A neighbour at our courtyard left for Bamako not too long ago. He told us that he would be staying there for a while. Since he has the habit of staying up late and putting his TV out on his terrace with the volume on HIGH during the early morning hours, we were not at all feeling sad about it, rather relieved.
As often has happened in Mali, the relieve was a short one. Our neighbour had indeed left, but he had forgotten to tell us that others would be using his house during his absence.
The first group arriving came as a surprise. They were our neighbour’s friends, we were told, and we decided to surrender till they left, counting the days. The courtyard slowly turned into a garbage dump, our nights were shortened by their parties, the visitors didn’t bother greeting us and just complained about the tap being locked.
About a week later they left, Moussa cleaned out the courtyard and rest returned.
‘There seems to be another group of friends of Assid in his house’, I mentioned to Ibrahim recently.
‘No’, he sighed, ‘Assid is renting out the place to couples for their honeymoon.’
‘Oh no, I hope you’re kidding’, I stated.
Ibrahim just nodded his head…
It’s an old tradition, going back to the times that marriages were arranged by parents, without the young couple even knowing each other before the day of their wedding. The newlyweds were given a week together to talk and explore married life in all its aspects. They would be accompanied by some people to serve them, prepare their meals and take care of all their needs. Visitors were welcome and throwing a few more parties are all part of the honeymoon.
The couple that had arrived brought along their care takers, who instantly started to treat us as their best friends. We were warned!
It didn’t take them five minutes before they ordered Ibrahim to tell me that I had to give a reasonable sum of money to the married couple. When he asked them for the reason, he was answered that I had a white skin and therefore had money, that I had to share with them.
Ibrahim told them to forget about it; neither I or he would be giving any money to them.
From that moment on they totally ignored us whenever we greeted them.
Sure enough it didn’t take long before the crowds arrived. Dinners were being thrown. And we were treated with garbage flying around and lots of noise.
‘What’s going on?’, I asked in surprise, reacting on the screaming at the courtyard.
‘That’s why I asked you to not yet start cooking’, Ibrahim replied. ‘That’s the first griot arriving, they are planning on having a party tonight. You noticed the speakers?’
I had indeed noticed the speakers…
We went out for dinner and lasted a bit in town. We weren’t too eager to go home, since we had started sleeping outside, it being too hot inside. However, the country being under a curfew, we had to.
Returning home we were very surprised to hear only men talking. No music.
Moussa had saved us from another short night, speaking out and telling the couple and their care takers that it is not too kind to throw a party at a courtyard, where you’re a guest for only a week, without even talking to the neighbours living at the courtyard and asking for their permission.
‘You need to respect that other people prefer it to be calm so they can have a good night’s rest’, he had added.
The guests were not amused and very upset, but we were very grateful for Moussa speaking out!
The streets may belong to everybody, at least it is dawning upon some people that at a shared courtyard you need to respect one another!
It’s only been a few weeks since that evening and I would be very happy to be back at that courtyard, even if the neighbours would be throwing a party with screaming griots…