Monday, February 02, 2004

Jan. 29, 2004

This coming Sunday is Al Eid Al Kabeer [Big Eid]. It is the Eid of Haj and there are many lovely rituals and ceremonies. The day before Eid is Arafat and it is the most important stage of the Haj [pilgrimage]. The pilgrims all stand on a mountain near Mecca- Mount Arafat.
When we were children, we used to await this day impatiently… as if it had a different aroma than the rest of the days of the year. We used to rush home to our mothers making the special Eid cake…Ah, I can almost see those happy moments in our life that passed by… if only they had not passed.
If only we could have remained young… playing and screaming- not caring… actually not knowing what the older, more mature people were doing… catastrophes, wars and destruction to humanity.
When I was a child, I wanted to grow up fast so I could become mature. I had a belief that all adults were mature and they never made mistakes. I later learned that they are more stupid than children a lot of the time… but we'll get back to Eid.
We used to go out and buy our Eid clothes a week or more before Eid. We'd hide them in the closet and check them each day and never, ever wear them before Eid itself- that would ruin Eid! That's what we'd warn each other. The night before Eid, we'd lay them out on the bed- even if there were new shoes, for it wouldn't matter- they were new Eid shoes.
We would clean the house, take baths and brush our hair. The boys would take the trays of cake to the bakeries for baking and when they returned, the aroma of delicious cake would fill the house.
We'd reach out to taste some of it and my mother would yell, "Leave it for Eid!"
The neighbors would gather at my mother's and they'd discuss all sorts of topics and one of them might borrow a tray and the tools for making cakes to use at home, and everything would be filled with joy.
In the evening, we'd wash the narrow street, or 'darbooneh', in front of our house. How I love that name! It reminds me of sweet, old days… And that whole day we'd hear the call of the pilgrims speaking to God, "Labayk Allah, Labayk… Labayk, La Shareek Lek, Labayk…" We repeat it along with them as if it were a lovely song on our lips…
Everything on the night of Eid is beautiful and joyful and happy…the people, the houses, the streets, the city.
Today, where are we in relation to that world? It's like it extinguished, never to return… like the world of dinosaurs. It doesn’t matter if we purchase new clothes or not, clean the house, buy sweets and baked goods, greet Eid… I feel that the hearts are weighted down by sorrow. We go through the rituals, and the greet the guests and offer everything available… and the sorrow doesn't leave our hearts.
I don't know, but I can't taste the flavor of these days… am I just depressed or am I in a world that has become this way for everyone?
And Baghdad is sorrowful like me, with its dug-up streets and people lost between the mysterious explosions that are of no use to anyone… and newspapers printing scandals, of which legitimacy and intentions are unknown… and the Governing Council always talking and doing nothing… and the protestors angry at the wages too low for a decent living… and the American army spread all over the city…and American elections there… and promises of reconstruction, a happy life and lots of dreams…
we may realize later on that they were just the pressure of dreams!
How much time will we need to wake up from this deep sleep of ours…?

translated by Riverbend.

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