It finally happened…I looked outside the window as our plane to
When we landed in
Soon after, our car pulled up in an area with old, worn out buildings with a number of Somalian children playing around. A couple of men came outside to greet us. While they were warm and welcoming to Frankie, Jonathan, and Craig, most of them refused to make even eye contact with me. The ones who did look at me, seemed very confused at the image of a Muslim girl, wearing a scarf over her head, stepping outside the car with three white men none of whom were related to her by blood. As they tried to make sense of that imagery, I went inside to their prayer area to say my afternoon prayers. I was guided around the building by a 7 year old girl named Zaynab. As I prayed, Zaynab stood next to the wall observing me. When I finished my prayers, she invited me to visit her home. She told me that her mother was currently making some iftaar (Ramadan meal at sunset that marks the end of the fast). I accepted the invitation and went over to Zaynab’s house where her mother, along with her two aunts and four daughters were making dough and manually grinding up beef.
They all lived in a one bedroom apartment while about 15 children slept on the floor. The decorations of the house and the smell of African food gave the illusion that I was sitting right in
The mother then invited me to roll the beef into what is known as ‘samosas.’ As I rolled samosas into perfect triangles, Zaynab’s cousins gathered around and started talking to me about Eid. I told them that I celebrate Eid by wearing new clothes, jewellery and henna. The word ‘henna’ spread an excitement around the entire room. The girls showed me their palms on which they had drawn henna patterns with a pen because they could never afford henna. Zaynab, staring at me with her sparkling eyes asked me if I could come to their house on Eid and put on henna on their hands. I promised to send them some henna even if I wasn’t in
Mana’s mother started explaining to me how the situation in
I said goodbye to the warmest and most hospitable families of Zaynab and Mana. As I walked back with Zaynab, she told me that her only wish for Eid this year was to wear a matching top and skirt for Eid this year because her old ones had worn out. She asked me to find her something nice for her when I return home. I told her I would try my best. She pulled me down, gave me a kiss on my cheek, and said “I really really love you. I just want you to come back and see me again.” Tears started trickling down my eyes as Zaynab held me tight in her feeble arms for a couple of minutes. That hug changed my entire life around. A few hours ago all I could think of was when I would get a chance to eat next. Now all I could think about was how to fulfill Zaynab’s wish and help these women support their families. I realized that for the first time in 21 years I had truly understood the spirit of Ramadan. The essence of Ramadan and Islam – the word ‘Compassion’ could never have been taught to me in a better light.