Through Showket, I explained the purpose of our visit and asked his indulgence in allowing us to measure, observe, and photograph some of his tribe. The young Sheikh complied very willingly, and said that . . . he would line up thirty men so we could begin work.
|—Henry Field (The Track of Man, p. 243)|
In order to conduct the anthropometric survey, Henry Field and his colleagues required permissions from the Iraqi Minister of Interior and the regional police office, which assigned ten policemen to escort them at all times. Finally the marsh expedition had to be approved by the Paramount Sheikh of āl bu Moh’ammad, Sheikh Fālih’ al-S’aihūd.
Sheikh Fālih’, one of the most respected tribal leaders in the region, had a very good relationship with the Iraqi government and British officers serving in Iraq at the time. Accepting the expedition members as his guests, the 85-year-old, six-foot-tall, 300-pound sheikh left a very strong impression on the expedition members. Lady E. S. Drower, one of the expedition members, wrote, “Sheikh Fālih’s power is . . . that of personality, for he is a remarkable character, and his massive physique is as impressive as his vast hospitality, his generous character, and his great physical strength” (Drower 1949:370–371).
In his memoirs, Field wrote, “He wore a white flowing cotton dishidashe and a flaming red beard, which we learned later was normally white but was dyed red to give him a virile and youthful appearance. He was very genial and friendly.” (Field 1955:239).
Although [Sheikh Fālih'] holds many conservative ideas, including a sterner code of honor than some of the more modern of his contemporaries, he has built a school for his tribesmen and encourages the activities of the Government doctor, whose services are much needed.
The marsh tribes . . . acknowledge the leadership of a sheikh, whose authority is subdivided among lesser sheikhs. . . . The tribesmen work for their sheikh and are paid in kind and not in money; they are also entitled to the protection, advice, and hospitality of the sheikh, who is their “father.”
|—Lady Drower (The Anthropology of Iraq, pp. 371, 395)|
Sheikh Fālih granted the expedition members permission to conduct their work and sent his son, Sheikh Khaz’al, to accompany them as a guide and escort for two weeks in al-H’awiza Marsh. In addition to the anthropometric and landscape photographs, the team also photographed Sheikh Fālih’ and his family.