Saturday, 22 August 2009

Ramathan in Rusafa.

Ramathaan in Iraq has its joys.

Being shaken awake at 4am to gulp water, was not something I looked forward too. Occasionally this dangerous job would be allocated to someone who wouldn't be shouted at by sleepy people. A few times i choked as my sister helpfully poured water into my mouth as i slept.

I remember the men of the family grudgingly walking off into the mosques. But their return was always happy, and it wasn't to do with praying or the maginficence of the building. It was definatley because of the chatter and laughter of the gathering. Jokes, losing at chess and verbally showing off your children is the gist of what seemed to happen in the men's mosque. My brother bored me to tears continually talking excitedly of cars and guns he and his friends had discussed.

When my mum repeatedly stressed that I go, I did. There was a shop just a few centimetres from the mosque. I took my little sister to it, who to my frustration could not make her mind what to buy. The guy questioned why she wasn't fasting. I stared at him for quite a while. Without saying anything, i walked out, my bright gold hijaab trailing behind looked like fluid metal. Reading the quran and listening to the Imam was something that we were bribed to do. The guys got colourful guns, and the girls got flower hair clips. Occasionally i was emotionally moved by the passion of the Imam's voice. It would quiver and choke in the silence, as he talked of how everyone should give money, as orphans starved and had no joy.

Sneaking past the men's section once, meant that i saw the act that the middle aged guys all did. Each competing against the other to give more money. It was almost laughable, but since the money went to charity, i suppose its a good thing. Their jumping up from the floor, their leather wallets in their hand readied. It almost looked as if they were going to fight.
The older men sat on chairs, in the middle of the hall. Prayer mats folded neatly at their feet, their sibhat (prayer beads) furiously glinting in the neon light, as their skilled fingers flicked bead after bead, or their hands twirled the beads round and round in a hypnotising action.

The young guys were always outside the mosque. I realise now that perhaps it was an act of rebellion. At the time i thought that it was to do with the endless cigarettes smoked. It gave a surreal look; puffs of cloud snaking around, with the multicoloured lights illuminating the smoke, making it look like a genie was about to pop out and grant all my wishes and dreams.

Back to the women's section, the women would endlessly try to get rid of their children, to the extent that they managed to get a toy room built. It was a good toy room.
Their talk would start of religiously, all filled with Inshallahs and Alhamdullilaahs...but then would inevitably lead to their husbands and children. There was 2 groups, those that complained about their family, and those that boasted about their family. The they'd talk about cooking. I'm almost sure that every time we visited the mosque, my mother would leave holding a piece of paper, with another new recipe, that wouldn't quite work. It was fun making it while not being able to taste it, so there would be too little salt, or too much sugar. Hunger meant it was eaten anyway.

After the mosque, we would either have people at our house, or we would go visit someone's house. The three or four hours until sunset would be spent half watching cartoons, half excitedly talking about plans for eid. The girls, myself included, all happily helped in tidying up, all the while talking and laughing endlessly.After tea, we all seemed to get really tired. Me and my friends would trudge upstairs, only to be bombarded with pillows by my brother and his friends. Unfortunately, after a vigorous pillow fight, the tiredness combined with the pillows littered on the stairs, meant that the younger children would just sleep on the stairs, surrounded by pillows.

The last few hours of the night were spent coaxing children awake, and sitting on the steps planning revenge.

During Ramathan, Baghdad always seemed so brighter and more colourful. Everything had a new appeal. Shoes and Clothes looked better in the shop windows. The air seemed to glitter, as fiery lanterns and metallic decorations hung on rackety stalls, ready for the inevitable end.