Wilfrid Thesinger - Arabian Sands and the Seer
Type of Spiritual Experience
I have put the full description in with Wilfrid's comments. I think he was trying to rationalise to himself how the Seer managed to know all he did know and no doubt what he says is true - all of it. But it still doesn't explain what the man had been able to see.
Was the old man a magician or a mystic or a shaman? The labels in this case are a bit meaningless, because he was probably all three.
A description of the experience
Wilfrid Thesiger – Arabian Sands
A few days later we passed some tracks. I was not even certain that they were made by camels, for they were much blurred by the wind. Sultan turned to a grey-bearded man who was noted as a tracker and asked him whose tracks these were, and the man turned aside and followed them for a short distance. He then jumped off his camel, looked at the tracks where they crossed some hard ground, broke some camel-droppings between his fingers and rode back to join us. Sultan asked,
'Who were they?' and the man answered
'They were Awamir. There are six of them. They have raided the Junuba on the southern coast and taken three of their camels. They have come here from Sahma and watered at Mughshin. They passed here ten days ago.'
We had seen no Arabs for seventeen days and we saw none for a further twenty-seven. On our return we met some Bait Kathir near Jabal Qarra and, when we exchanged our news, they told us that six Awamir had raided the Januba, killed three of them, and taken three of their camels. The only thing we did not already know was that they had killed anyone.
Here every man knew the individual tracks of his own camels, and some of them could remember the tracks of nearly every camel they had seen. They could tell at a glance from the depth of the footprints whether a camel was ridden or free, and whether it was in calf. By studying strange tracks they could tell the area from which the camel came. Camels from the Sands, for instance, have soft soles to their feet, marked with tattered strips of loose skin, whereas if they come from the gravel plains their feet are polished smooth.
Bedu could tell the tribe to which a camel belonged, for the different tribes have different breeds of camel, all of which can be distinguished by their tracks. From looking at their droppings they could often deduce where a camel had been grazing, and they could certainly tell when it had last been watered, and from their knowledge of the country they could probably tell where. Bedu are always well informed about the politics of the desert. They know the alliances and enmities of the tribes and can guess which tribes would raid each other.
No Bedu will ever miss a chance of exchanging news with anyone he meets, and he will ride far out of his way to get fresh news.