We Had Chickens and Ducks

The following is only a small extract from a much longer piece written by Regina Iskinazi. 

I was born in Sudan, in a place called Wad Medani, an area where there were plantations of all sorts of agricultural produce.  I am one of four children, of which I am the eldest.

My mother was born also in Sudan, but my father was born in Egypt and came to Sudan.  He stayed there until he left to Israel and only once he went back to Egypt to visit his elderly parents.  Unfortunately we did not know our paternal family very well in Sudan, all we had were photos.  But when we went to Israel we met them and it was wonderful to know them.  We lived with our maternal family most of our lives.  We had a wonderful childhood - our parents were devoted, loving, and very protective of us.  We had a lovely house with a beautiful little garden in the front and a big yard at the back where we had chickens and ducks and all sorts of pets.  I used to have a small parrot that I treasured but one day the servant inadvertently gave it some parsley and it died.  My dog also died. It was shot as the servant opened the door for the milkman at 6 o'Clock in the morning and the dog ran out.  As it did not have a collar it was shot because in summer dogs were shot because of rabies.  We even had a goat at one time.  We used the goat milk to rub our bodies with when we had measles to stop us scratching, it cooled the body as well - now we think it is primitive but it was effective!  In the yard we also had chickens.  We used to write our names on the eggs, leave them to hatch and the chicks from that egg belonged to each one of us - we never ate them.  My auntie had a pigeon coop, granddad never approved of it and that is why we never told him about it!  The pigeons were different though.  We also had our names written on the eggs but when they hatched after two weeks we ate the pigeons.  They were delicious, they were stuffed with meat and rice, fried slightly and cooked in a pan or grilled, very delicious.  

Each family slept at night under the beautiful clear skies, with myriads of stars twinkling endlessly and a beautiful breeze.  But when it rained it was miserable, we had to hurry inside carrying our mattresses on our heads not to get wet.  By the way, the rain-drops there were enormous, sometimes torrential rain fell.  The rainy season was not a healthy time with all the insects and mosquitoes.  As much as one was careful, it was still dangerous because of the malaria. We had doctors that came with the quinine injections and liquid to drink, it was very bitter and every spoonful of quinine was followed with a big table spoon of jam.  After a while one's buttocks hurt badly. Malaria was a very bad illness and one shivered forever.  

Regina (top right) with her brother David (bottom right), sister Esther (bottom left), and cousins - Sara Godsi (top left) and Yashar Benno (centre). 

Regina (top right) with her brother David (bottom right), sister Esther (bottom left), and cousins - Sara Godsi (top left) and Yashar Benno (centre). 

But, despite of all of this we had a very happy childhood.  I remember it was a very enjoyable and happy period for us, we were always altogether, all the aunties and uncles seeing each other everyday and we children were around them. Our entertainment was very limited, we had no games, no toys, I remember my auntie used to make rag dolls and we were very happy with them.  We used to stuff them with snips of  materials and sew on their faces with black thread for eyebrows and eyes, red for lips and brown for the noses.

I had my children in the Sudan and was also very happy there.  But slowly the whole family and then the whole Jewish community spirited itself away little by little. Actually when the family left I felt very lonely with nobody around me, and so we decided to leave and we also went.