Monday, April 5, 2010


This is a day for story telling.
It is grey, rainy and cold outside like it often is in autumn at the South-African coast. And this makes me feel lonely in a good way. When I am in this mood, when I am loneliness then I can write. So if you want and if you are loneliness too today - follow me to a country where it is always hot and where I can find a lot of memories for you.

I lived in Mali once, a dry, hot and dusty country in the Sahel situated in the Western part of Africa whose heart beats in the Sahara. I lived, loved and worked there for a while. 
My home was in Nara, a town in the north of Mali bordering an even drier land - the old and beautiful Mauritania.

The people of Nara told me that the name means fire. Some insisted however that Nara originated from Noara, the name of a moor woman, strong in mind and very beautiful with light skin so it was told, who was the first person to have the courage to settle down in that harsh region called the Valley of the Snake.

Monday was a very important day in Nara because it was market day and the locals would come from as far as Nouakchott on camels, donkeys, in Land-rovers and by foot to the market to trade their goods on one of the most colorful markets in the Sahel region. 

  (unfortunately not my photo but Lehnert & Landrock)
One day on a late afternoon when all activities were dying down in the last light of the day I walked to the market, feeling the hot sand come through my sandals making it uncomfortable. The Soninke, Moor and Tamacheq families were already returning to their villages. The women were sitting on donkeys or on camels covered in long black blue veils holding the smaller children and treasures bought on the market while the men and the bigger children were walking beside them leading goats or having chicken dangling from their hands. 

I visited a couple of stalls and then strolled over to the part where the shops were. I went into a corner store. A corner store was something prestigious because it had several doors and the air could float through making it less hot.
In the middle of that shop was a mountain of carpets and on that mountain lay Mohammed whose face I had only seen once or twice without his turban covering his face. He was sucking on his pipe and threw a glance in my direction when I walked through the door.
Covering all the walls from bottom to top were veils, veils with colors and patterns of paradise. The colors seemed to be in love with each other and wanting to hold on to each other forever.They had a slight but distinct smell and I could not help touching them, letting my hand run over them while walking along the walls.  I had been there before..... I came again and again to look and touch the veils.
When the wind blew into the shop the veils moved and they started whispering.

" Salam Maleikum " said Mohammed
" Waleikum Salam " responded I.
" Would you like me to make tea" he asked
Of course " I said.
So he started the old ritual of making tea.
I felt exhausted, punished by the heat, out of place and when I looked through the oval of the open door it seemed like the sky was ablaze with white light and the light was pushing through the door hurting my eyes. I felt like fainting in my striped camping chair that he had put up in one corner for me.
I often felt like this at the end of he day in the first weeks.
The strong tea helped and he offered me cookies like always that were as hard as river stones but once I had chewed them up they left a bitter strangely biting and sensual ginger taste in my mouth. His wife made them.

We sat a long time not talking too much, chewing cookies, drinking tea, smoking and only the occasional word fell in between.
" Do you like to work ? " he asked
" Yes, I just do no like getting up early in the morning "
" So you're lazy ".. came his voice

" In the name of god, it is not written and it is not fore-seen that you should become mine. " he said.
I turned my head and looked straight at him. So far I had not thought of that possibility. But once the door has been opened the air flows in.
" Do you think really that god is writing and planning everything for us? "
He ignored my question. And looked away.

" Look at you " he replied instead facing the ceiling, " your hair is white but your eyes are dark. This is confusing. And your skin has the color of a young white goat's belly. But all this goes well together. God is great and an artist."

I paused my tea glass on my knee, flies were circling around it and I starred thunderstruck in utmost delight, disbelief, joy, excitement and confusion at the veils. They threw their colors and batik patterns back at me.

A YOUNG WHITE GOAT'S BELLY. My skin was like a young white goats belly. I liked that. I liked that very much and I had to sigh. Poetry and great infatuation seemed to be swirling like djinnis in the air of this shop. Oh yes. I was a master in the art of making unusual compliments myself but this was a height to which I had not yet risen.
The veils starred back at me knowingly and understanding. My mind now tried to visualize frantically how a young white goat's belly looked like. The words were honey, Turkish delight, milk chocolate with almonds.... very sweet and sticky, gluing to the mind. I was in a mad mood out of a sudden.

" A young white goat's belly, you say, could one say then that a young white goats belly ressembles a shade of pink, may be? ", I whispered carefully in his direction not really having regained my inner calm.
" It is like a bowl with milk and a little blood in it ", he answered sucking his pipe blowing the smoke into the room.
I had my answer. I still liked it.
But I truly wondered when one would be given milk with a little bit of blood to drink.

" But.........." I started with a strangely weak voice.
The veils shook their heads and whispered DON'T SPEAK. DON'T SPOIL IT.
LET HIM TALK they whispered. I obeyed at once because they must know how to behave with men in turbans on carpet mountains in 49 degrees in the shade. They have experience spanning hundreds of years

" I have seen only women with blue eyes that have your kind of hair, but yours are dark and this is confusing. Very confusing in fact. You belong to the type of women that have been created to make man carry a heavy burden". he said in a meditative mood.
" Oooh ", I said.  And that was all.
It is embarrassing for me to be out of words. I consider it a shame.

" But if god ever would have wanted that you became my wife, I would give you a new veil every day. And you could be lazy too."

A veil is the utmost and ultimate instrument of female seduction. But it needs a little practice of application because accidents can happen as well, all sorts of accidents especially if the veils are 6 meters long and have to be wrapped ELEGANTLY around your body.

While walking home through the night under a sky that was now ablaze with millions of stars, holding two brand new strangely smelling veils tight, that he had given me, I submitted completely and voluntarily to one of those moments of delicious weakness in life where I had no problem convincing myself that the luxury of a lazy life and 365 veils were all I needed. Had I ever had another desire than this. NO!

The way I look at young white goats has been changed for ever and I am so immensely grateful for that.
And sometimes I still think of Mohammed.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails