Somalis traditionally did not number years but instead gave each a name that immortalized important events or crises.
Nineteen eleven was the year of forbidden food, meaning a hunger so profound that people were reduced to eating haram foods that Islam proscribes; nineteen twenty-eight was the year of registration, widespread drought forcing northern Somalis to finally submit to registration by their British colonizers in return for aid; nineteen seventy-four was the year of the long-tailed, an interminable drought in the whole region that contributed to the fall of Haile Selassie.
Famines have visited the Horn of Africa so regularly in the past 25 years that there has been no time for new poetic appellations.… Seguir leyendo »
Ninety-two corpses have been found in the Niger desert; mothers with braided hair and infants strapped to their backs, children with Qur’anic boards tucked under their arms, old men in prayer caps and long robes. They died sometime in October but their remains have only been discovered now, threading the route to a well that some were only a short distance from reaching. They had been buried already, in the sand, far from the villages in which they had names and their personalities were known. The desert that always encircled their world has finally consumed their dreams and their bodies.
Some say they were trying to reach Algeria to beg on city streets, others that Europe was their destination.… Seguir leyendo »
Sixty years ago Somali sailors like my father, who lived in Britain, used a simple system to return some of their earnings to family members in east Africa: one of them would stuff all his money into his rucksack, get on a ship and hand-deliver each share to the designated families. There were no records or regulations, just trust and honour; and if any was lost, stolen or given to the wrong person, restitution was a slow, painful process.
Now, if I want to send money to my family in Somaliland for their hospital or university fees, I get on a bus and go to one of the many Somali money-transfer companies that have sprouted up across Britain.… Seguir leyendo »
Ask a Somali taxi driver in Streatham or Shepherd’s Bush what they remember of Mogadishu and their eyes widen, their hands leave the steering wheel in wild gesticulations and they become poets, rapturously describing it as a jewel, the ancient, sophisticated pearl of the Indian Ocean.
I have my own vision of the capital buried deep in my memory, some time during the few weeks I spent there as a four-year-old, waiting for our Aeroflot flight to London. Someone took me to the top of a lighthouse, and the view from its height is still with me: an expanse of ocean bordered by blindingly white buildings and merging at its fringes with the sky.… Seguir leyendo »