What am I doing here? Exploring the Sultanate of Baboob

Vago Damitio. What am I doing here?

Turban, Sultanate of Baboob
11 JULY 2012

This week, I feel extremely fortunate to be one of very few travel writers ever allowed to enter and write about the Sultanate of Baboob. One of the most secretive and least documented monarchies in the world, the Sultanate of Baboob  is among the least understood countries in the modern world. As a nation, they have managed to exist in complete diplomatic isolation from the entire world, while preserving the unique and vibrant culture of their country.

sahara caravan into Algeria
We rested during the day, but at night we rode the camels.

A few days ago, I was contacted by a member of their internal ministry of affairs who explained that this secretive North African nation is exploring the possibility of opening up to a limited number of tourists each year in an effort to dispel the myths which have grown around the nation and as well, to provide an alternative income for the growing poplulation.

To say the least, I was very surprised to be provided with this opportunity. When I asked the minister, Mr. Mohammad al Mohammad why I had been selected, I was informed that there were three reasons. First of all, as the founder of the International Association of Professional Online Travel Journalists, Mr. Mohammad felt that I would be a perfect candidate to introduce Baboob to the world via electronic journalism.  Secondly, I was recommended by a professor of Anthropology whom I had studied under while writing my thesis, as someone who was uniquely suited to explain not only the history, but also some aspects of the culture. My former professor and colleague, has asked not to be identified by name, but is, in fact, the first anthropologist to be allowed to document the culture of the nobles of Baboob. While Clifford Geertz and Margaret Meade both made brief studies of the common people of Baboob, Meade was actually involved in a considerable scandal and asked to leave the country.  Her work on Baboob has never been published.Finally, it turns out that I am one of only a few online sources to ever write about Baboob, though I hadn’t yet been there.

The throne of Baboob
At the palace of the Sultan of Baboob, I was surprised when my host insisted I have a picture of myself sitting on the throne!

In fact, remarkably little has made it into print about the Sultanate. Perhaps the most discursive text on Baboob, including notes on the culture, history, and people can be found in this novel.

Here is an excerpt, reprinted with the author’s permission, on the caveat that I provide the following link so that those interested in learning more about the Sultanate of Baboob can learn more. While the novel itself takes place only marginally in the country, the Sultanate is a key character and can be said to be present and expounded upon during the entire narrative.  As to whether the author has taken any license with the facts, the Ministry of the Interior has assured me that these are the facts:

Baboob occupies a mountainous region sitting between Libya and Tunisia. The country itself is one of the smallest in Africa and measures in at only 146 square miles. In terms of population, Baboob has only 150,000 residents of which nearly 130,000 live in the Capital city of Turban.

Baboob is ruled by a hereditary sultanate with a line of succession designated by a combination of parentage and ‘manna’, a measure by the country’s clergy which determines which heir is the closest to God, using a system which to this day has not been released. The current ruler is the direct descendent of the first Sultan and bears the name Sultan Mohammad bin Mohammad al Mohammad. Residents refer to the ruler as Sultan or M-Mucho pronounced /em-Moo-cho/.

a surprising lack of amenities in Baboob
My first sight of Baboob!

Baboob is landlocked and consists mostly of mountains, though there is one sizeable river which begins in Tunisia, flows through Baboob and then continues into Libya. Baboob’s official language is Arabic though most residents also speak either Italian or Catalan. There is a sizeable minority who also speak the native Boober tongue. The unit of currency is the Boobie Real which can be broken down into 100 centavos.

The population identifies as 100% Babooban though genetically it can be broken down into the following groups. 47% Arab-Andoran-Baboban 26 % Babooban-Andorran 13% Arab-Babooban 11% Andoran-Babooban and 2% Babooban and the last one percent made up of either 100% Arabs or 100% Andorrans. The reason for the low percentages of pure ethnicity are because of the Arab-Andorran wars of 1893-1897 in which those claiming pure blood were nearly wiped out by genocidal tribesmen as a result of a perceived skewing of metrics on the part of the hereditary succession. 

The novel contains considerably more detail about the hereditary leaders, the settlement, and the culture of Baboob, but my purpose here is simply to whet the appetite of the reader and traveler. In the coming days, I shall endeavor to peer beneath the surface and uncover more about this incredibly unique place.

Crossing Algeria by party bus
The Algerian Party Bus – impossible to describe, but I may try later.

For the moment, I am exhausted after the journey here. From Morocco, I had to be smuggled across the Algerian border by Berber Nomads (friends of the friends who helped to set up our Berber Nomad Wedding a few years ago). We first trekked by truck for nearly five hours through the heat of the Sahara before meeting up with a caravan of camels. The camel portion of the trip was nearly 48 hours, starting at night, resting during the day, and continuing again as the cool of night began.

I was picked up by what I can only describe as an Algerian Berber Party Bus, which traversed the entire width of the nation before illegally crossing into Libya where, thankfully, the population has been celebrating their very successful recent elections.

crossing the LIbyan Desert
The sky in Libya seems very different to anywhere else.

Once in Libya, it was relatively simple to make it to the mountains where I met with the emissaries of Baboob – from this point, it was a hair raising donkey ride into the mountains and finally, a rather exuberant welcome from my hosts. As you might imagine, I’m exhausted.

I’ll try to write more about the fabulous Sultanate of Baboob in coming days – but for now, I hope these few pictures from my journey will satisfy your curiosity. If not, you can get that novel, right here. (or here for Kindle)

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Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook