Couscous in a traditional African plate, another tsaraba from Dakar
Monday, 3 February 2014
(90): Tsaraba from an adventurous journalist (II)
So I contacted the tailor immediately to make sure she prepares the tsaraba within few days so that I can take it with me; and so she did, but what is important is another tsaraba that I discovered which is common among Senegalese women. Tailoring is very popular among them; in fact you can say it is a global industry mostly patronized by fellow Africans from various parts of the continent and beyond.
Some of these women actually convert their houses into business centres, dedicating a portion to the tailoring business while playing their role as full time house wives. Once in a while they come and supervise their employees to ensure that everything is on track.
These women have a lot in common with the ones in my society; they are Muslims, Africans, and full time house wives. Yet they have created a successful business in their own houses without having to worry about the horror of working under a ‘boss’, in fact they are the CEOs of their businesses, their children will not be deprived of motherhood because the mother is there for them.
Beyond that, they are employers of labour, thereby helping the society to be productive.“Daga gani ka san babu rigimar kudin cefane tare da maigida” (there is no need for quarrel with the husband over money for maintenance or other household needs), I thought. In fact I even saw one of the women helping her children with their school assignments while keeping an eye on her employees. Indeed I saw a better approach to women empowerment in the tailoring business practiced by some of the Senegalese women, one without tearing the family institution apart.
“Jameel”, said a fellow colleague who accompanied me for the window shopping in order to get the best tsaraba from the journey, “I am surprised at the price of these clothes”, “I always thought they cost no more than twenty to fourty dollars” he said with his face clearly expressing his astonishment. “Many people will be surprised because the material alone, a ganila or gezna costs around fifteen or even twenty thousand Nigerian Naira, which is around hundred US dollars”, “wow” he said, “from today I will have a different impression of these clothes, I think there is a difference between West African and Somali culture”, he added.
“In fact if you want to get married in Nigeria, at least in the region I came from, you need to prepare boxes of these expensive clothes as part of the marital gift”, I told him. “Are you serious” he said, “Indeed Iam”, and with the surprise written all over his face, we took a taxi back to our hotel as it was getting dark, and we have a meeting to attend at 9pm as part of the preparation for the event the following morning, and so we returned to the hotel.
The following day, after hours of work we wanted to have a taste of the local restaurants. You see whenever you visit a city, make sure you visit the local restaurants; it will leave an indelible memory of that country. But here is my advice, make sure you learn the names of the best food there as they are written in the local language to avoid the experience I once had in Milan, Italy in 2007. We visited a local restaurant, they neither speak English nor do we understand Italian, after going through the menu the only thing I could understand was spaghetti and something I could not remember. After making the order available, it was indeed spaghetti, but cooked with dodon kodi (snail), and in Hausa culture, that is a no go area for many. What else can you do, just say bismillah (invoking the name of Allah) and go ahead. We still laugh when we remember this experience especially when we receive visitors who claim they will never eat dodon kodi.
My friend and I decided to work through the streets; after all it is an exercise, and an opportunity to see the city. “There is a Moroccan restaurant over there”, my friend spotted, and we branched there immediately. After going through the menu we placed an order for couscous with chicken stew. Couscous was not among my favourite dishes some years back, until I met some friends from North Africa, especially Libya while I was studying in the UK.
For them Couscous is a ceremonial food, and you wouldn’t like to miss it if it is well prepared. A mild drama happened between my friend and the restaurant attendant. After making the order available, my friend asked the attendant, “is the food halal?”. “Are you accusing me of selling pork to you?” the attendant replied, I quickly intervened with a brief explanation. My friend lived most of his life in Canada, and it is common for Muslims especially those living in the West to always verify the food to make sure it is halal (permissible). This could partly explain the rise of the halal industry in the West. Even conventional restaurants like KFC and Burger King put the halal sign in their restaurants to cater for the needs of Muslim customers in some countries. “You see this is a predominantly Muslim country, it is good to verify, but you do not have to worry”. And so we had a nice dinner.
But the most expensive tsaraba I brought from this journey took place on Thursday 29th January, 2014. We visited the Goree Island, the Island that was at the centre of slave trade for 300 years. Where over 20 million able bodied Africans were transported to Europe and North America as slaves. It was a visit that will make your heart bleed with the tears of agony over the atrocities committed against the black people.
To be continued