I sambe sambe

01 Sep

The long grueling month of Ramadan came to an end on Tuesday, August 30th. Long and grueling for all the Malians around me, that is. While I did not undergo any grueling fasting, nothing could keep me or the kids from the festivities. Voices sounding “I sambe sambe” and blessings became a familiar thing to hear as the day progressed. “I sambe sambe” is the Malian equivalent of the Muslims saying “Eid Mubarak”. It was
interesting to compare this experience with the familiar experience of having lived in Bahrain (another Muslim country as well). In Bahrain, there was more seclusion and so I did not have the opportunity to observe the cultural aspects of the end of Ramadan. Ramadan itself was so pronounced as no one could eat or drink in public. The only thing I remember about the celebration was the relief that stores would now be open during normal times and the awesome food that our Muslim neighbors shared with us on this day.

Yeah, in his role as Mayor, took his deputy mayors to greet the Chief of the village and also the Imam. This is customary for the Mayor to do. We dressed the kids in new clothes that my Brother in law Bei had sent.Keanen was super excited. He wanted to put them on as soon as he saw them. Carmen on the other hand refused to do anything with a skirt. After much screaming and threatening, the skirt was on and stayed at least for half the day.

Yeah before he left warned me that as the day progressed I would experience a kind of Halloween. Not by way of the costumes but rather the lines of children that would come offering greetings and blessings in exchange for candy or money. I figured maybe four to ten kids may show up seeing as I am a Toubabou (white woman) who scares them easily. 🙂 To my surprise I was besieged by almost 50 kids. At first there was a trickle and then suddenly at one point 20 kids showed up at once. In unison they mumbled the greetings eagerly looking at the candy in my hand and waiting for me to part with it. As I started handing it out, the greetings only got louder and were said with eagerness in the hope that I would part with some more candy. A Costco bag of candies (you know how huge that bag is!!) that Yeah had fortunately brought with him was gone in a matter of 3 hours. Apart from making a few kids cry with the fairness of my looks, the morning was quite successful. Before I started handing candy out, I made sure my kids had their own little bags of candy because knowing my Carmen she literally would steal candy from a baby if she saw I was handing candy out. 🙂

My first victim. I would have picked him up, but I think he would have cried more

The kids soon got bored with this procession and attempted some old fashion fort building and reading to keep themselves occupied.

When Yeah returned, we took the kids to do some visiting with his family. It is amazing that the bustling village of Ouelessebougou literally came to a halt as families celebrated Eid within their compounds. The streets were silent and clean. Everyone had on their very best. This was the day most ladies were waiting for all month long. It was an occasion not only to celebrate their month long devotion to Allah but also to put aside the chores
and mundane nature of the day and look dressed up. The food too was delicious. For the feast, a goat was killed and cooked. The meat was put on a skewer and roasted over an open fire. Let’s just say the kids and I got enough protein to last us a week. Carmen devoured the sticks of meat like there was no tomorrow. Keanen ate them purely so he could have sticks to play with later. In the end I could hear him negotiating with Carmen because she had more sticks. 🙂

On the day before the Feast, as we drove through Bamako, we saw many lambs, goats and cows being killed or on their way to being killed. An average goat costs about $120 while a cow costs $350. Most Malians cannot
afford this hefty price that gets even heftier at Eid. So families will usually band together to buy a goat or cow. This year being an election year, more goats/cows were sold as Presidential candidates bought them for their campaign leaders in the various electorates. Yeah’s leaders in Ouelessebougou got one cow to share among their families. That one cow was divided for the 20 leaders there.

It is also common on this day for blessings to be given and received. Blessings consist of: Si tigi Allah
(May God give you a long life), kɛnɛya tigi Allah (May you have great health), wariba tigi Allah (God give you a lots of money), muso tigi Allah (may God bless your wife), den tigi Allah (May your children be blessed)
etc. Mali, for all its troubles, has a people who are God fearing. This day is no different for them as Malians impart blessings of prosperity and happiness to their loved ones and strangers. They train even their youngsters to say these blessings, hoping with time, an understanding will come.

The next day, a holiday also, Yeah hosted a breakfast for some of his other party supporters that had not received the meat. There were about 30 people in our compound sharing a cow’s head (yes you heard me right). This is considered a delicacy here in Mali and one that I will gladly pass on.

The meeting gave Yeah’s party leaders a chance to reconvene after Yeah’s month long absence and also an opportunity for Yeah to refocus on strengthening relations. Many of these people I had not met before and so it was nice to see and greet them. A mayor never rests and for the rest of the day Yeah had meetings at his office and at the house.

The last two days spell the end of Ramadan. However it also pronounced the re-start of the campaign. As it starts, what will Yeah’s message be? A change needs to happen and it needs to happen now. As the current president steps out of office, the field remains wide open to many contenders. Many of Yeah’s competitors are fierce and have embezzled money for too long. Many have held positions of high office and yet no good has come from their position. What is needed is a change for the youth of Mali. There needs to be hope that the young people can hang onto. The battle is going to be long and hard. It’s a hard thing to swallow that money is the controller of the election, in that the person with money will be able to get the word out better. Yeah has a great chance if he can get the word out. He has picked up some awesome endorsements. The latest endorsement comes from the Vice President of the Constitutional Court of Mali. This last endorsement is huge as the court makes some of the most impactful political decisions in Mali and also that the endorsement is coming from a high-ranking individual who knows the time for honesty and integrity has come.

Let’s rally and spread the word. The time has come for Malians to be given a fair chance at ethical and honest governance and to move out of the spot of third poorest country.

And to all Muslims and non-Muslims, Malians and non-Malians, I wish: I sambe sambe. Kɛnɛya tigi Allah, Si tigi Allah and wariba tigi Allah.


Posted by on September 1, 2011 in Past Posts


4 responses to “I sambe sambe

  1. Susan

    September 1, 2011 at 21:36

    Waribi tigi Allah! for the campaign of course. 😀 Love your blogs!

  2. Marissa Coutinho-Samake

    September 1, 2011 at 22:20

    LOL. Love it!! Thanks Susan 🙂

  3. James A

    September 2, 2011 at 13:54

    I love learning about some of these cultural insiders. A Malian/Muslim version of Halloween… how fun. The children are all so beautiful. I love how they have taken so much effort to get them all dressed up for this. and golly if you are a white woman to them then Shelby and I would be positively ghostly. 🙂

  4. Marissa Coutinho-Samake

    September 5, 2011 at 15:47

    it was fun James. The kids would have had a blast. If you could make some kids cry with your appearance, then that would make me feel


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