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Phil and Linda Byler, missionaries in Sudan
August 3, 2013 10:15 am
Published in: Uncategorized

We stopped for the night at the SIL Guesthouse in Mongo, Chad on our drive back to Ndjamena. They said it was no use to go to a restaurant until after dark when the Ramadan fast would be broken. No problem, we can wait. As directed we found the bus park after dark and entered the bustling night life of Ramadan celebration in this part of the world.

The perimeter of the parking area was bordered by a large circle of colorful mats. Upon the mats were women and girls with multiple large aluminum pots of food for sale. I was surprised at the minimal use of  these mini restaurants and found myself hoping that for the sake of the hard working enterprising women their business would increase later. Perhaps their services would attract more of the midnight or the breakfast crowd.

Between these  women and the surrounding shops was a row of men and boys cooking meat over large wood-fired grills. A free sample of tender, tasty goat meat sealed our choice of vendors. Skeletal meat plus liver, salt, and bread was the fare. Wooden tables and chairs were available for our use which suits our style better than the on-the-floor mats which are the standard multi-use furniture for this culture. Our first course was delicious but not quite enough for our group so we flagged the runner boy and he brought us more liver along with kidney. The kidney flavor was fine, very similar to liver, but I personally found the spongy texture a bit objectionable.

We bought our drinks from a shop behind the grill. I was delighted to find Stim, an apple flavored carbonated drink from Khartoum which I used to buy in Juba. This part of Chad is on the Khartoum trade routes so it is a pleasure to savor Stim once again. Soon a whole  case of Stim – 24 bottles –  entered our luggage space to return to Ndjamena.

This is my first ever experience of Ramadan in a culture that is not only predominately Muslim but almost totally so. With virtually all of the population observing Ramadan, the daytime culture slows to a sleepy crawl and night life erupts with feasting, partying and socializing. Even those who choose some sleep at night are awakened by drums and criers for the predawn feasting before fasting sets in. When the morning light is sufficient, Mohammad’s low tech instructions  declare, so that one can discern the difference between a black and a white thread held side-by-side, it is time to cease all food and liquids until it is too dark to discern the same thread color difference. These populations in north latitudes thereby have much longer days and much longer fasts than our Kampala on-the-equator culture. At least it is so when Ramadan cycle falls during these summer months.

One would imagine that such strict observance of Ramadan would be a burden and a dreaded time. Quite the contrary I am told. It is a very special time each year to enjoy the extra special foods and drinks during the dark hours and both day and night the extra measures of social solidarity, camaraderie, and socialization. At least this is the experience of the young men. Perhaps the women who bear much labor to prepare the feasting and who have to care for the children would have another opinion.

I, Phil, have prepared numerous other blogs during this trip to Chad but alas they are trapped in my I-phone camera and email until I get back to Wi-Fi. This blog being night-time and photo-less comes now.

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