Friday, 17 September 2010

Barka da Sallah (Happy Sallah)

On Wednesday we all left the office early to begin the Sallah celebrations which ends the fasting of Ramadan. I managed to get a lift to Kano, a very busy, large, ancient city, for 5 days to meet up with Sophie and 13 other VSOs who had all travelled from various states!

As you can see, Sophie has real fun accommodation. Her house is spread around the outside of a courtyard with huge trees in the middle. The bedrooms, toilet (as shown in the photo), shower, kitchen and lounge area are all doors off the courtyard. As you can see the lounge area doesn’t have walls all the way around but just mosquito netting and so whenever you wanted to go to another room you had to pass through the courtyard. This made it feel like you were living outside and reminded me of camping.

There is no running water except for one small tap in the garden so every morning when the water was running we had to fill up big dustbins, one in the toilet, one in the shower and one in the kitchen. (Notice Sophie filling buckets). As far as I could tell, the water only

runs for a few hours each morning if you are lucky. Fortunately we all managed to throw the cold water over ourselves each morning and called it a shower! Flushing the toilet takes an incredible amount of water so that definitely had to be rationed.

Many strange and wonderful things happened to us in Kano during the Sallah break;

• The first morning the Muslims broke the fast Sophie and I were trying (everywhere was closed) to get phone credit breakfast for everyone. Back and forward across the street, amid the cries of ‘Barka da Sallah’ a random man, who was from Sudan, came chasing after us. He said he had seen Sophie out and about and wanted to invite her to eat with his family. So. . . leaving hungry VSOs behind, we followed him into his house and ate with the female members of his family!

• One of my colleagues invited us to his village which was on the outskirts of Kano, so 2 of us went in his car and met his extended family, friends and had a tour of the pottery. We were fed a lot of food as you can see, but they didn’t join us in the eating and drinking; just watched us! We also met his grandmother who they said was 106 years old! (Grandmother is second from left, my colleague is in the middle with his aunties.)

We somehow managed to get into the Emir’s palace (the Muslim religious leader) to watch the Durbar (horse parades representing each district in Kano) by just flashing our VSO ID cards! I include this photo because it shows the policeman in black with his large gun casually taking photos on his camera phone! You can also see that it is women and children who had to sit on the dirt at the front while men and foreigners got the seats! If at any time the females stood up there was a huge roar from the men that they couldn’t see.

• The next day Sophie had a friend who amazingly managed to get all 11 of us VSOs into the Government House to meet the Emir. All the heads of districts came and bowed down to him and then there was a speech from the Emir, followed by the Governor. We were sat just 3 rows behind the Emir. (He is wearing the red hat on the bottom right). At several points his chief guard stood up and opened his glittery cloak to shield him, like a huge butterfly!

Here I am sharing lunch with the Emir and the Governor!

• After the lunch we were taken out through the deserted kitchen and down the back alleys, literally terrifyingly and amazingly weaving in and out of hundreds of parading horses to get the best spot to see the Emir parade past (under the gold umbrella).

• After a rest and an Indian buffet lunch I then went exploring (by motorbike) with a Kenyan VSO, to various markets, the dye pits and to the top of Dala hill where you have a full view of the city.

After writing this I now realise why I have been so tired this week at work. I have also been moving into my accommodation this week! Further stories to come!

P.S. See Jenny's blog for more Durbar information. She highlights different points from me!


  1. Keep blogging Lutse. I just love hearing all your news and quite envious. Enjoy every moment.I look forward to hearing what your accomodation is like.Sounds like an ensuite is unlikely!
    We've got an unwanted visitor in school next week. Guess who? You escaped at the right time but at least only coming for a day.
    Much love Jxx

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