Sunday, October 21, 2007


So, Eid in Senegal… Well, for about 10 days beforehand, people started talking about the big party, la Korité - that’s what they call it here. “Are you getting ready?” people kept asking me. I said “What do I have to do to get ready?” The answer included a new hairdo and a new outfit. At first, I thought I wouldn’t bother, but the hype was too strong to resist. The fabric markets and hairdressers were jammed packed for a week beforehand as people tried to do their last minute preparations. The picture here is of Marché HLM, the biggest fabric market. You pick out fabric that you like and take it to a tailor to have it made. I did that the day before of course, and somehow still managed to get it on time. I think no tailor slept the day before Korité, except beside their sewing machine.

My dad arrived in Senegal for a visit the night before the party. I picked him up at the airport at about midnight Friday night. He came bearing gifts! A whole bunch of things I had requested from Canada – from Clean & Clear face wash to Extra gum – plus some gifts from my mom and from Egypt, where he stopped before here. My grandma sent me kahk! (Egyptian dessert).

In the morning, my dad wore the boubou and slippers I bought him and I wore a boubou as well and we headed to the mosque to pray with some of the folks from the family. They were surprised that as a woman I was going to the mosque, and when I got there and found only men, I thought I might have to cause a fuss in order to be able to pray with them! But eventually I found a section with some women and all was well. It was nice just to be outside, because everyone we passed on the street was dressed in a nice boubou, with a prayer mat in hand. After the prayer, strangers shook each others’ hands, the way we do in Canada.

Then we headed back home, where an extravagant breakfast was ready. On the roof, where I normally do my laundry, two professionals were killing a sheep. I went up there afterwards to find everything – the intestines, the poo that was inside the body, the horns – all over the bloody ground. We ate the lamb that afternoon. It tasted great. But when they brought out a soup made of the intestines, I just couldn’t touch it.

Most of the day, we spent eating and chatting with everyone. A lot of family friends had come by the house, and it was just a nice feeling of getting together. There were nice drinks too, like bissap and takh, made from the boiled leaves of fruit trees.

At night, most Senegalese visit their family members to ask forgiveness if they have wronged them in any way. In fact, the whole day, people you see shake your hand and say “Bal ma akh” – forgive me for my sins.

Late at night, I took my old man out dancing, Senegalese style. I bought these bright blue shoes to match my new outfit – I’d never be caught dead wearing these shoes in Canada, but here, it just seemed to work! – and we went to a ‘mbalakh’ concert (Senegalese pop). You should have seen Atouman trying to teach Dad to dance!

Anyways, it was a great ending to what had been quite a long and difficult month of Ramadan (harder than usual this year I think). It felt nice to be surrounded by people, to have a feeling of community and togetherness.

After the party, the city sort of shut down for a few days as people recovered from the strenuous preparation and extensive fete. Markets weren't up and running as usual, and the streets seemed a bit empty. But unusually, in a 95% Muslim country, they only get one day off for Eid and 10 for Christmas (the French made their constitution), so things were back to normal before long!


Still.Searching said...

Thank you Heba for your account of Eid in Senegal.. It reminds me of Egypt when I was little where indeed you got your dress from the tailor just before the Fajr prayer.. How you got the picture of the guy sleeping at his sewing machine is beyond me!

You were perceptive enough to capture the essence and the value of the simplicity of their celebration, despite the other face of poverty that you mentioned. i admit that I have not been able to keep up with reading your articles about the serious issues in Africa but I find your blogs transport me (and many of your quiet but loyal readers) to Senegal where I see the simple things in life there through your eyes. and you have great eyes :-) It must be hard to finish writing at work and go back home to write again but I thank you for doing it..

I am so proud of you and I know this experience will shape who you are for the rest of your life.. just remember us common folk when you get your Nobel prize.. We really miss you here. Love you heba..

Natasha said...

Hi Heba.
I'm so happy you had a great Eid. It must have been nice to have Sammy there bearing gifts. You look so happy in the photos, it's awesome to see.
And it looks like you had a nice relaxed (although one-day) holiday. I feel like you should take more holidays.
It's also fun to see you have the chance to live in a much more Muslim society. Are you liking the additional prayers and such? The mass outdoor prayers sound pretty cool. I guess you can't really take a photo while you're praying but I imagine they look inspiring.
Anyways keep taking good care of yourself. I hope I can see you soon.
Love you!

mena said...

You look so beautiful in your pics..I didn't know that the beauty level rises to "cubed" in Senegal ;)