Friday, October 03, 2008

The 1st good thing about Northern Nigeria: Breaking the fast with dates

Our trip to the North was scheduled for the Durbar festivals which are held during the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitri, which celebrates the end of
Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. The end of Ramadan is announced at the sighting of a new moon, so there is usually some question about when the holiday will actually start. This year it had been predicted that Eid would be celebrated on Thursday and and Friday, the 2nd and 3rd, and our trip was scheduled to leave on October 1st, the Nigerian national holiday and continue through this coming weekend. But several weeks ago the prediction came that the Muslim holidays would be on Monday and Tuesday of this week. I really don't know how there could be that much leeway in the dates regarding when the moon would be expected to be visible, but I think it had more to do with aligning the holidays with the Nigerian holiday in the middle of the week and a weekend to maximize the days off from work -- which works for me! Anyway, at the last minute Paulette, our trip organizer, had to change the schedule and the anticipated flights, which ended up to be a big hassle. The only flights she could get for the group on Saturday were on a Nigerian airline which wasn't approved for travel by many of the oil companies, so some of us needed to travel on Friday afternoon with an approved airline. This "forced" Brent to leave work early on Friday and cost us an extra night in the hotel, but it ended up being a nice way to start the trip with some time to relax.

If you ever find yourself in Kano, Nigeria needing a place to stay, I recommend the Prince hotel. It was a great place by Nigerian standards. The rooms were clean and comfortable, the power was never off for too long, and the plumbing worked. It is owned by a Lebanese family and has a very good restaurant. The grounds are very pretty, so it felt like a resort. It really was much nicer than what we had expected.

Anyway, on our flight on Friday, we had a stop in Abuja, the Nigerian capital city, and we were there on the ground at the time of sundown. The flight was full of Muslims going up to the north of Nigeria, where Muslims predominate, to celebrate the holidays. When the sun went down, the plane was full of travellers with boxes of dates to share to break their fast with others. As they passed the dates around, there was a friendly atmosphere as they visited. I really admire those Muslims that keep to their daytime fast during the month of Ramadan. It's an admirable thing to have the faith to keep to something that difficult for an entire month. Ramadan ended for most Muslims in Nigeria on Sunday evening (the Fulani people in the north - more about them later -- were keeping their fast until Tuesday evening because, we were told, they don't believe in the "radio moon." This means they don't accept someone else, sometimes as far away as Saudi Arabia, telling them when Ramadan ends, they must see the moon for themselves before they declare the holiday). Until the end of Ramadan, each evening approaching dusk on the streets of Kano were vendors selling packets of dates, and others selling cans of soda so the essentials for breaking the fast were close at hand.

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