Thursday, August 23, 2012

Eid in Yemen

Image via newshopper

I haven't been to Yemen in the past three years. As I watched the revolution take place from Washington DC, I felt an ache inside me to go back to Yemen. Unfortunately, going back was not an option for me; however, my desire to go to Yemen was not to participate in the revolution per se but to rather witness a new wave of political freedom. Today, many people claim that the revolution has been hijacked by radical groups and ideologies, while others claim that the revolution is a successful work in progress. Regardless, the truth is the country is going through a hard transition and is now struggling to recover. 

Prior to arriving to Sana'a, I was warned several times about the shock I am about to face. I stressed as I hopped on my flight to Sana'a, wondering about the appalling conditions that Yemenis live in. I recall the first time I came back to Yemen after living abroad for a few years; Sana'a, which was the most "modern" city in the entire country, looked like a big village covered in sand. The eyes of the people pierced through my window, they were puzzled by me as I was by them. This time, I came to Sana'a armed and prepared and to my surprise, nothing looked worse. At least not yet. Of course, I only saw the "60 road" (siteen) which was adorned by new bridges. Yemenis on the streets are known for being reckless, but for the first time, there are pathways and tunnels dedicated to pedestrians. That was a notable improvement! Not to mention the abundance of restaurants, pharmacies and Shisha stores opening all over the city. All this signifies that there is still hope for the economy (at least domestically speaking). 


Perhaps it was the smiles of people that distracted me from their misery. It was Eid-al-Fitr and although the prices of natural gas went up, the need to please families prevented people from holding mass riots. I sat at home, jetlagged as I greeted groups of family and friends who came for the traditional Eid visit. I even had to wrestle some family members over Eiadah (Eid money). At the end of my first day, I made 36000 rials! Just a little short of $200. To sum it up, it was surprisingly pleasant to be back and so quickly familiar. It wasn't until the next day that I noticed how much women have to work to make sure that everyone's Eid is smooth. 


First and formost, the house has to be cleaned every-time a new guest comes in, and the children always leave a mess (Oh so many children!). There needs to be a variety of chocolates, a bunch of handmade cookies where housewives display their pastry talents and hence, their superiority as homemakers, a variety of juices chilled at all times even when the electricity is off. After the men do their chews, all the qat needs to be vacuumed, all the silver needs to be shined and the room needs to be aired to let out the smell of cigarettes and Mada'ah then closed again to contain the smell of incense (Bakhour). Not to mention that while men give out the money, women are the ones responsible for keeping track of it. So by the end of the day, when the qat is chewed and the kids are fed and the dinner is made, women find themselves tired, but they never complain and wake up the next day to do it all over again. 


This is precisely why I love Eid-al-Fitr of 2012. I am in my motherland being cared for by my family, learning how to be patient and how to smile in the face of hardships. 
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