Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lamu Four: Festival of Maulid

I promised you a parade, and a parade you shall have! To refresh your memory, this post takes place in Lamu, for the Festival of Maulid, which commemorates the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. All photos in today's post are courtesy of our friend and hostess Mary, who is coincidentally using the same make and model of camera I took with me on this trip.

The basic idea of the parade is that all the guys put on their best finery and walk along the sea front, periodically stopping for group drumming, dancing, and chanting. My understanding from Mary is that each group represents a different madrasa (school) and is singing a different prayer.

There were 20 groups in all, each preceded by a placard bearing their number, name, and location. We were in position well before the start of the parade, and Mary - who has been spending time in Lamu since the '80s - greeted many friends old and new:

Too cute!

We were situated on a porch balcony, and we waited for quite a while for things to start. While we waited, I made friends with a handful of kids, lifting one small child up onto the railing and watching his older sister ply him with sweets while she bossed everyone within five feet around. She wanted me to let one of her friends join us, urging me to move over with "squeeze! squeeze!" Near us, in an opening along the sea front graced by a large tree, veiled women took their place to watch the oncoming tide of husbands and brothers.

This group was cool - they're from somewhere in Sudan, I believe.

One of my favorite parts was watching the new dads showing off their newest babies. And - alas, not shown! - the incredible princess outfits of the little girls. Little girls the world over love pink. It's a fact.

Don't you just want to take this kid home with you? This smile is better than an alarm clock.

The first group to go by was pretty restrained, but pretty quickly the groups got progressively animated, doing synchronized dances. The young men were the most into it. The older guys were more refined.

On and on they came.

After the 20th, and final, group went by, I was feeling the desperate need to - let's just be blunt - pee. The sea front was a dense cacaphony of humanity. I figured I'd sneak home the back way. So I hopped over the railing, and along with a handful of the women shown above, made my way down an alley to the main street, one block in. You remember - the six to eight foot wide main street.

Hah hah! My quick getaway was foiled. For the beginning of the parade had coiled around and was now coming down the main street, right toward me. What a scene: absolutely no room to move, and drumming, and chanting, and smiling, and laughing, and water bottles of rose water being sprayed by onlookers all over the parade goers, all over the spectators, all over yours truly. It was a magical madhouse. I couldn't stop grinning.

I finally made it back to Amu House.

Kevin - remember Kevin? Poor Kevin! He was not feeling well, so he missed all of this. He was, in fact, fast asleep. So I left him to rest, and found my own amusement for the evening. Which ultimately consisted of staying up til past 3 am on the roof, looking up at the stars, and figuring out the constellations, using my nifty professional astromoner app:

I bought (bought! with money!) this app a while back and immediately got conflusticated by it, as I don't know the first thing about astronomy, but after a few hours under the stars, I made some headway. I figured out how to set it to my location. There are two dotted lines, above - one of them shows the equator, and one the ecliptic plane. (That's the line that the sun and planets all travel on, as we're more or less all spread out from the sun like Saturn's rings, on the same plane.) If you want to figure out how to read a star chart, I highly recommend doing so from the equator. Or possibly the north or south pole, but the equator is likely to be, shall we say, more cozy? The stars move more or less in one straight line across the sky, instead of an arc as they do back home. Wild.

And thus concludes Friday's adventures.

For what it is worth, it is Valentine's Day as I put the finishing touches on this post. Trying to get caught up while I temporarily have a fast internet connection.

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