On Wednesday, July 6th, the Muslim community in Assosa and around the world celebrated Eid al Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Holy month of Ramadan. My friend, Fetyia, from the Regional Health Bureau invited Deirdre and I over to her house to meet her family. Celebrating Eid involves going to the mosque but a large part of the holiday also seems to involve friends and family visiting each other, which is what we participated in.
Fetyia, Deirdre and I sat on the comfortable floor cushions of one of her family houses for hours eating cookies and drinking super sweet, dark tea and Mirinda orange pop. Her brothers and sisters would drop by, chatting with us for awhile before moving on to the next house or back to their own to greet their own. We joked about how we should rename the neighbourhood as “Kebele (district) Alhajj Alnoor” after her father because it seems that every house in the area was family. As the three of us (plus a small crowd of children), walked around to go visit other homes, Fetyia would point out “This is my brother’s house, this is my sister’s house, this is my other sister’s house and this is my other brother’s house…”
Fetyia, or Fety for short, descends from one of the original Berta sheikhs who founded Assosa and comes from a large family of 18 children. There are two big houses for the unmarried children plus another house for her father and his two wives in the back. Then, as each child grows up and marries, they seem to get their own neighbouring house. “In our culture,” Fety tells us, “our father is responsible to provide everything for his children…our education, our house… Having a lot of children is wealth.” Ideally, you need to be well off to take care of all your children so having many children is a sign of wealth. However, richness is not just a show of status but also a richness in family. It was really beautiful to see such a big close family…and it seemed very rich indeed.
We learned that we actually knew a lot of Fety’s family. Her whole family, all 18 kids, are all quite educated and multilingual – speaking Amharic, Rutana (language of the Berta people), Arabic, English and Oromifa (language of the Oromo people whose large province borders Benishangul-Gumuz). Because their English was quite good and most of them have higher education degrees, we had met a lot of her family in our daily work around Assosa. One brother is the driver for Blendana Hotel who I always got a ride to and from the airport with. Another brother is a pharmacist that had been in a car accident that Deirdre had seen at the hospital. Fety herself is a nurse and worked at the hospital for over three years before joining the Health Bureau. Another brother is a midwife and another sister is translator for IRC in the refugee camps and yet another brother is an unofficial translator at the hospital that Deirdre works with a lot. We realized that we knew her mother and sister already from the Berta we went to in Bambasi last month! We joked that Fety’s family has every profession to be a self-sufficient community…including as we learned, the Mayor of Assosa!
I had met her brother, Sherif, before at Blendana Hotel but he had just told me that he worked in government so to learn that he’s the Mayor was quite a surprise! We ended up spending the whole evening with him and his adorable children. Because dinner was quite late, we ended up staying the night. I did not know what to expect celebrating Eid with Fetyia and her family but having a pj slumber party with the Mayor, lounging around on floor cushions, sharing dinner together and playing clapping games with his kids defintely exceded expectations! Eid Mubarak! Happy Holiday!