In the days when Buraan* was a thriving village and maize and crops grew abundantly, a mighty queen ruled over it. She was a highly venerated ruler and womenfolk were forever extolling her virtues. Rulers from distant lands, such as Queen of Sheba, sent her gifts consisting of gold coins to sustain her and her dynasty as well as slaves to communicate reverence and accommodate the queen’s indulgences.
Queen Arawelo was the eldest and shrewdest of King Abdullah’s three daughters. The serene village of Buraan was struck by severe droughts. The harvest season came but there was nothing to harvest. It was the Xagaa* season and Buraan was hit hard, causing the death of many cattle and sheep. Having failed with incantations and prayers, Arawelo one day decided to fetch water from a tiny tarn at the periphery of the woods, at the foot of the mountain. Whilst there, she also vowed to hunt for food and save her village from eating themselves to death.
She set out for her expedition in the early hours of daylight. Accompanied by her trusted squad of female hunters and armed only with her home-made spear, a bow and a few arrows, she fastened her Buraashad* to her waist-band and they set off into the woods. They reached the tarn by mid-day, the following day and after filling their Xabab* with water for the entire village they decided to return. In the middle of the woods, Arawelo and her fellow hunters rested under a tree to seek shelter from the sun. Arawelo was still firm on her decision to make a kill, and thus she set off on her own, filling her Buraashad and giving the water sack to the other hunters. She searched for the entire forest but hadn’t made a kill. Soon it was dark and the elongated tree trunks resembled a legion of soldiers surrounding an enemy. Arawelo had lost all hope of returning home jubilantly to her expectant villagers with a kill, so she made her way home.
Darkness thick upon her came, as she passed the dense part of the forest covered with bushes. She was on the lookout for wild animals that roamed the night and constantly looked around her surroundings. Suddenly, in the dim of the moonlight she saw something quickly dash past some bushes nearby. Wild animals, especially lions were said to be prevalent in that area of the forest, hence the name God-Libaax (Lion’s Den), but Arawelo was a brave girl and would fight it with her spear if that meant her survival. She moved briskly intending to get out of the denser part of the forest. Looking back, she saw the same figure scurry past the set of bushes adjacent to the Acacia tree, rustling them as it moved. She quickened her steps, looking back now and then, to survey her surroundings, when her guntiino* got entangled in thorny bushes. As she strove to free herself from the thorns, the rustling of the bushes became closer and closer. She got up from her crouching position, and looked around; staying still as she held her breath to listen for any disturbance. Just as she untangled her dress, the dark figure pounced on her, knocking her to the ground. It was an animal. It was a man – a strong bare-chested man. Arawelo wrestled with the man, but in vain. He was far too powerful for her lithe body. She was raped
Legend has it that the revulsion Arawelo developed that night against her rapist, marked the beginning of her legendary cruelty against the entire male population in Buraan and the neighbouring villages where she was to reign over. Soon after her father’s death, who had no sons to be inheritors of the wealth and power, Arawelo, being the eldest daughter ascended the throne. Arawelo was a powerful woman, with a muscular build. Her short jet-black hair was often tied back, enhancing her facial features and elongated neck. Shortly after being crowned, the Queen embarked on a mission of ‘domesticating’ and ‘controlling’ the men – whom she considered feral. She was to accomplish this mission by castrating the male population of the village. She exercised her powers to avenge her rape and humiliation as well the rape of other countless women in and around Buraan. With a dedicated army of loyal subjects comprising of sturdy women, she succeeded in capturing and castrating the vast majority of the males in the villages. The few that were left at the Queen’s mercy were there for the prime purpose of breeding only. They were kept under close observation of her Majesty’s guards, as she was suspicious of them, believing that they posed a threat to her throne. Queen Arawelo had a daughter from her relationship with an elderly villager, Oday Biigay, a wise man who used to compose and recite her beautiful verses of poetry. Years have passed, and her daughter, Aisha had a son and named him Kenadiid. The queen was bent on castrating even her own grandson, but Aisha would dissuade her every time she attempted to. ‘Oh Mother, let him at least grow up a bit’ she would say. On reaching a certain age, the queen would again try to castrate him, but Aisha would find another clever deterrent. ‘Let him at least reach puberty mother’ she would proclaim. On reaching 15, Kenadiid escaped the knife of his grandmother and went into the woods, never to be seen again.
To protect herself and her throne from the males with their manhood intact, Queen Arawelo often set for them tasks that were simply impossible to solve. The first of those tasks involved getting the men to fight a duel, using their spears, in a confined area ringed with burning logs of fire. Such events regularly took place monthly and the village’s most beautiful women would gather around the fire giggling and cheering. The winner of such a duel won his pick among the women and afterwards the Queen had him castrated and put in a solitary confinement
Time had passed and the Queen would propose her next task. This time she asked her subjects to carry out an impossible task – to bring her a camel with a load of fruits on its back. She demanded that the fruits must be brought on the bare back of the animal without any containers, rugs or hide. The villagers tried and tried, but to no avail. There was no way a camel can be loaded with on its bare back for they will just roll off – it was simply an impossible task to accomplish and most of the villagers had abandoned any hopes of doing so.
But when the Queen was told that a camel-load of fruits was sitting on her front garden she was alarmed – her suspiscion that a few men are still left was rekindled. A villager had managed to get the fruits to stay in place by first spreading the camel’s back with a thick mixture of bird lime and mud. This mixture with a few other mixtures of his own invention baked in the sun and acted as a bounding agent for the fruits. Who was this man? The queen wondered. Nobody knew who did this.
It was later found out, after surveillance by the Queen’s guards, that a man disguised as a woman had carried out the feat – it was Kenadiid. The queen then ordered that houses should be checked and that man brought to her at any cost. But the man couldn’t be found, for he came into the village during the day and disappeared into the forest by night. The queen tried tracking him but to no avail.
Buraan had one large well. The well was central to the existence of the village. Herds of Camels, cattle, sheep and thirsty villagers flock here every evening to drink from it. One day, after returning from Sahan* Kenadiid masqueraded as a woman passed by the well on his way to the village and found that a huge throng had gathered at its banks.
‘What is going on?’ he asked a one villager.
‘The Queen is taking a bath in the well today. We have been standing here since this morning and our camel hadn’t had a drink for days’ Replied the villager.
Kenadiid, pushed his way past the crowd and saw his grandmother, relaxed in the well. Her guards were no where to be seen. He returned to the villagers and addressed them.
‘I shall go in the well’ he said ‘if she screams “ba’ayeey*” then I have killed her with my dagger, so stay put. But if she says “Hoogay*” then that means that she is overpowering me and you must come to my rescue’.
The villagers agreed and Kenadiid walked towards the well, descended down into it and without wasting a minute drove the dagger right into her chest. ‘Ba’ayeey’ screamed Arawelo. He had overpowered her, the mighty Queen Arawelo. He then dragged her body out of the well saying:
“Wadkeed Korisooy, Waqwaq ma kaa yeertay”
‘O’ nurturer of her own terminator, did thou not wail’
This marked the end of the legacy of the Mighty Queen Arawelo. The villagers lived happily after her death, under the rule of her Grandson, Kenadiid. After the death of the queen, it is widely believed that the men wanting to get even with the women for the cruelty they suffered introduced the female circumcision.
Glossary of terms:
*Buraan = A village in the Sanaag region, Northern Somalia.
*Xagaa = This is the dry season, and falls between July and September. Severe droughts occur during this season and the temperatures usually reach 35-40 degrees Celsius.
*Buraashad = A small personal water container. A Buraashad usually stores water for long periods of time retaining their original cool temperature in the dry season.
*Xab (Plural, Xabab) = Also a water carrier, but this one is made out of cattle hide and is significantly bigger than the personal water container. It is used to store water in a way similar to the Buraashad, but for longer periods of time. Usually every family has at least one or two.
*Guntiino = an embroidered four-yard clothe usually worn by the Somali women. A Guntiino is usually made of a single fabric and is draped around the waste, covering the lower body till it reaches just below the knees. Then it’s pulled under one arm then over the shoulders to cover her bosom.
*Sahan = A nomadic practice where a young man, a scout, surveys far away lands in search of green pastures and water. On finding them, he returns to his people and leads them to the new found land.
*ba’ayeey and hoogay = In Somali language, ba’ayey denotes someone being defeated, whereas Hoogay is said when someone is retaliating.
village of Buraan lived a pastoral society where rain had always been the determining factor of grazing and prosperity. When hit hard by droughts, a brave girl, Arawelo, decided to save her village from the thirst and starvation. But on her return she experienced an ordeal that would forever change her attitude towards the men folk – Arawelo got raped in the forest of God-Libaax (Lions Den) and from there embarked of a mission to castrate the entire male populations of her village and surrounding areas. She soon became the queen and devised tasks for the men. These tasks could only be accomplished by men who have their manhood intact, which upon completion of the tasks she would castrate them too. Her mission to turn the entire male population of the city into eunuchs would have become successful had it not been for the bravery of Kenadiid, Arawelo’s Grandson who ran away from captivity at the age of 15 and disappeared into the woods. Kenadid disguised as a woman, later returned to the village and killed his grandmother. The village was thus saved from the terrible tortures of the mighty Queen Arawelo and they lived happily under the rule of Kenadiid.