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My fondest memories of Eid celebrations

30th October 2012
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One of my fondest memories as a child is the Eid celebrations specifically those of Unguja, Zanzibar. In fact, Eid is a whole sequence of events before and during the actual Eid days.

All that business of girls decorating hands and feet with exquisite henna designs and boys sporting fantastic haircuts a day or two before Eid. Really, the best way to describe these celebrations is to witness them.

This festivity is of course celebrated worldwide, but Zanzibar gives a unique charm to the celebrations. Everyone you meet from infants to adults are dressed so smartly, sometimes so flamboyantly, females especially and little girls in fantastic party dresses. They seem to plunge you into a fairy world of pinks and blues and greens and what have you, with all manner of frills and trimmings added. Not to forget the scent of oud and hal- oud lingering in the air and around every person you meet.

In Zanzibar, Eid celebrations are known as “Sikukuu ndogo” and “Sikukuu kubwa” in Kiswahili. This basically means small celebration, which is after the Holy month of Ramadhan. Then there is “Sikukuu kubwa” celebrated after Hajj (pilgrimage) with little less fanfare.

Every child in Zanzibar would practically be dying of excitement and anticipation about a week or less before Eid as the count down begins.

One will hear children and young adults talking about the new clothes, shoes, handbags, hair accessories, kanzu and kofia, the parents had bought them and what they themselves would buy with the cash given to them when they visit friends and families in the Eid morning.

It really creates a warm, loving atmosphere, almost fairy-like for the children, as out of the whole year, their smiles would be widened for about four days.

Yes, Zanzibar takes it a notch higher and has Eid for four days, from the moment children wake up until they go to sleep, it is “heaven on Earth”.

I always wondered as a child why we could not have “sikukuu” more frequent. Especially, “sikukuu ndogo”, which offers a bonus of extra cash from family and friends to children who had fasted during Ramadhan.

Unlike Christmas, children are not bought presents. They buy their own from money received. And the best part of this is when you get back home and can start counting the notes and plan your shopping spree.

Usually, after Eid prayers everyone returns home for a mouthwatering breakfast, more feast like before setting off for those cash gathering visits to family members, friends and neighbours usually enlivened by laughter, childhood memories and sheer delight of meeting of family members who had vanished throughout the year and more.

The chatters, swapping of food plates between houses, lavish delicacies, the envying of other children’s outfits or the huge cash they had netted, these are just among joys of Eid. If one doesn’t watch out, quite a few extra calories could be among the Eid gifts received and don’t blame the weighing scale but the memories gained are worth it. You can always melt down those extra pounds with extra workouts after Eid. Everything has its price!

It is absolutely beautiful to watch for four days how every child feels like a prince or princess regardless of social status. Parent and guardian go out of their way to make Eid a special event for the kids.

For four days the island’s humdrum activities seem to have frozen. Not a thought of school, hospital, the fish market or laundry. All those pushed aside in a whirl of fairyland romance. The days would usually end at Mnazi Mmoja or Maisara grounds where open-air stalls are set up for children and their families to buy toys and delicious goodies.

And who would not want to be treated like a prince or princess even for just four days! hafsa@grassroots-traveller.com

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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