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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

After travelling for several hours, the family had just settled into their new location with ample grazing ground and access to water nearby. The mother was disassembling the hut, sticking the Dhigo and Udub firmly into the soil and in close proximity were the two young girls holding the harness of the camel on which their elderly grandmother sat. Just as the two girls approached the hut, they were ambushed by loud chanting and the cries of ululating women drifted along the cool breeze and landed on their ears.

This they realised was an emancipation of the soul (it is not very often that weddings take place in the nomadic settlements) and were quickly impassioned. Imbued with an intense passion to participate in that wedding, the girls exchanged giggles and elatedly talked of attending the dance session afterwards. And quite rightly so, for this was their chance to mingle with the locals and exchange some verses of poetry.

Their grand-mother who, due to infirmity of age was too weak to walk and had to travel on camel-back, heard all the girls’ excited wails from her resting point. She too, though, hears the voice of ululating women resonating from the dark plains, not far from where they were now settling. After the girls had discussed their plans to attend the wedding, the grand-mother interrupted them and said:

‘Girls, girls! Would you stop the camel so that I can dismount and join those ululating women…’

They girls were taken aback by this request and stared at each other in amazement, unable to decide whether the old woman meant what she said or merely spoke in jest. This feeble woman, they thought, could not stand the noise and the dancing that takes place.

‘O’ grandmother, are you joking or have you finally gone insane’ they said.

Their grandmother smiled and then laughed, shaking her head slightly. Little do the girls know about the feelings of the old woman and what she is going through! Little do they know that over half a century ago, in an evening very similar to this, the very place that they have now settled bore witness to their grandmother’s first wedding! And in a manner similar to this evening’s wedding that the girls were planning to attend, many people from all over the countryside attended her wedding too. It was even perhaps here where her firstborn’s umbilical chord was buried. But to all this they were unaware, over taken by the wails of the wedding nearby. Even before the start of their long journey to this place, the grandmother was well aware of where they were headed and the wedding taking place.

In a short, succinct poem, the old lady relates her complete life story to her adolescent grand-daughters, wistfully lamenting her ripeness of age and the different stages in her life. She said:

 

  • Beri baan, beri baan          
  • Wax la dhaloo dhulka jiifta ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Bilig bilig baraar celisa ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was newly born, lying on the ground

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I scuttled around tending to lambs

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Daba-jeex dabka qaada ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Rukun rukun, reeraha u wareegto ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was entrusted to kindle the fire

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when aimlessly I ran around the huts

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Raamaley riyo raacda ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Habloweyn had hadaafta ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a juvenile guarding the goats

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a strolling mature girl

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Aroos indha-kuulan ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan 
  • Mar curad marwo reerle ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a mascara-clad bride

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a first-time mother and a housewife

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Laba-dhal laafyoota ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Saddex-dhal sit sitaacda ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was an elegantly ambling mother of two

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a dazzling mother of three

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Afar-dhal afo aada ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Shan-dhal sheekaysa ahaa 
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was the finest mother of four

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a gossiping mother of five

  • Beri baan, beri baan 
  • Lix-dhal liibaantey ahaa
  • Goblan talo aduunyoy 
  • Ma hadaan gabooboo
  • Laygu qaaday guro awr. 
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a triumphant mother of six

    Woe to you o’ world!

    did I now become old

    That I am carried on camel-back

 

Image by Photogenic. Story translated from Guri Waa Haween.

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old

time to rest

Everything in life has its peak then its glory fades. And we are no different. After a man’s life has reached its pinnacle, having attained all the sagacity and prudence it could, it starts to wane. Soon everything he possesses will start to either diminish or disappear. Whether he likes it or not, the dreaded wrinkles begin their assault on the once handsome face and the inevitability of age becomes certain. Then he starts to walk on threes, and finally on all fours. Like a toddler learning how to walk, the old man staggers and stumbles a multitude times. Hesitant and unable to walk long distances, he becomes confined to his resting place. Rendered immobile and almost out of touch with the community, he rests under the shade of his hut or a nearby tree and awaits any passerby to inform him of the events and news around him. Despite being hungry and weak, he is unable to eat and meals become almost unpalatable to him, except for whatever he could gulp down of camel milk.

As the sun sets everyday, his uncertainties grow – unsure whether he would be fit enough to see the break of dawn. And if he makes it to the daybreak, he becomes even more uncertain of its dusk! He starts to realise that soon, like his friends, he too will share a dark and dismal pit with the insects while the soil gnaws away at his fragile bones. If he was a poet it dawns on him that his friends with whom he would have exchanged banter with are long gone, as Dharbaaxo Jin said:

  • Raggiise aan la maansoon lahaa aakhiro u meerye
  • Raagihii mudnaa iyo Qamaan mawdkii baa helaye
  • Sayyidkii murtida sheegi jirey meel fog buu tegaye

 

  • The men I would’ve versed with have left for the hereafter
  • Death has caught up with the venerable Raage and Qamaan
  • The sagacious Sayyid too has departed to a far away place

In his feeble state, the old man become slightly petulant and develops an unpleasant disposition. The strident wails and laughter of frolicking kids annoys him. He is perturbed by loud noises and disturbances of any kind. Being in an isolated state, he often requires a constant companion to tend to his needs. And if not for a dutiful son or grandson or an unusually compassionate young man or woman to look after him, the old man if often left in his lonesome state.

When the poet Faarax Xasan Cali (farax Afcad) was in a ripe old age, he recited a poem describing the sort of woman he would marry, if he were to do so. He said:

  • Caanaha cidey kama bogto oo badey gugeygiiye
  • Hadba balaq midaan ii shubeyn waan ka boobsanahay

 

  • Cidey’s milks I am not satiated with as my years have increased
  • And she who wouldn’t readily pour me [milk] then I am wary of

It is also usual for an old Nomad in this decrepit state to completely lose his eye sight and/or become deaf or become partially sighted or partially deaf. When night falls and others are in deep slumber, he lies awake in his lonesome place twisting and turning, his groans and grunts filling the dark space. he is rendered sleepless at night and restless during the day, waiting for the angel of death to cast a shadow of gloom on his sombre existence.

Sheikh Axmad Gole was an erudite scholar, renowned throughout the Somali lands, particularly Western Somalia, for his understanding of religion. But when old age got to him, he was asked about his state and he replied thus:

 

  • Indhihii mid waa jaw                  the eyes, one is completely gone
  • Midna jeex yar baa haray           and a portion is left of the other
  • Jaaha iyo gacantii                      the face and the hands
  • waa wada jirkoodaas                  are but that mere skin
  • Dhegihii waxbaa jooga               a fraction is left of the ears
  • Waase sii jufmahayaan               But they are deteriorating
  • Ushaa ii jifada dheer                  that stick with the steel end
  • Waa jimicsigaygii                        is my tool for my exercise
  • Gol hadaan ku joogsado             if one a hill is step
  • Waan luqun jubaarmaa               I lose my footing and tumble
  • Dhul hadaan jadi maago             if on land I decided to walk
  • Waa badi jugleeyaa                    I stagger and fall on my bottom
  • Jidba geeljireentana                  if on my back I lie
  • Dhabarkaa I kala jaba                 my back would break
  • Hadaan jimicsi doonana             if I decide to stretch & exercise
  • Jiliftaa I kala baxa                      my spine splits into two
  • Hadaan jeenan waayana            if nourishment I don’t get
  • Sidii inan yar baan jalan            like a toddler I’d whine
  • Jil hadii aan qaatana                 and if I swallow a little
  • Waa jululuqeeyaaye                 my stomach starts to rumble
  • Jirkaygii hufnaanjirey              my once beautiful skin
  • Waa meela joolla ah                 is decrepit and old
  • Jismigii madoobaa                    my once dark hair
  • Hadmaa jookh cad lagu rogey   when was it encased in black?
  • Naagihii aan jeelkeenay            the women that I married
  • Way I jidi necbaadeen              have started to despise me
  • Wiilashaan jeclaan jirey            the sons that I used to love
  • Jawaab igama qaadaan             take no response from me
  • Odaygu waa jinoobaa               that the old man is possessed
  • Waaba lagu jalbeebtaa             they say and secretly gossip
  • Jiriidow Allahayow                   Oh Allah, you are Omnipresent
  • Kolba joogi meynee                 and we won’t last for eternity
  • Jidkii nebig na qaadsiiyoo       guide us to the path of our prophet
  • Jahanama hanoo geyn            and keep us away from hellfire

 

….To be continued

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 SOMALIA 169

Somalis are renowned for their hospitality. Though in their breast lies an indomitable spirit, sculpted by the asperity of their surroundings, Somalis are generally a pleasant people with a keen eye for generosity and are known to indulge in the pleasures of conviviality.

In the vast arid countryside, where the nomadic settlers roam, hospitality is of utmost importance. Here, in these boundless miles of barren lands and parched terrains, the nomads’ lives become interdependent; so much so that hospitality has become something of an obligation upon every nomadic settler. Regularly a nomadic family would receive a way-wanderer or a traveller lost for directions or people just passing by. These consist of nomads looking for their lost camels/sheep, or nomads on a long trip wishing to rest for the night or even Qur’an teachers who wish to provide their services to the nomadic families in rural areas.

It is the custom of the Somalis to provide for their guests, once they arrive, with all means available. It could be Diraac, the dry season when water is scarce, when the camels udders are empty, when the sheep are weak and the general atmosphere of the house is rather bleak and chaotic. Yet, despite this the family must provide food and shelter for the weary travellers who come their way no matter what. Even with most nomadic families already leading an abstemious way of life owing to their locality and meagre resources, to be able to serve a guest appropriately is highly commendable and to turn a guest away is the most dishonourable deed.

Being able to serve your guests is an honourable act and highly esteemed throughout the Somali society, however inappropriate a time they guests arrive. In the Nomadic lifestyle, the father who is the head of the house is ware that at any time he might receive guests and travellers, so he is always looking after his name and his honour. If a man is in possession of several milking camels, it is within his means to milk one or even two camels for his guests to serve them with fresh milk, and even slaughter them a camel, but during the times of Diraac/Jiilaal when milk is in short supply, when the sheep have become emaciated and the camels are taken to far away places for grazing, what is the head of the house to do to preserve his dignity?

Hospitality has been the subject of a countless number of poems and is peppered throughout the Somali literature in various forms, but to emphasise the importance of such noble act, I will post a few:

When Asnaan Sharmaarke of the Sultanate of Hobyo had an argument with his ruler, Ali Yusuf Kenadiid, he was later heard composing the following lines:

    • Tixda gabay guraasow beryahan daayey tirinteedee
    • Xalaan tow kasoo iri hurdada goor dalool tegaye
    • waxaaan tabayey mooyee anoo taahayaan kacaye
    • Halkiiyo toban jirkaygii waxaan tabayey lay diidye
    • Boqol tiirshihii aan ahaa lay tix gelinwaaye
    • Kol hadaan tawalo oo u kaco tu aan la gaareyn
    • Shan haloo aan laga toobaneyn sow la tebi maayo?

 

    • The composing of poems O Guraase these days I have abandoned
    • But last night I stirred from slumber with part of the night gone
    • I know not what I was in search for, but with grunts I awoke
    • Since the age of ten I have been denied that which I sought
    • For a man equivalent to a hundred men I was not valued
    • But once I resolve to pursue that unattainable quest
    • Five indispensable things wouldn’t you miss?

After these few opening lines into his poem, Asnaan relates the five character traits that he is distinguished for. Without detailing the whole poem, below is the stanza in which he exalts his quality as a hospitable man:

 

    • Erga toban habeen soo dhaxdayoo timi halkaan joogo
    • Tulda geela inaan loogo waad igu taqaaniine
    • Waa laygu wada toosayaa taajir saan ahaye
    • Gacantaan tashiilada aqoon sow la tebi maayo?

 

    • If after travelling ten nights messengers come to my dwelling
    • You know that it is my custom to slaughter them a camel
    • And all will awake to the feast as if I am wealthy
    • The hand that gives without restraint wouldn’t you miss?

Though Somali custom dictates that every traveller/visitor is received with open arms and cordially entertained regardless of ethnicity, region or tribal allegiance (even enemy tribes), this custom is gradually diminishing. I will add a few more poems in the next post.

 

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picsunset

boaters sunset

Whenever I close my eyes I see her. Her ageing face, pleasant with a few incipient delicate wrinkles; her skin, dark against the resplendent multicoloured stole gently resting on her shoulders; her wizened eyes still bearing the same reprimanding look that she had always effortlessly maintained; her greying hair neatly tucked away under the pale black scarf, with a few protruding strands softly lapping at her brow; her cheerful disposition and her ‘always vigilant’ outlook on life. Now here she lies, withered and wasted, under the soil that constantly gnaws away at her bones; her throbbing heart had finally come to rest, her muscles have renounced the battle, her limbs lie unconstrained and her body tranquil.

It was a sombre March morning when I became aware of it, 19 March 2006 (two years ago today) to be precise. A forlorn mist ominously hissed past the damp and empty Greenwich streets. It seemed colder than usual. The car’s windshield had been frosted with a thin coating of ice and my friend Abdi, drove along the A406 with extra care. I gazed out the side window into the early morning mist; the yellow sun’s lingering rays were slowly emerging, with a few fragmented beams that thawed the thick fog on the bare-branched trees along the road and far into the fields. The fields themselves seeped of insipidity and a motionless mist had cast a permanent gloom over the grass. I was on my way to the airport that Sunday morning when I received the call that changed my life as I had previously known it. ‘Unknown’ said the little screen as my hand hesitantly held it up and answered it. A crackling noise, with half unintelligible words and half drowned by the fading signal, greeted me on the other end. My brother Mursal’s voice it was, I recognised. And though indiscernible it may have been, the message was deafening clear. She had passed away; my aunt Maryan.

Ever since I became aware of my surroundings and was able to determine right from wrong, I remember her as always being there – a statue-like figure, imposing in its appearance, permanently ingrained in my mind’s eye so that it constantly stared down at me like a silent sentinel. Like a majestic tree in its full glory she once towered over my life. Not like the trembling Aspen whose lithe frame and slender branches sway with the slightest breeze; nor like the beautifully soaring Beech with its vivid mosaic of colours and a canopy of foliage that falls off at the hint of autumn, but like the mighty Oak whose sturdy trunk and rigid roots, though furrowed with age, stand strong in the face of unsettled seasons. Such was her character – bold, brash and dominating. Now, drained and debilitated, the mighty Oak has, at long last, given in. Its broad leaves have now wilted and finally dropped; its inflexible branches, that once sheltered a variety of life, have now shrunken and its strong roots have shrivelled.

Along with the frost and mist, time too had frozen. The seconds slowly gave way to minutes and minutes to hours; faintly the tarmac rolled, like a giant carpet that was being pulled smoothly beneath me in slow motion; the wind howled past at great speeds; horns blared and brakes screeched, but I was benumbed by the news and deaf to the noise, and quietly insentient and oblivious to my surroundings. Her face had covered my horizon – her image draped itself on the canvas of motorway signs, her words chimed and swam soothingly in my ears and my mind relapsed to a time many years ago when I left her.  

Had it not been for a broken leg and the bouts of illnesses she had suffered a few years prior to her death, no age could wither her nor slow her down. At 66, she could walk faster than any man her age so her death was a bolt from the blue. Having grown from toddler to a man under her care, my entire life revolved around her. My parents, nomadic pastoralists, have entrusted me into her care at the tender age of five. So I was beholden to her for things too many to mention, but before I could be of any service to her and repay the kindness of her guardianship in my childhood with compassion and care, we became separated as I left for England.  

And as distance makes the heart grow fonder, everyday life’s little pleasures had started to dwindle without her presence to illuminate them. And now, all life’s subtle joys and attractions have abruptly been terminated when that stream of consciousness was ended by her death. The cool shade of the oak had been lifted and the cloud that constantly overshadowed and sheltered me from life’s trials, even in her absence, had, in that very instant, disappeared – it felt as if she had entered into a deep slumber, taking all she’s ever given me along with her. Know my Aunt, that the caravan awaits and I am coming too…  

My mind now solemnly gravitates towards the lost stream of consciousness; towards the unattainable past. Her malevolent scolding has now mellowed down to a mellifluous melody with a tuneful, comforting resonance. And her memory leisurely lingers to fill me with hope. The Mighty oak may have withdrawn its branches and departed with its abundant shade but it has dropped its acorns, and from among these acorns another mighty oak shall soon grow…

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eid-card-2 

image

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A Nomadic experience 1

I woke up from my sisters hut. Beside me, stacked in some corner or hanging from the boughs were Sati, Sallad, Bocor, Hadhuub, dhiil, etc. – the very finest of a Somali nomad’s handmade utensils (I will explain these in another post hopefully in detail). Being my first time sleeping on a mat on rock solid earth, after so many years, together with my peculiar habit of sleeping on one side, I woke up with that morning with sore shoulders and a bruised ribcage.

It was a bright day, with a clear blue sky above. Not a single cloud hovered in the sky. The villagers of Habarshiro had already woken up and were by now at the wells, watering huge numbers of animals. My mother sat outside the hut – ardaaga, a partly enclosed area at the entrance of the hut plastered with tiny pebbles and covered (usually) with a mat – and made breakfast. That day it was Ruub – special thick round bread baked under burning ashes served with Sixin. After gobbling down the food quickly I made my way to the berked, for I have been informed that my younger sister, Zainab, would be arriving to see me today. I watered the animals from the Berked, all the time expecting the figure of my sister to emerge from behind the small hill that surrounds the village. After about an hour, she finally emerged, exhausted but with a radiant smile and with her seven-month old baby on her back! I couldn’t believe it – she had walked from a distance of four hours to come and see me and there were no words, however lofty, to repay that kind of love…

By noon, after we had lunch, I was sitting amidst several of my relatives when we were informed that a she-camel belonging to my father had gone missing a few days ago. The news came as a bolt from the blue to all the people, for their love for camels is without comparison. Generally, for the nomads, the lost camel is far dearer to them than all the present ones combined, so they would do everything at their disposal to search for it, often hunting it for days in the wilderness without returning home. Soon my brother, Mohamed, an expert camel herder, was sent with information of its last known location to follow it and bring back any news or sightings – a confirmation whether it was worth the pursuit or if it has been disposed of by the ever present predator, the hyena. They wanted a confirmation and as the old proverb goes “hubsiimo hal baa la siistaa” (precision/certainty is worth a she-camel). The rest of the day passed without much vibrancy.

 

SOMALIA 233 

 

The next morning my brother came early into the village with some news. Traditionally, when someone brings news to the nomads they welcome the bearer of the news in hope that he brings glad tidings. They say;

Warran oo lagugu ma warramo,

wiilkaaga mooyee walaalkaa ku ma dhaxlo,

la waari maayee waayo joog,

wax xun iyo cadaab la’ow

 

Bring news, but may your news not be brought

May your son inherit you and your brother not

Life won’t be long but may you live long

May you be free from all that is evil and hell

And he did bring some news. “There have been several sightings of a she-camel,” he said, “but its whereabouts were still unidentified. I have seen some tracks and followed them. There appeared to be a hyena chasing the camel, but just past Manshax the tracks disappeared.” The news was even worse than they had expected. The involvement of the hyena had raised their worst fears. Immediately an expedition was organised. The car that brought me to Habarshiro was still with me and so was the driver. It was then decided that we must take the car and look for the she-camel. We set off early, two of my brothers, my cousin and I, following tracks and trails of animals. Stopping at several huts yielded no valuable information. We finally met a young shephard in the vast Sool plateau and that’s when we were informed by the nomad that a ‘lone she-camel’ had been spotted earlier somewhere to our East. A sigh of relief came upon the faces of my brothers and cousin.

SOMALIA 256 

A nomad with his sheep and goats

We followed the direction of our informant nomad and headed east. The car drove slowly across plain fields and desiccated terrain, stopping from time to time and my brothers getting out to inspect and sift through the hundreds of footprints on the soil. Analysing the trails very precisely, they’d decide upon the time they were left and in which manner, as in if the camel was running or walking, and then they would decide upon the direction the tracks were leading to, thereby estimating a specific location that it would have reached.

SOMALIA 234

A camel-herder with his camels. This is my brother

The nomads are expert trackers and their knowledge of their land is unrivalled. Using trees as landmarks and indicators of their location, the nomads know exactly how long it would take a camel, or a person for that matter, to travel from one place to another, and using this knowledge we headed for the probable route of the she-camel and the estimated destination. After about 2 hours, and regular intervals to inspect more tracks that would confirm our quest, we finally managed to find the she-camel, among other camels. She wasn’t in a bad state, except for her rear which was bitten by a hyena. This explained the running tracks that Mohamed saw on the first day of his inspection of the surrounding areas – the trails of the camel being chased. And what a relief it was. Such a relief that the camels were immediately milked and we were served with fresh camel milk with Ruub.

SOMALIA 239  SOMALIA 236

Milking a camel (haaneed)                                      suckling her mother, though she is a bit old for that now.

As the days progressed, I learnt more about the customs of the Nomadic tribes and soon started to admire them. Though living in the throes of water shortages and meagre resources (this is during the dry seasons or Jiilaal. When it rains and water is in abundance, the nomads live a luxuriant life for they don’t have to take the animals to far away watering places and traditional songs and folk dances are performed regularly in the open. There is always plenty of meat and milk to be consumed and it becomes a merry time for weddings, so young men go scouting for their brides in these dances), the nomads are perhaps the one group of people who have understood life’s fundamental lesson of simplicity. They care neither for the trials the barren land may unfold tomorrow, nor do they weigh themselves down with the burdens of yesterday. They live for today, with as little of life’s encumbrances as possible. In their secluded world, detached from all worldly lures, the present is all that matters – the past has no relevance and the future no certainty. Enjoying whatever the earth yields, they live a frugal lifestyle without extravagance. They wake up the morning, each person going about his assigned job. No worries or stress, for as long as they have their camels, life is jolly good (except for the dry seasons when they struggle hard to find grazing grounds and water for their livestock).

SOMALIA 243

Eating Ruub with camel milk. What the man is holding is called Hadhuub-gaal or Gaawe

Now that I have returned to London, I have become slightly disenchanted with all the superfluous material pleasures and their impermanent value. Life in Miyi has left upon me an indelible impression and my wish is to return there as soon as chance permits me. I now have a clearer insight into the nomadic lifestyle with all its perils and pleasures. I do not think I could live it through though (settling down there I mean), but try I will one day!

The Somali Nomadic lifestyle is what defines the Somali culture. It is from these dry plateaus, valleys and watering holes from which all Somali traditions spring, forming the bedrock of the Somali society and a rich cultural heritage handed down to generations of camel herders and pastoralists. The traditional dances and weddings in Miyi forms the basis of almost all Somali poetry and music. To understand the meaning and origins of Somali poetry, music and literature, one must be fairly informed about the pastoral lifestyle, for without that one looses majority of the meanings, metaphors, allusions and insinuations imbedded within them.

 

SOMALIA 235  

The camel, as I have mentioned in an earlier post as well, is the centre of hundreds of poems from the earliest poets to the ones of today. Here is a poem that summarizes the life of the she-camel in 5 lines, from birth to maturity (I’ve added the ages the poet talks about for your convenience) ;

 

gugey dhalatay geed lagu xiryoo xariga loo gaabi

guga xigana gaaleemadiyo* dhogorta qaar goyso (2 jir)

guga xigana uur-giringiri* geela ku hor meedho (Qaalin yar, 3 jir)

guga xigana awar garabsatoo gooja* la hudeecdo (hal, 4 jir)

guga xigana good* nirig dhashay gaawe* laga buuxi (5 jir)

 

The year she was born, she is tied to a tree and the noose loosened

The year after that, she peels off part of her fur (age = 2)

The year after that, with a round belly, she parades in front of the camels (age = 3)

The year after that, she mates, becomes pregnant and dawdles (age = 4)

The year after that, good has given birth and a gaawe is filled (age = 5)

 

*Gaaleemada  = the first fur the she-camel develops at a young age. this coat of fur stripped when the camel reaches about two years of age.

*uur-giringiri = by this time the calf develops a slightly big belly. She is neither suckling nor is she mature enough yet.

*Goojo = when the she-camel is pregnant the first sing is that as soon as someone approaches it, or a he-camel approaches it for mating, it spreads its hind legs and urinates. This is called Goojo and the camel-herder estimates a time when it would give birth.

*good = the she-camel is now called Good. As soon as she gives birth she is given a name, but before giving birth she is called “daughter of such and such” or “ina hebla”.

*Gaawe = Hadhuub gaal used for milking camels.

 

In another poem, Cumar Australia composed a brilliant poem about camels.

Ragga laxaha sii dhawrayow dhaqasho waa geele

Dhibaatiyo adoo gaajo qaba dhaxanta jiilaalka

Dhoor* caano laga soo lisoo yara dhanaanaaday

 

O’ you men who tend to sheep, rearing is camels

when adversity and hunger finds you in the winds of Jiilaal

The milk obtained from Dhoor with its sharp taste

 

Nin dhadhamiyey wuu garanayaa dhul ay qaboojaane

Goortaad dhantaa baa jidhkaba dhididku qooyaaye

Ragga laxaha sii dhawrayoow dhaqasho waa geele

 

A man who tasted them knows where they cool down

as soon as you drink it, does sweat drench the body

O’ you men who tend to sheep, rearing is camels

 

Waxa dhaba habeenkaa ninkii dhama galxoodkeeda*

Dhallaanimo qodxihii kugu mudnaa kaaga soo dhaca e

Ragga laxaha sii dhawrayoow dhaqasho waa geele.

 

Guaranteed it is that a man who drinks its (camels) Galax*

In childhood the thorns that pricked you would be discharged 

O’ you men who tend to sheep, rearing is camels

 

 *Galxood = comes from the word Galax. When a camel is milked, the fresh milk is initially hot and forms a lot of froth on the surface. The milk is left to settle down and the froth disappears. Once it disappears, very cold, pure milk is what remains. This is called Galax.

*Dhoor – Mane. Also known as Baar. A camel with a mane has not been used for carrying water or disassembled huts. Dhoor is also sometimes used as a name for a she-camel.

 

Cumar Australia also goes on to say that;

 

Inkastood adduun badan dhaqdo dheemman iyo daaro

Inkastood dhar wada suufa iyo dhag iyo laas qaaddo

Dhaxal male nin Soomaaliyoon dhaqannin koorreey*

 

despite having a world of diamond and dwellings

despite you having luxuriant clothes of cotton

Inheritence he has not, a Somali who doesn’t rear a camel

 

*koorreey = comes from the word Koor which means a wooden bell – the one tied around the camel’s neck. Here Koorey refers to camels.

For centuries the Somali Nomadic lifestyle had existed, people have endured the worst of droughts and famine and were content with their herd of camels, and though that lifestyle is now somewhat sluggishly diminishing, pastoralists will continue to exist despite the growing number of villages and urbanisation of Miyi.

 

cp.s I have attended a wedding in Miyi and will give you the details about the customs along with some pictures soon Insha-Allah.

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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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