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Archive for September, 2007

SOMALIA 098

Damal – plenty of Mayrax is gathered from this tree. Mayrax is obtained by a long process of separating very thin threads from the bark and branches of the trees. It is used making Kebdaha (sing. Kebed) – which has various uses but is widely used for loading camels or building houses.

 

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GaloolMayrax is obtained from this tree and it is used as ood – an enclosure for animals. Walking sticks and Hangools are usually preferred to be obtained from the branches of this tree and it is also widely used for building huts.

 

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Dhirindhir – a white liquidy gum substance used as glue is obtained from this shrub. It is also widely used for making enclosures for animals and around the huts.

 

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This tree is widely used for stopping bleeding. I’ve forgotten the name unfortunately. It is used widely by women after birth to stop post natal bleeding.

 

 

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Bilcil – The bark of this tree is used as Culay to clean the utensils such as Haan, Hadhuub, etc. Goats prefer this tree, for when the leaves fall off, the earth becomes decorated with plenty of them and a feast for goats.

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Higlo – This tree’s leaves never fall off come rain or shine. It stays green throughout and lives for a very long time – staying the same throughout. if I were to go to this place in Manshax twenty years later, this tree would still be as in this picture. Camels love eating the leaves of this tree.

 

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Meygaag – This tree is present everywhere in Sool. The dried twigs of this tree are put in the fire for a while and then inserted in the Hadhuub and shaken vigorously – this is called Culay. It is also used to obtain tooth brushes.

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Qudhac – An omnipresent tree as the Meygaag. Mayrax is also obtained from this tree. It also bears small fruits known as Qubca which animals love. The Mayrax is made into Kebdo for decorating huts. It is also used to make ood.

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SOMALIA 211

             

In an earlier post I’d explained the construction of a Somali hut. But when I was passing by this place – Goob Ramaas – I noticed a small Somali hut being built and brought you some images. The above picture of Goob Ramaas, near Ceelbuh, clearly illustrates the vast open terrain called Sool. Like a giant carpet spread upon the earth, it rolls for miles and miles in every direction – as far as your eye can see!

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This is the Somali hut being constructed – and as I mentioned before, you’d notice that it is only women who build the huts. The men usually gather the wood from the Galool, Dhumay trees etc, and then the women get to work. The above hut being constructed is called Saddex-dhigood, meaning it is made out of three arched Gob branches as you can see above. This is the smallest hut constructed and the largest is made out of Seven. The most common huts though are made out of either three or four Dhigood.

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Though not of the same hut, this is how the inside of some huts looks like. In this picture, the thin branches that run somewhat perpendicular to the three Dhigo, along the entire hut, are called lool. These lool form a spread above the Dhigo so that the woven mats can be fastened onto the hut.

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And this is how the mats are then fastened to the hut. What you see in the picture on the left is Udub-Dhexaad – the middle, or sometimes on either sides of the hut, wood made usually out of Dayyib tree that fortifies the hut and keeps it erect.

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And this is how the inside looks like when it is finally built, with a small branch for hanging clothes as an extra.

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Now that the hut is almost complete with all the pillars of wood erected and the hut standing firmly, the only thing left to do is fasten the skilfully woven mats onto the pillars wood. The mats too though, have to be made by hand. First the Caw (above left) is gathered from the woodland after days of scouting, then after getting rid of the impurities, it is assembled as above and the interlacing or plaiting of the Caw begins (above right). This process of interlacing the Caw is called Falag and is usually done over drinks when women gather for conversations late in the afternoon.

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After interlacing the Caw, a single long sheet of Caw is made. This sheet is called Gadaan (above left). The name is derived from the meaning of the word Gadaan which is “round” – and because the Caw, after each plait, is rounded up as in the above picture, it is given such a name. Hundreds of single plaits of Caw are then interweaved to form a large mat called Dermo (Plural – Dermooyin). The picture on the right shows the Dermooyin on top of the hut.

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And here is the final result… As for the time it takes – well I passed by the hut being built (top) on my way to Ceelbuh. By the time I came back, about and hour and a half later, the hut was completed! Kudos to the female Somali nomads I say!

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ramadan Ramadan Kareem all. May Allah make this month a blessing for all of us and may our prayers be accepted. Ameen!

As for my declining posts, I have been slightly busy with work and and organising myself these past couple of days, but I will post some more reports from my travel to Miyi soon…

 

Have a Blessed Ramadan…

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wedding I would like to extend my warmest greetings to my friend Mohamed who recently got married while I was away on holiday and whose wedding ceremony I could not attend.

May your marriage bring you all the pleasures a marriage ought to bring, my friend, and may you have a never-ending supply of affection and patience which is vital in married life and may Allah grant you obedient offsprings.

And on a final note, may you have the ability to understand her and the ocean of mystery that surrounds a woman… ;)

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We left Bosaaso just before twilight set upon us. Accompanied by my brothers, we left my hotel at Al-Rowda, passed by Bosaaso Hospital, a thousand and one restaurants at the edge of the main road, countless hawkers by, cars, lorries heading out and entering the city, people, goats, sheep, soldiers, more hotels, carts and finally silence. Except for our short stay at Xalwo Kismaayo whilst we bought some sweets and mineral water, there was no commotion-filled, busy and eventful streets to be heard, no clamour of voices, no obnoxious Qat sellers, no loud conductors pulling you into their buses, just the noise of rubber eating away the tarmac. Arid, dry land occupied either sides of the road as far as the eyes caught. Further ahead, great mountains towered above the levelled ground. The enormity of such mountains loomed over the vast barren earth and formed a somewhat pleasing sight. By then I was all expectations. Every minute that passed brought me closer to an emotional reunion with a family I’ve left a long time ago and filled my heart with anticipation. I was starting to feel the goosebumps appearing.

The long stretch of road led us past the city control limits where the cars are checked for weapons, then past the villages of Laag, Karin, Kalabaydh, and several other tiny ones along the roadside and then just after we passed the dangerously serpentine road of Alxamdullilah, the driver came off the asphalted road and took a narrow rough path, through the arid land formed by the tyre tracks of cars and constant usage . The rough road rapidly rolled in front of us and the car bounced up and down at great speeds. We followed that route through an immense dark terrain, through Ballibusle, through Laag Xaariseed and after a gruelling five-hour journey set foot in the wilderness of Sanaag at 2 AM. A small hut erected in the middle of no where greeted us and adjacent to it, two thick fences made from the thorny branches of Galool trees formed two large rings. Inside the rings, animal dung had plastered the earth, covering the thin layer of soil. This is where the sheep and goats along with their lambs and kids come to rest after a day of traversing the plains of Sanaag.   

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From the hut exited my young brothers and sisters and my step mother and from there started the emotional reunion. It was an occasion worthy of a celebration and fresh meat was immediately served. We stayed that night or whatever was left of it and slept in the open, watching the millions of glittery stars that decorated the sky and danced around the vivid moon to form an enchanting display. What a pleasant night that was!

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Waking up early that morning, I observed my surroundings. I noticed with enthusiasm the extent to which my vision was restricted to – as far as my eyes could see. With trees such as Qudhac, Meygaag, Galool, Damal, bilcil and Higlo along with some Dhirindhir spread sporadically along a vast flat land, the wilderness was as open as the sea and stretched out for perhaps hundreds of kilometres. Such a vast area of land is called Sool (not to be confused with the region of Sool). Sool means an area that comprises of mainly the trees I mentioned above covering acres of land. It was the Xagaa season and the land, being slightly sterile was rainless and dry. Small bushes, usually a few centimetres off the earth, known as Dureemo and others slightly bigger, known as Duur, covered the earth. Duur is used extensively for building huts and enclosures for animals. All this I observed whilst on my way to where my mother lived – a small village called Habarshiro, right in the heart of Sanaag.

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Habarshiro, a tiny village lying at the foot of a small hill has Ceelbuuh as its nearest neighbour. Here, the vast land was, for the most part, unoccupied except for a few houses that conspicuously took up their rightful places in the middle of no-where. Barren and dry as it was, there were hardly any trees either, apart from the few dry trunks that stood like solitary soldiers assigned to keep watch and guard the village. Several wells surrounds the city known as Berkedo (sing. Berked). These serve as watering grounds for more than two thousand heads of camels, sheep and goats almost every day.

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As the car closed the distance between me and Habarshiro, my heart hammered heavily in her chest, threatening to crack my ribcage open. I even thought I heard its pulsating beats. A reservoir of tears gathered at the brim of my eyes, ready to gush out at the very mention of the word “hooyo” – mother! The car had not even come fully to a halt when I pushed the door open, jumped out, flung my arms around my mother and silently sobbed tears (though strongly repressed ) of delight, relief and excitement. A graceful woman with finely tuned features she was, though baked by the sun into a dark chocolaty complexion, and must have been without comparison in beauty in her glory days.

Gradually my heart came to rest and the thudding was replaced by a wave of comfort. The warmth of my mother’s embrace disposed of the inner restlessness, evaporating all concerns and worries into thin air and putting my troubled heart to rest. Everything else seemed insignificant then, my mind was for the first time completely free of thought! This was where I wanted to be and this was how I wanted to feel. At that very instant my life had changed and without regard for what perils and tribulations lay ahead, I’ve decided that this was where I wanted to spend the rest of my stay – under the shelter of my mother’s hut. The rest of my siblings were away, dispersed into the immense terrain, so whilst my father and relatives sat under the shade of the Higlo tree, I grabbed my younger sisters and mother and went inside the hut.

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After a few days stay in Habarshiro, it was time to discover the customs of the nomadic tribes. I set out early in the morning towards the Berked to water and load the camels my brother had brought from his hut in Manshax – three hour’s journey away from the village. Every two to three days he makes the same journey and loading his camels with water, returns to his house. This is called Dhaan. So that particular morning, with a strong desire to walk the plains of Sool and discover the land by foot, I volunteered to accompany my sister Seytun who was to take the dhaan back to my brother’s house. Being the first time I have seen her in her 20 years of living, I wanted to be very much with her all the time. Little did I know what lay ahead and how much trekking I would have to do.

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We set out with five camels loaded with water for two families. As soon as we disappeared from the sight of Habarshiro, I stopped and looked around. Not another single soul in sight, except for me and my sister and not another living thing except for our five camels. The immensity of the terrain simply astonished me; you could be walking for miles and not come in contact with a human being. We strolled along at leisurely pace, talking passionately about our lives through all the years of separation. An expert trekker, having traversed the entire terrain in every direction perhaps a thousand time, she knows the location of almost every tree in the area.

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The evergreen Higlo tree.

We were walking for only about an hour and I could feel that my body was spewing out sweat in excessive amounts and my feet begged for some rest. That I gladly welcomed and sought the shelter of a Higlo tree at which point my sister teased me for being unhealthy. That is how I completed my journey – walking for about an hour in the open and then finding some shelter under a tree. We finally reached our destination by noon – two small huts, intricate in their design, in the middle of a vast open space – and unloaded the water. There I sat, fatigued and panting for breath, and accepted a fresh cup of camel milk from my sister-in-law. I dreaded the journey back to the village and wished for once that I hadn’t been so impulsive. A three hour journey awaited me and I had to make it before darkness envelops the land, for then hyenas own the night.

Luckily I did manage, greatly exerting myself, to return to Habarshiro as soon as the rays of the sun plummeted down the horizon. After a few days rest and the pain in my feet subsided, I was ready for another ‘excursion’ – a painful excursion.

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to be continued…

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Bosaaso >

 

It was about three in the afternoon in Bosaaso and the sun was still intensely oppressive. From my window, I could see that the plane had landed on a coarse runway, between mountains, scattered with gravel and stone. A barbed wire bordered the stretch of the airport, leaving just adequate room for vehicles’ entrance and a small concrete wall guarded by some exhausted soldiers. A small house with two rooms, each with two windows and a tin roof occupied a corner of the airport and passed for ‘Imagration’ (immigration). Along its borders, each of the wooden windows was reinforced with a shield of iron. Within a distance of a few paces stood another building adjacent to a cafeteria; a house built in the same way as the former. “Customs Office Airport Bossaso” was painted in faint dark colours on a board attached to a mesh of concrete patterns. I was in Bosaaso, and the constant fear of the small clattering Russian plane crashing at any minute had left me.

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As soon as I stepped off the plane, some memories of the Dubai temperatures floated before me. A wave of baking heat greeted me, and my lungs seemed unable to inhale the boiling air. It seemed as if I was short of breath and the quick agonizing gasps of hot air scalding my throat felt like drowning. Huffing and puffing, I glanced ahead in to the bright sunshine with my eyes slightly squinted as my body tried to adjust to the severe conditions. With great struggle, I managed balance my weight on the wobbly staircase and set foot on land. I was on home soil and a slight sensation of relief came upon me. I was still brimming with my anticipation of life in Miyi and that of meeting relatives and family. But that feeling was soon drowned under the humid air.

A gush of uncontrollable trickles of sweat appeared on my forehead. I hate sweating profusely, and no matter how many times I wiped the sweat off with my face towel, more sweat from the open pores would drench me again.

Giving my ticket and passport to my cousin to deal with the immigration, I made my way past the swarm of porters each pestering in his own unique way to carry my luggage and went and sat in the car. Thirty minutes later and I was at the hotel. Situated in AL Rowda, Emirates Hotel is a new four-storey building attracting a large number of visitors. After a flight of stairs, the smell of fresh paint swimming through the corridors of the first floor waylays the nostrils and in the far corner several paint cans confirm the source of the smell. In each room of the hotel are two beds, two bedside cabinets, two cloth hangers and a TV. The funny thing about the rooms is that they rent the beds so you would have to share it with another person, thereby throwing privacy out of the window – that is unless you want to rent the whole room. The <em>rent coast</em> of each room as the Conditions of the Hotel stated – is 9 dollars a night for a bed and 18 dollars for the whole room.

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Bosaaso is perhaps the fastest growing city in this region. The city that was almost concentrated on the port a few years ago is now being stretched out. Almost hundreds of houses are under construction everyday and new houses, some with brilliant designs, stretch the city far out of its borders. Soon people will be building houses on the bordering mountains or even past the city control limits. Along the main road – the only asphalted road in Bosaaso – that originates from the port and dissects the city into two are thousands of people displaying different merchandise under corroding tin roofs and makeshift shelters. Perhaps one of the most valuable, highly purchased and highly profitable commodity displayed on the side of the road is the stimulant Qat. Several stalls of Qat decorate the sides of the main road, and are usually filled with animated activities. You will also find roaming products – people carrying their goods along with them and selling them. These are usually young children and sometimes even adults with a few pairs of clothes, some watches, batteries, socks and perfumes for sale.

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By day Bosaaso is a city full of activity, blaring horns, busy streets and the clamor of noise that fills the street. The main road road is the hub of commotion and becomes almost jam-packed with cars and people and it seems as though no one has a right of the road, thereby adding to the angry outbursts from drivers, carts and people walking by.

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But as soon as daylight disappears, the city’s face of evil is adorned in the darkness. Criminals wait in ambush at almost every corner, sharpening their teeth, waiting for a victim to take along. Walking through Bosaaso at night could mean the end of your life. A new wave of crime has erupted in the city. Groups of armed robbers, thugs, rapists and murderers roam the streets at night, stripping any possession from whomever they jump upon. It has been reported that several women have had their breasts cut off, ears chopped, raped and then discarded. The perpetrators, sometimes dressed in Burqas for anonymity, seize their victims and torture them until the early hours of the morning when they either release them or their bodies are found lying in some dingy corner.

Women too have now become part of this trade. Though few of the women are reported to have killed their victims, the majority of them would prey on lone men at night, rob them under gunpoint and take them home. This may seem absurd and incredible to say the least, but it happens.

Throughout my short stay in Bosaaso I was confined to the limits of my guarded hotel everyday after 6 PM except for a very few days. One particular day was when I stayed late at my cousin’s house and froze with fear on my return to the hotel. Darkness seeped from every little corner that led to the hotel. I expected that at any moment a Burqa or balaclava-clad person would jump out of the dark corners brandishing a gun. The wad of money I had then seemed of little significance. The possibility of being stabbed or shot for a few dollars or shillings hovered like a gigantic cloud above my head. With every rock that I stumbled upon, a fresh wave of panic startled me. I looked to the left and right in quick successions. Then behind me, then front. I observed every wall, every corner and expected someone. Sometimes I even saw people squatting down where rocks huddled lifelessly. I then looked back and saw darkness, adding to the constant fear that amidst the darkness, something will bounce upon me at any moment. Even the gentle breeze of warm air that blows at night startled me until the minute I reached the compound of my hotel.

The streets are teeming with beggars and shoe polishers. Even when the sun is at its peak, you will find shoe polishers as young as 5 or 6 years old, walking barefooted in the torrid heat of July or August, or beggars with the clothes outstretched on the streets.

Outside Al Rowda mosque, several women sit at the door regularly with their Hijabs widely spread in front of them. Several shoe polishers also shine shoes while people pray. And this is where I met him. A young scruffy chap in tattered black tee-shirt (looking closely I realized that the colour was originally blue) and a threadbare trousers came to me while I sat at Al-tawfiq restaurant, just outside the mosque, and said something indiscernible. I asked him to repeat what he said and he once again mumbled the same indiscernible words with a small smile, pointing to the water bottle I’ve been drinking. At this point, a waiter at the restaurant saw the incident and chased the little boy away. I went outside after him and handed him the water bottle at which he graciously smiled.
   ‘What’s your name?’ I asked him.
   Several flies took off and landed on his forehead in succession. He made no effort to wave them off. They descended down the bridge of his nose, scavenging whatever nutrition they could along the way, then down to his lips. His face darkened by the scorching heat had accumulated so much dirt and from neglect had become darker than the hands of a car mechanic.
   ‘Liban,’ came a faint reply.
‘How old are you Liban?’ I questioned him.
He looked up at me with pitiful eyes, parted his lips slightly, and then lifted his left hand up and gestured the number three with his fingers, then the number four and finally two. From his lack of willingness to talk and mumbled voice I sensed that he had a speech impediment and did not know his age either. I guessed him to be about 6 years of age if not younger. Hundreds of children similar to Liban roam the streets of Bosaaso daily hunting for their livelihoods. They are paid 1000 shillings – the cost of a small chewing gum – for a pair of shoes they polish.

My stay in Bosaaso lasted only for a few days whilst I waited for a car to take me to Miyi and when it came I was glad I was out of the heat, for the nomads live in far cleaner atmospheres with cooler temperatures…

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