In The Gambia, everyone gets new clothes and shoes to wear to the prayer grounds and out to greet neighbors. The kids get so dressed up they are practically unrecognizable in their fancy clothes and gaudy make up. And to be honest, although it’s not the intent, some do actually look scary. Instead of parading around for candy, though, they ask for “salibo,” any small amount of money neighbors are willing to give.
Known as “the tree of life,” some baobab trees have been dated as ancient as 6,000 years old. The tree in Sibanor stands at the center of the village, a watchful presence harboring even more stories than the toothless weathered widows who kneel below it in prayer.
Every day for the past 30 days, we have only eaten rice and fish. Actually, fish only comes on the lucky days; sometimes, it’s only rice and leaves. As the days of rice and leaves and fish drug on, I tried to think of each meal as one closer to the day we would eat meat. The night before felt like Christmas Eve as I anxiously awaited “The Sacrifice.”
Tobaski, better known across the world as Eid al-Adha in Arabic which means “Festival of the Sacrifice,” commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son at God’s command. However, God intervened and provided him a lamb to kill instead according to scripture. The holiday is in the final month of the Islamic lunar calendar and lasts for three days while Muslims symbolically sacrifice sheep and share with family and friends.
Benechin is fried rice with vegetables and either fish, chicken or meat. It is often also served with a tasty leafy-green okra sorrel. For the Tobaski Edition, we of course had plenty of meat at the center of the food bowl.
In The Gambia, Simba is not a cute little lion cub who wants to be king. Simba is instead a lion-like masquerade that can only be described as horrifying yet somehow weirdly entertaining. Which come to think of it, is exactly how I felt about the Lion King as a kid.