Day 3 - The Long, But Fruitful Voyage

The third day of the Ancestry Reconnection trip began with a 6 hour drive from Douala to Foumban which is where the Baumoun Kingdom is located.  This took place in our usual motorcade.  I forgot to mention in the previous post that there are armed guards with us.  This has been quite intimidating to people who are on the trip as we’re not use to traveling this way.  Since I had read about bandits who could possibly attack or rob tourists along the roadside, the presence of the armed guards made perfect sense to me.

George, one of our guides. He works for the Department of Tourism in Cameroon.
These come together to become palm oil, which is one of the top exports for Cameroon.

Cameroonian coffee beans

Although the drive was extremely long, we were able to see a number of different towns and environments along the way.   In one of the smaller towns, we stopped at a roadside market where beef, fish, fruit, vegetables, and just about anything else you can think of was being sold.  Unfortunately, there was a bit of a disturbance in us doing so.  One of the members of our group lost their footing and was about to fall, but placed their hand on a rack of fish being sold by one of the merchants.  This caused the rack to almost fall, which would have jeopardized the merchant’s income.  Adding more fuel to the fire was the fact that the merchant saw that she was being videotaped by one of the members of the press who travel with us.  The merchant began to hurl insults and threats at the photographer, as she, and many Cameroonians do not like their picture being taken. 

Nicka and Britney (one of the Howard University students)

The group also noticed an interesting dynamic while traveling.  The majority of those who see our motorcade smile at us, and wave showing their support.  Others appear to not receive us so well.  One cannot be sure as to why this is, but from what we’ve heard from our group leaders, our trip is being well publicized across on television, online, and in print in Cameroon as well as Europe.

Traveling to the Southwest Province also made for a fun ride.  When traveling there, one must go up a steep mountain.  The views are absolutely gorgeous and it’s amazing to see so many locals, young and old, walking up and down the mountain.  In my opinion, the hills looked like California in the winter, be it in Pasadena, CA or even the hills in Oakland, CA. 

Once we arrived in the Southwestern Province town of Dschang, it was completely obvious that we were there.  This is the land that the Bamilekes inhabit.  Our tour guide was quick to tell us that this tribe is well known for the following:  1.  Having a number of children (upwards of 10 in each family), which is a sign of wealth; 2.  The ability to be great farmers because of techniques and the rich, volcanic soil; and 3: They have a lot of resources.  

When these things were said, me and Jean were taken aback.  Our family, now and historically, fits the these characteristics.  To add, I showed two of our guides a picture of Louis Balfour/Bareford Atlas, Sr.  I brought the picture along to show those in the tribe how much our earliest traceable ancestors and their descendants look like them.  They were stunned when they saw the picture because they said it was very obvious, based on appearance, that our family was Bamileke.  They were so moved that they barely even spoke and admonished me to be sure to bring the picture to our meetings tomorrow and to sit down and talk with them further about it.

One thing that stood out was that the level of housing that the Bamileke’s have is superior to that which we saw in Douala and surrounding towns.  The homes are built better, are in better shape, and are expansive.  Some portions of the community looked like Daly City, CA or even South San Francisco, CA.  The soil is a deep red clay, the kind that you would find in the rural Southern US States.  There were too many estates to count.  Also, we noticed a change in religious affiliation.  It appeared as though many of the citizens of Douala were practicing Christians while those in the Southwest Province were Muslims.

Another thing that I failed to mention is the prevalence of one national language over the other in certain areas. Douala is a mostly French speaking area, while Limbe and Bimbia are mostly English speaking.  The determination of which language predominates is largely based upon who was occupying the area once Cameroon was under French and British control.

A busy street in Baoufassum

Our only formal stop of the day was one where we visited the palace of Sultan Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya, the 19th king of the Baumoun Dynasty.  His Royal Highness has served as Chief and Director of the Cameroonian cabinet, Vice-Minister of National Education, General Commissioner for Youth, Sports, and Education, and Secretary in Charge of Information.  He has several wives, one of which, is African American.  We learned that one can only become Sultan if he is the son the current Sultan and that once that takes place, the son assumes all of his father’s wives, with the exception of his own mother.

Below are pictures from our official welcome by the Sultan and his tribe.

Upon our arrival we were briefed on protocol; it is disrespectful to shake hands with the Sultan unless he offers to do so first; you must bow before him; if you are within 10km of him, you can bow or kneel on one knee.  Many of us got confused trying to keep the instructions straight so we didn’t insult the Sultan.  But to our surprise, we all did well.  To add, all were given individual greetings from the Sultan himself and he shook each and every one of our hands.  He even asked us our names and which state we came from.  We were told that this was HIGHLY unique.  He was extremely warm and friendly and provided us with a delicious lunch as well. One of those in our group stated that two dishes in the meal, by themselves, cost about $10 USD per plate if they are purchased from a local restaurant which means the quality of our meal was impeccable. 

A queen's mother,  the queen, and Regina

Sultan Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya 

The palace of the Baumoun was built in 1917 and contains an African history museum.  We were given a tour by one of the tribal dignitaries.  My favorite artifact was the vestment that has been worn by the Sultan/King for over 600 years.  Due to bad lighting, I was unable to get a picture of it, but it contained feathers from a variety of different birds throughout Cameroon.

Our tour guide

Our night at the palace was then capped off by performances by those in the kingdom, and another official goodbye from the Sultan.  Each of us was blessed with a book called “The Mystery of Nguon” which was written by Queen Jennifer James Mbombo Njoya who is the African American wife of the Sultan.  I was able to take an up close picture with the Sultan as well.

One of the things that stood out the most about our day was how formal it was, when compared to the other ones.  Our meetings with the chiefs from Douala and Bimbia were very informal in comparison.  This didn’t diminish the experience at all though.

Tomorrow, FINALLY, we head to meet up with two different chiefs of the Bamileke.  I plan to ask them whatever they know about anyone named King or Atlas.  Praying that we get a break!


Beacon for Men said…
Is it just me or does Rachel look a lot like the woman standing right next to her? And was it creepy to know that if I were a prince I'd sleep with all the women my dad did?
Beacon for Men said…
The Sultan is living large!!! Is it just me or is it a little weird that if I were a prince, I'd sleep with all of my dad's lovers? I'm just saying....

Popular Posts