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December 15, 2001

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Happy Sallah! Ramadan ended yesterday. The sighting of the new moon concluded this year's month long Ramadan fast. Muslims celebrate Ramadan, the month in which God revealed the Qur'an, to purify themselves, renew faith, and show spiritual discipline. During Ramadan Muslims do not eat, drink, or have sex during the daylight hours. This morning we were caught in a traffic jam that turned into a prayer session as everyone turned to Mecca and began praying to mark Ramadan's end. We watched from the roof of our van. An eerie calm settled over the traffic scene as worshippers prayed and followed the commands of imams, or spiritual leaders, whose voices boomed over loudspeakers. After prayers, traffic resumed and we drove to the Emir's palace. We parked in front of the central mosque and watched the Id-El-Fitr festival that celebrated Ramadan's end. The celebration began with the Durbar Sallah, a colorful horse parade. We watched it all from our van roof and drew a lot of attention since we were the only tourists present. People mobbed our van. Horses and their riders milled around us. The bright flowing robes and turbans formed a sea of color. After the horse parade, still high on the spirit of festivities, our guided invited us to his home for a special meal. We ate spicy stew and rice mash along with fried donuts. Then because no safety standards interfered, we rode taxi mopeds to the market and around the city, dodging hectic traffic. Our day ended at an ex-pat party. We met a Bulgarian couple that invited us back to their home for drinks and music. Indrek, a fellow traveler from Estonia, joined us. We went back to their home and listened to an extensive record collection that featured a lot of music from South America. We created a strange and unique scene: an Estonian, two Bulgarians, and two Americans danced to Argentine music in Nigeria.
Caught in a traffic jam? Step out of your car, face Mecca, and pray.
The emir (in white turban and sunglasses) sure knows how to make an entrance.
Durbar Sallah horse parade. Surrounded by horses, colorful riders, a festive atmosphere, this celebration was the tour's highlight. We learned later that foreigners had been warned to stay away in case of trouble. If we had heard that news then the swords, spears, and guns carried by the riders would have been more menacing.
Afterwards we went to our guide's house, Mohammed (that's Muslim for Dave) for a Nigerian meal of stew, fried donuts, and white mash (to be eaten with the hands). Guides must be paid well in Kano; he had a nice home.