After 30 days of fasting the Ramadan came to an end for the Malian Muslims. For a moment it looked like they would have to join their Indonesian brothers and sisters in an extra day of fasting, it being too cloudy to see a moon at all. Luckily, in between the showers the clouds disappeared just long enough to see the moon and to confirm the end of the Ramadan.
An instant shift in the energies was to be felt. As if a burden had been taken of the people’s shoulders. Exhaustion and heaviness were replaced by light-heartedness. And even the weather made the shift. Heavy rains had been falling on the last day of fasting, turning into a fine drizzle during the night, clearing the atmosphere, making for a sunny day with a nice breeze for the celebrations.
People dressed up, many went to the mosque for the final Ramadan prayers and all families had abundant meals afterwards, including a lot of meat. Many a cow, sheep and chicken have given their lives for the celebrations.
Surprisingly those celebrations are family only. Not being a Muslim I’m fine with not being invited, even understanding that it could feel strange for a family to have a non-Muslim taking part in the festivities. What surprised me is that nobody thinks of inviting a Muslim that doesn’t have any family in town. (I was explained afterwards that anyone is welcome, but you’ll have take the initiative, e.g. invite yourself.)
One of those people had been knocking on my door in the morning. He looked a bit lost, with no place to go, walking the streets, hoping to see a familiar face. But there were no familiar faces around since people were at their family’s courtyards.
This friend, originating from a neighboring country was definitely having a hard day. The relieve of the fasting having come to an end was washed away by the feeling of home sickness and loneliness, due to the absence of his family.
My promise to myself to thoroughly enjoy the absence of people and having a quiet day, catching up on some sleep, taking a sun bath etcetera, disappeared when seeing his face. I just couldn’t leave him standing in front of the gate.
We had tea together, talked about life and I made him call his family.
None of that could of course make up for not being with his family, but maybe it brightened up his day a bit.
Year after year the end of the Ramadan festivities come with a lot of concerns for the heads of family. Everybody needs a new outfit and shoes, all women and girls do go to the hairdresser and the amount of money spend on meat for the meal is quite substantial.
Over the past month I had a few conversations on the subject. The times have been tougher than tough for many a Malian lately and money for all those expenses was simply not around. However, most Malians are of the opinion that it is not an option, it’s required and you’re not living up to your religion and God is not going to like it if you don’t honor these celebration in the right way: new clothes, new shoes, hairs done and lots of food…
Personally I think that God (or the Universe as I prefer to name it) doesn’t really matter if you changed your hairstyle and whether or not you’re wearing new clothes and shoes. It being your intentions and actions that make up the bill.
But, opinions and beliefs do differ, so many a Malian head of family now has the burden of a loan, that he will or will not be able to repay before the big celebrations, upcoming in early November, that require offering a sheep.
Anyway, life is back to normal, making it a whole lot easier for a non-Muslim in a Muslim country!
And in case the clothes, shoes and hairstyle are indeed taken into account, I’ll probably no more be able to make up for the debt I’ve built up over the years…