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The Spoils of Tabaski on Shell island

USA | Monday, 11 July 2016 | Views [319]

In a fit of restless ambition we made our way from Dakar to a small fishing village in the south of Senegal. We arrived early in the morning and before finding a place to stay on the mainland of Joal we decided to take the stroll over the narrow wooden bridge to the Island of Fadiouth. Our energy was immediately restored at the sight of an island made entirely from layers of mollusks. Every step you took was sounded by the alarm of tiny shells crunching beneath the soles of your feet. The shells are also seamlessly incorporated into the architecture of the island which is also a graveyard that is completely covered in empty clam homes. It is the only cemetery in Senegal where both Christians and Muslims are buried.

As time passed we realized that we were in Africa without a place to stay for the night and quickly made our way over the bridge to find accommodations. We came across a hotel “guarded” by a man sunning himself on a rickety lawn chair. We asked if he had any room available but with his limited English and our limited French/Wolof he quickly seemed confused enough to call the owner. He put me on the phone with another man I was unable to communicate with and shortly after the man I had heard on the phone was standing in front of me grinning awkwardly.

With his few words in English and my French translation book I was able to deduce that I had pulled him away from a very important family holiday preparation. He gave us a room and we apologized profusely for taking him from his family on a holiday. He seemed unfazed and invited us over to his cottage to enjoy in the spoils of Tabaski–which we soon found out was a Muslim holiday where tradition dictates that you celebrate by slaughtering a sheep.

This was apparent when we strolled past mountains of sheep heads and bloody sheep legs strewn across the beach on the way to his home. While this may seem horrific, this was one of the most unique and warmest experiences of my entire life. We spent the night communicating through laughter and charades with his family. This custom also demands that they get a new tailor made outfit, go home to their families and celebrate by eating mutton.

And eat mutton we did. We ate from a joint bowl with our hands from the same pot and the children danced to show off their new dresses to the strangers in their midst. I could not have asked for a more unique and intimate moment with strangers who invited us into their homes as family.

Tags: africa, celebration, dakar, family, festival, goat, joal, joal-fadiouth, mutton, tabaski

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