travel another horrible journey across the desert with burning heat. Ok then, good bye for now until I reach Cairo. I might not be able to write on my journey while I travel the desert because I just want to get this journey done and finished! Until then, good bye! 
Sincerely, 
Akila 


September 12, 603 A.C. 
Dear Journal, 
        Well here I am dying in the middle of the Sahara desert. It’s hotter than a hot metal iron! Well I decided to write just to let you know that I am alright and alive like how I was on the previous journal entries. I kind of got lost, but I found my way through, other than that, I got some really good items in return.  My food and water supply is running low, I have a little bit of water left and food. My water and food is good for another week. But after a week, I will have to survive without any food or water. I can survive about a week or so without water, but after that I am pretty much fighting for my life. I am glad that I will be home soon and out of this heat and wind! I will be so happy when I get home but I will kind of miss this journey even though the heat and climate made it very difficult for me and very confusing. Now this trade journey is something to remember in the future. Well I am very sorry, but I have to leave now, I can’t stand this heat. Well wish me luck on my way back home to the city of Cairo. Until the next journal entry! Good bye for now until I reach my home in Egypt. Good bye. 
Sincerely, 
Akila  

September 23, 603 A.C. 
Dear Journal, 
        Yes!!! I finally made it to Cairo, my home town. I showed my parents the items I got back and they were very surprised that I can actually mature for once in my life. Well I guess I proved them wrong. It feels amazing to be back home, although I kind of miss traveling through the desert. This was a very challenging experience to achieve. Well I am glad to be home with all the people of Egypt. To celebrate my return from trade, the city of Cairo threw a dinner feast with all of my favorite food and drinks. Well now I am safe and sound at home. It’s great to be back in Egypt with all the people who live here. The items that I got back in return were very useful to all of us. We used the spices for the food, the perfumes to smell good, the food I got in return I used along the way home, and the one prayer rug I got, we just used it as a home decoration. It fits in with the rest of the furniture. I don’t know if I will ever trade or not, but I am never 100% sure about anything. I might when I get older, but for now I have to stick with this life of mine that I have right now. This was such a good experience. Now this was something I would never forget. Something to always remember. To not forget about. Until next time! Good bye.  
Sincerely, 
Akila 



STUDENT #5 (A Woman's Perspective):

December 12
Dear diary,           
            This is last day of preparation; I am nerves because I am going alone to the Ghana, for I am just a young woman. I will show all who have said that women can`t survive the things that men can. I will trade all of my spices and salt, coming back with more than I have even traveled with. All I have to do is camouflage myself as a man and travel with a group hunters on their way to Gao. I must pack now for I will have to wake up very early to travel tomorrow.
-       Sanaa
December 13
Dear diary,
            It is early in the morning and I have eaten my last home cooked meal and have gotten my makrigga, a spear like weapon that has two back ward facing hooks in which I will use for hunting and protection. When I go outside I find that the sun is looking at us from a distance waiting for the right moment to come out and say good bye for all of the people in our village. My camel named Eshe which means life in Swahili ,she is as swift as the wind and as smart as a storyteller. When we started our journey we saw the dry, hot, plentiful sand that looked like mountains that never stopped growing. The planet suddenly died, only the sound of the wind moving bits of sand, lonely. The next thing I knew, my caravan where are they? I am alone. No one around except for Eshe and me. What was I thinking a woman cannot survive the cruel desert alone. No I must move forward and not look back. Only the then will the world know that women are not there for people to give chores too. I am still in the clothing of a man who works as a merchant. What is the use for that, no one is around to know I am a woman. No one at all.
-       Sanaa
                                                            December 14
 Dear diary,
I am still all alone wishing that fate will soon help me in this journey. Do my eyes betray me, have I found people at last! I ride Eshe to the cap that I found. Then suddenly find myself tied around a pole and my camel tried to a heavy rock. My makrigga, one of the men is holding it. Then a man with an eye patch and a beard as black are the night, the leader of the caravan comes to me and unties the bandana from my mouth. “Who are you and what do you want?” he asked angrily. I explain to him that this is a misunderstanding and that I mean no harm at all. He and his other men go and whisper in a language that only a special tongue can speak. Then the man comes up to me and orders on of the men to untie me, “You shale be our servant for the rest of your life, and I assure you that that won`t be long.” I yell and scream until they took me away and put a chain as heavy as a bolder around my waist. ”You cruel men deserve nothing but death”. One of the evil men went near my cage and abruptly shouted at me as he pointed a spear at my neck.  “Be quite or else!” he shouted in a selfish voice. Will I come out alive and will I ever reach my destination?
                                                -Sanaa
                                                December 14 12:00 pm
Dear diary,
            It is night and I am fairly scared that one of the men will hear me as I try to escape into the path that leads to Ghana. My camel is ready and I will start to head out with three times what I had.
                                                            -Sanaa
                                                            December 15
Dear diary,
It is a dangerous journey for me; I have only one canteen filled with water. As I stroll around in the sand my mind start to hallucinate, I see an ocean in the middle of the desert. Even though I am crazy I must go on. My camel has no energy and stops in it tracks. “Eshe move!” I commanded yet she stays as still as a rock, what is going on? I climb off and find that we were face to face with a huge wall that surrounded a village touch it for I fear that it is real. Strangely it is as cold as water, on the other side I find an entrance. I knock on it and hope that someone will answer the door.  A little old woman opens the door with a smile on her face. “I have been expecting you.” She said with a weak voice. “You are the first woman to take a stand.” Have people have been talking about me? I was as quite as a feather even in the wind. “Thank you roe your pleasant gift but I must continue my journey before sun down.” Said sadly yet with courage. “Please take this for you travels then!” she said as she handed me a golden bow and arrow.
                                                -Sanaa
                                                December 16
Dear diary,
            Have you ever completed a goal that you have never thought you would in the end? I have. I have arrived to Ghana and have traded all of my good for gold in which I will give to the village for new thing like schools and more safe places. I hope that I will be able to do this again. Farewell
                                                -Sanaa

STUDENT #6 (A 4519-word set of entries!):
Sahara Desert Journal

Dear Journal,
Um… hi there journal.  (This feels very awkward right now.)  My name is Neema (which mean prosperous or successful) and I will be writing in you for a month as my two brothers, some voluntary members of my tribe, and I will travel across the horrific Sahara Desert to get to trade town of Sijilmassa right before the Atlas Mountains.  So, my two twin brothers Rahidi (which means “wise counselor”) and Jabari (which means “fearless”) and I will go across the deadly Sahara Desert to get to the trade town of Sijilmassa to trade our precious items that will save my tribe lives’.  By the way, I am the chief’s daughter and my brothers are next in line for the “throne”.  If we three end up dead, my baby brother will take the place, so all ends well.  Except for us.  When my father announced the need to trade our tribe items, my brothers’ stepped up immediately because they said by doing this, it will show our parents that they are responsible and wise enough to take the chief’s place when my father retires or sadly passes away.  I chose to come because I wanted to show my parents that I could do things just as well as my brothers just because I am a girl.  I can go on dangerous adventures and do things that they can do.  I think.  Anyways, my mother gave me you to write in so I can write my feelings, what I did, and stuff like that, so I will do that right now. 
   When I first woke up, my heart was pounding as fast as a zebra’s when it is chased by a predator.  I looked up at the roof of my light yellow grass hut.  The sun seeped through the cracks of the roof like water trickling through gashes in the rock by a slow waterfall.  It looked so beautiful with the bright light rays of the intense sun shining through.  After that observation, I shook myself back to reality and started to get ready for the grueling trek ahead of me.  I am starting to regret choosing to go on this dangerous mission that will save the rest of my tribe.  Maybe not.  After I changed my clothes, brushed my long brown hair, and got ready, I stiffly grabbed my animal skin travel pack and carefully left my grass hut that I would mostly likely never see again.  When I stepped into the blinding light, the whole village population (which is not much) was standing out in front of my hut and they started to cheer.  Really loudly.  I felt proud choosing this mission because of all the cheering from my tribe members, but a very small voice nagged me in my head saying, “You are going to die.  You will regret this choice and die a very painful death.”  Thanks a lot conscious for making me feel better.
As that thought nagged in my head, my father stepped up to me as the crowd settled down.  He touched my forehead as I lowered it, and spoke in Arabic,” I am very proud of you my beautiful and bright savanna flower.  You have chosen a great, but dangerous path.  We wish you the best of luck on your journey across the gods’ forsaken Sahara Desert.”  He spoke in Arabic because I need to know this special language in order to trade in Sijilmassa and Ijil.  He learned Arabic from a stray Arab merchant around 40 years old who stumbled into our camp half dead, and we nursed him back to health.  (This happen before I was born, but my brothers were alive.)  While he was here, he taught my father things about this strange new religion and culture called Islam.  My father did not convert, but he still remembers parts of the religion, culture, language, and the written language.  He asked the Arab to write down everything that he taught my father so it can be taught to the generations after.  He taught me so I can teach my child if I have one.  Now, since I am going to trade at an Arab populated city (I think), this would be extremely useful there.  He taught me that Arabs pray 5 times a day (which is a little much for my taste) on a prayer rug facing towards there sacred shrine called the Ka’bah in there capital city called Mecca. They have these 5 “pillars” called the 5 Pillars of Islam, which are like rules or guidelines for the religion, and you have to follow these rules in order for Allah (or their ONE God) to judge you right.  Their writing consists of many weird characters that when put together, they form connected words.  It is a very strange language.  Even though I know most of the religion and how it is slowly spreading around the world (mostly by the main trade routes in Africa), I do not wish to convert to this new religion.  I still respect the traditional gods that provide us with everything we need to survive here in the savanna.  They keep us alive and since they still keep us alive and thriving, I will not betray them for another religion/god when that god has done nothing for us yet and our gods have kept our tribe alive for generations before me and generations to come.  They help us, so we must respect and fear them back.
Anyways, my father started mumbling a traditional farewell good luck prayer to me in our language while he still touched my head.  While he chanted the prayer, I opened my eyes and searched my surroundings for my brothers to see if they are ready.  Sure enough, they are completely ready!  I was shocked that they woke up earlier than me (which is a first), and they had everything ready from their clean animal leather backpacks to the black ash around their eyes to keep away the glare of the ferocious sun clearing away the cool ocean fog.  Our 6 sand-colored camels are standing like statues right next to them strangely calm under the circumstances.  Camels are very hard to understand.  They can go for days without fresh water and still live!  Incredible!  Sorry, off task. 
When my father finished the prayer, I hugged his frail, but strong body hard because I may never see him again.  I did the same to my aged mother.  I will miss her too.
After I said my goodbyes to everybody, I double-checked our items to trade, so we do not leave forgetting anything.  I made a checklist that consists of:
- 6 bags of Salt
-5 Pelts of Zebra
-5 Lion Pelts
-3 bags of Dried Fish
-3 bags of Dried Shell Fish
-2 bags of Yams
A lot of items for a 6 camel caravan, but they are what we need to trade to get our tribe going again.  When I finished with that, I check our other supplies and the map leading to our destination.  I made sure that we wouldn’t get lost and that we can find an oasis, so we do not dry up and die.  I also double-checked our weapons so we are not left defenseless to the robbers and dangerous creatures out in the merciless desert.  After even more checking (I really do not want to die), we finally said our last goodbyes and hopped on our camels to leave.  
On top of my camel, I took one last look at the scenic landscape with the wavy, yellowish savanna plains dotted with different colored animals, the flat topped acacia trees blow slowly with the cool ocean breeze, bright light fluffy clouds scatter the sky, and the ocean rolls peacefully along the smooth sand.  I will miss this place with all of its features and people.  Then, I turned around and beckoned the camel to go before I shed some tears.
Depressed and Regretful,
Neema

Dear Journal,
It has been 5 days since I last wrote in you and I am sorry that I have not had the time to write.  Every night when I want to write I am absolutely exhausted because of the long, excruciating treks through this sandy jail.  The desert gives no mercy, but your biggest enemy here is the sun.   The air here rises to the fainting point, and “heat head” will come upon you in a shadow’s movement.  This is nothing like my home where the ocean breeze cools you down when the sun reaches its highest point in the clear light blue sky.  Here, the sun beats down on you like powerful drumbeats and it will take your life in a snap of a finger.  The course wind cracks your skin and the sand blinds your eyes so you can only see the glare of the unforgiving sun on the cruel fine sand.  The desert is a giant sand trap that never let you go. 
Time seems like it stands still in this barren desert.  The day feels incredibly long as you ride on top of your slow, trudging camel.  It feels like the sun will never set, but when it sets, the temperature drops beyond your belief.  When you wish for cool temperatures during the day, you wish for the opposite at night.  You want the sun when it sets.  At night, the temperature drops below handling point, and you can freeze to death if you do not have something warm.  As long as you have a fire, than you can probably stay alive for another night.  Other things that you should watch out for are the dangerous animals that creep out at night.  We met another traveler named Chane (which means DEPENDABLE) on our 5th day out in the desert and he camped out with us just for that night.  We found out in the morning that he was trying to steal our supplies when we were asleep.  When he quietly packed up to leave, he put on his leather boot, and screeched in agony. Chane dropped all of our precious goods and woke us up. There was a scorpion in his boot!  We got out our weapons to attack him, but he was already limping away to the next sand dune.  We decided to leave him limp away because one of our travelers (who is a very close friend to my family) told us that the poison of that specific scorpion would kill you in the time between high noon and sundown, so it is no use to run after him and kill him when the poison will.  Another reason he said not to kill him is because the poison of the scorpion is excruciatingly painful so he will die a painful death.

Frightened for My Life and Worried Out of My Mind,
Neema
Dear Journal,
It has been 4 days after our first (and last) bad confrontation with a lone traveler.  Now, we are relaxing under the brilliant bright stars in the freezing night sky with another trading caravan.  We are very careful around them just in case they will try to backstab us like that dreaded Chane, but they are very nice people just like us.  They are just a weary family caravan trying to get to the desert oasis Azugi to rest and make their way to the town of Shinqit to live there and become “stand merchants”.  I pity them because they literally have nothing left with them other than some personal belongings and small portion trade items.  I had it all back at my tribe, but I was very generous and kind to the people unlike the daughters of some unruly kings in the ancient folklores.  I would do anything to help them, but nothing can be done right at this moment because I am also on the verge of death. 
Anyways, it feels very nice and peaceful to be around the warm, crude fire with my “family” and the other family.  It feels pleasant to relax and gaze up at the beautiful glittering stars in the pitch black sky with no sound around you except for the small crackle of the bright orange embers emitting from the dimming circular fire that float up to reach the stars up a head. 
While I lay down between my two twin brothers, bad thoughts of terrible ways to die dance around my already-tortured brain.  When brother Jabari on my right notices the worried expression on my dark face, he questions,” Are you alright my brave younger sister?”
Brother Rahidi to my left continues with,” Yes, Neema.  I agree with your brother Jabari.  Are you all right?  I see you have a worried expression placed on your gentle face.  Is something wrong?”
Jabari playfully adds,” It is like you have the words “worry wart” written in Arabic across your forehead.”
I smile, but it quickly faded away.  “Well,” I whispered while turning my head towards Jabari, “There are a lot of things that worry me this very second.  I think about the horrors of the desert, the sly thieves after dark, and the way heat head strikes you hard without a simple warning!  All these ways to die circle my head and strike me multiple times with fear just like a desert cobra or the cobras that threaten us back at home.”  I take a deep breath before I continue, but it does not help the on coming trickle of tears.  I choke with my last breath, “It is horrifying how many painful ways you can get mortally maimed or straight up killed out in this giant ferocious sand trap.  I am not afraid to go to the afterlife, but I am terrified on how I get there.” 
“Little sister, you worry too much right now,” Rahidi replies softly to me like I am a little girl (which I completely feel like this very moment).  He knows me very well.  I think you can see how he is right now.
“Just relax and enjoy this moment of peace and tranquility while it slowly last,” Jabari encourages.  He continues,” We might not get a time like this again.”  He turns towards me and wipes a tear trailing down the side of my head.  “Everything will be fine because-” he abruptly stands up and beckons Rahidi to stand up with him.  “- You have your trusty twin brothers, Jabari-“
Rahidi jumps in, “-and Rahidi!”
“To protect you!” he announced very loudly which woke up everybody at our campsite.  They both proudly stood up side by side while the light of the dimming fire creates dancing shadows across their bodies.  When they stop staring heroically at the horizon, they got back down to their sleeping spots and look at me with snake long wide grins.  You think that those smiles were priceless, wait till you saw their second expression when they saw mine.
I giggled,” Look all around you super heroes.”  When Jabari and Rahidi turned around to face the others, they saw everybody at the campsite giving them strange and “they are crazy” looks.  It was hilarious!
Jabari apologized,” Sorry everybody!  We didn’t mean to wake you.  Please go back to your sleeping and pretend this never happened.  Really, forget this ever happened.”  When everybody settled down, Jabari and Rahidi turned back to me and Jabari shyly added,” That was extremely embarrassing.”
“You got that right!” I choked in between the giant tsunami of laughter that quickly over flooded the thoughts of death and despair in my brain.  My uncontrollable laughter caused my brothers to crazily laugh too.  When we all quietly settled down, we gazed up at millions of glittering stars in the still pitch-black sky.  All together, we searched the sky for interesting star patterns that proudly present themselves to us.  We found many star patterns and luckily some shooting stars.  My brothers and I have not had this quality sister-brothers’ time since we were little kids.  I am glad I get to experience this time again when I am young and alive.  I will always remember this time together with my brothers.
Feeling Relaxed and Careless,
Neema
Dear Journal,
It is the next day and we just left our campsite.  The time I spent last night with my brothers was so fun and relaxing.  It even made me forget about all the negative things that could happen to us here.  I’m glad those thoughts floated out of my head and into the sky.
When everybody was up in the morning, we all packed up our sleeping bags and other goodies to leave.  According to one of my travelers, we are only 1 day away for our first stop, which is Azugi!  I cannot wait to bathe in the cool, refreshing water surrounded with living palm trees that have bitter sweet dates waiting to be eaten and…(slap)!  Wake up Neema!  Slap yourself together!  Okay, sorry for those little “daydreaming” thoughts. 
Now, we are traveling as one big caravan to reach Azugi and rest.  From there, we will go our separate ways to reach our destinies.  We are all painfully trudging through the burning hot sand that even seers though our antelope skin shoes.  I keep thinking about the oasis and everything this “terrain” will give us hoping that these thoughts will keep me going.  A while back Rahidi saw the longing expression on my face and literally read my mind.
“Do not think about the water or the dates.  It will only make you want it more than ever and you will stress out your body because your body lacks water or nutrients and your body needs those vital things to function.  By thinking about water or dates, you are pushing yourself to get those needs, but you are actually wasting the reserves you need to function.  All in all, it is better to not think about the oasis and just focus on your walking and breathing.  Also keep track of your body, so you do not faint,” Rahidi addressed to me.
“Are you sure?” I worriedly questioned.  I shouldn’t have asked him because I knew he would be right.  Rahidi is ALWAYS right, so there was really no point in saying that, but it would make me feel better if he did.
“I am sure that is the case and have I ever been wrong?” he pressured.
”No, you are never wrong,” I replied with a sarcastic tone.  Then I murmured behind his back,” At least to our knowledge.”
 Rahidi sarcastically asked, “What did you say?”
 “Nothing…” I sarcastically replied back.  I smiled for the first time that day.
Longing to Reach the Oasis,
Neema
Dear Journal,
It is later on in the day and we have just reached Azugi, or the small desert oasis town.  This little town only had a few houses that stood a little to the side of the oasis.  It was pretty pitiful, but it will have to do.  When our caravan just got over a small sand dune and in the site of the oasis, I just wanted to run down the sand and leap into the cool, refreshing water, but that behavior would get us kicked out of the oasis for good.  I would also bring shame to whole caravan and myself if I did that, so I just bit my lip and stayed with the group until we got there.
After we settled down our stuff and took off the supplies on the camels, traders welcomed us to their small oasis Azugi and beckoned us to the “watering hole”.  We were all delighted to accept their welcome and respectfully rushed to the water.  It felt so good to drink water again and eat a ripe fruit.  We just ran out of food and water rations today, so we are all starving and water.  While people were eating and drinking, we all took turns rinsing ourselves in the water.  It felt (once again) so good to take a shower because I have not done that in over 10 days!  After everybody got their share of “refreshments” (literally), the big group decided to stay here for the night.  We traded 1 bag of yams and 1 pelt of a zebra for 2 bags of dried meat.  It was perfect.  We all sat around the campfire singing songs, eating dates and dried meat, and drinking water and wine.  (No wine for me!)  For once I get to be completely relaxed and have fun without having to worry about robbers and deadly animals!  We all protect each other and ourselves.  I feel sad that we have to leave the other caravan because they have been with us for so long.  (When you are in the desert, time stretches till it almost does not move at all.  It does feel like an eternity.)  Tomorrow we part and go our separate ways to try to make a living.
Full, Quenched, and Lazy,
Neema
Dear Journal,
It is now morning and my caravan is heading out.  The other caravan decides they will stay here one more day.  We pack up all our stuff and load the camels.  I made sure we had full containers of water and just enough meat to sort of satisfy us when we rest under the stars.  We finally say our farewells and head our different ways.
Sad to Leave the Other Caravan,
Neema
Dear Journal,
It has been 3 days since Azugi and we are now at the salt mine city of Ijil.  We are finally here!  I am so excited to be here because we can trade and replenish our supplies, but most importantly, this is our half way mark to our destination!  Yes!  We are almost there!  Okay, back to reality.  So, let me describe the town.  This place is nothing like Azugi or the small village, which is my home.  This place is packed with people and merchants wanting to make a living.  We wad into the crowd of people and enter the city.  My ears feel like they are going explode from the noise after being in the deadly and silent desert.  Stand merchants beckon you to buy their “one of a kind” items.  People behind you push you forward with the crowd and it is almost impossible to escape.  (By the way, I am writing this entry while I slowly shuffle though the crowd.)  Wait, I think I just lost my caravan.  NO!  STOP!  WAIT…!  (Knock and slam.)
…Sorry for that pause.  Someone knocked the book out of my hands and on to the ground.  I had to search the hard packed dirt for my hard working journal that was getting stepped on and kicked around.  Don’t be surprised to see a foot print on the cover.  I got dirt kicked on me and in my eyes and mouth.  My throat feels like it is coated in dirt.  Not the best day of my life, but I finally retrieved my book.  It is nighttime right now and I am writing down what happened earlier.  I will make sure that will never happen to me again.  I shall keep my journal closer to me than ever before.  It will never be out of my site. 
Anyways, once I found my journal, I tried to get out of the way of the oncoming “waves” of people in the middle of the street.  Then, I tried to stake out the rest of my caravan, so we can all be together again.  After a while of searching, we got the whole caravan back together with nothing missing.  We are very lucky nothing was stolen and we got all back together.  Most people are unfortunate and…well, I think you know can what happen to them.
We searched the market place supplies and other things to trade.  By the end of the day (which was not very long because we got here at high noon), we got 1 perfume bottle, and 2 bags of spices in exchange for 1 bag of yams and two handfuls of salt.  It was a good ¼ day of trading.
Finally, we get out of the city and make our camp outside of the city walls.  We will especially keep a look out for robbers and animals here just in case they have “bad ideas”.  (Yawn) Well, I am going to bed to rest up for tomorrow.  Good night.

                       Exhausted and Very Protective of My Journal,

                                                     Neema

Dear Journal,
It has been 2 weeks since Ijil and my last journal entry.  I know I have not been writing, but I had to save my lingering energy for the treks.  A lot of things have been happening since then.  One of my travelers got bitten by a deadly snake and moved on to the after life.  One of our camels stepped in quicksand and sunk beneath the surface.  Another camel got stung by a scorpion in the middle of the night and it never saw daylight in the morning.  These are very pitiful deaths and we mourn them, but we must move on.  We were walking on a sand dune when the wind started to pick up.  Then it blew harder and harder until it became very suspicious.  Deadly suspicious.  We started to look around and then Jabari screamed,” Sandstorm!”  We all are prepared for a sandstorm because they can strike at any moment in the desert.  We quickly huddled together and made a circle.  Then, we circled the camels around us to make a barrier and once they were in position, we made them kneel.  As the swift sandstorm was approaching, everybody kneeled on their hands and feet (just like Muslims do on a prayer rug when they pray), faced toward the center of the circle, and covered our heads with our hands.  Then, the sandstorm struck.
We did not stay in that position for long because the sandstorm blew by quick.  No body was badly hurt; the only things that happen to us were only rubbed down skin, sand in the eyes, sand in the mouth, and technically sand everywhere.  After we dusted ourselves off, and helped the camels, we were off again. 
It took from daybreak to high noon to get to Sijilmassa, but we finally made it!  I was so excited that I finally got here!  Here I stand on a sand dune over looking the whole city that stretches very long.  The busy streets, the crowded homes, and the noise!  It is just like Ijil, but much bigger!  I can’t believe we are actually here.  Finally, this long trip will be over…for now.  I whisper,” We are here.”  Then I whisper louder,” We are here.”  Then I shout,” WE ARE HERE!”  Then, everybody shouts and cheers.  I hug my brothers and our close family friend.  Then I jump up and down on the sand dune with excitement and shriek with joy. 
After we had our fun, we gathered up our stuff, pulled the camels, and excitedly walked down the sand dune into the city that was our destiny.
Bidding You and the Journal a Farewell,
Neema

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