Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Tobaski - spending a holiday in The Gambia

Friday October 26 was Tobaski (or Eid al-Adha in Arabic). It is a Muslim holiday celebrated throughout Gambia by praying, slaughtering a ram, eating a lot of food, wearing new clothing, visiting friends and family and receiving/giving gifts. The day before Tobaski

According to :
The occasion of Tabaski is in commemoration of Abrahams willingness to sacrifice his own son, Ismail, in the name of Allah. It coincides with the end of the annual Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca.

 The day before Tobaski I spent with my Gambian family. There were no classes Thursday through the following Monday so a few of us decided to spend it with our families. Luckily my family lives in Bakau which is usually a half an hour walk from Happy Camp. Madeline, Austin and I share the same family compound, but we are in different nuclear families. Kyle came with us Thursday to hang out! On Thursday Madeleine and I helped my sister Adama cook benachin (tomatoe and spices based sauce), while Austin and Kyle helped Austin's mom cook domado (which is a peanut-based sauce, yummy!) because we're all curious about how to make Gambian dishes.

Here is Adama in our cooking station. A pot over a fire in a little area with a roof so it gets super smokey!

I helped pound together some spices! It's one of my favorite things to do to help out. Obviously I enjoy it a lot..
I helped clean the dishes too! It was a hot day and Adama put me to work, but it was such a great bonding experience.

This is the finished product. It's called fish benachin. Its rice cooked with a lot of spices and tomato paste topped with fried fish and vegetables. They eat out of community bowls so that's what is shown here. It was very tasty!
When I wasn't helping Adama cook I was taking pictures and hanging out with other family members:

Here is my Gambian mother with my little sister, Bintou! Yaay didn't want me to take her picture because she said she looked ugly (she had been working hard all day cleaning her house for Tobaski) but I disagree!

Here is my papa hard at work. Everyone in the compound was doing something to prepare for Tobaski.

This is Mariyama, she is so sassy. She looks very angry in this picture but she's actually a very friendly girl who always gives Madeleine and I hugs when we come to visit.

Some of my many cousins! I don't know all of their names cause there are so many kids, but I know the boys name is Ablie.

Kumba and a week day old baby. Children of any age can hold and take care of babies. Even if the baby is only a week old...

The kids love getting their picture taken!

Needless to say I love my family! The kids can get a little tiring, but then I just go hang out with Adama and other people who are closer to my age. Everyone is so friendly and they really make me feel like I'm a part of the family.

Now we're onto actual Tobaski day! I spent Friday with my family as well (along with Austin and Madeleine of course plus our friend from Canada, Brett, who knows my Gambian father) it was a lot of fun.
Here is the ram that my family slaughtered. I came too late to see it killed (which I'm kind of happy about) but that means I also missed going to the praying ground. In the morning on Tobaski (around 8:30/9) everyone in the area goes to a praying ground and prays. Most of the women in my compound stayed behind to cook and prepare for the days festivities so Madeleine and I chose to come to the compound around 10.

My cousin did my hair in braids! My scalp is so white haha I just wanted a few, I didn't get my whole head done. I want to get my hair braided again, but I'm not sure if I'd ever get my whole head done! We'll see..
The kids were mischievous all day. Fun fact: a "sigh sigh" (that's how you pronounce it, not sure how you spell it in wolof) is someone who is a rascal. It's very popular here to call someone a sigh sigh if they're being silly. Almost all the kids in my compound are sigh sighs...
Yup that is a bowl full of bloody ram meat that I helped clean... So much fun!
So salibo is something you get on/around Tobaski. It's a gift of candy or money from relatives. Usually kids  14 and younger go around asking different compounds of friends and/or families for salibo the night of Tobaski. This is the group of girls that I walked around with for salibo. This is when everyone gets dressed up in their fancy Tobaski outfits and walks around. It was an interesting experience. The first compound we went to I gave out candy and small change to everyone there (kids and adults) then the second compound we went to the kids received 25 dalasi from the head of the house to buy candy. So at this time the shops are all full of children trying to use their salibo money for candy.
My mom, toma and I in our lovely Tobaski outfits!

With the exception of my toma and my sister, this group of kids consists of some of my cousins (definitely not all of them) in the American definition of the world. However in The Gambia some of them are my cousins and some are my sisters or brother. Your mothers sisters kids and your fathers brothers kids are all considered your brothers and sisters in The Gambia. This is because your father could marry your mothers sister(s) and because it is a patriarchal family system. I may have told you this before, but in case I didn't it's a nice re-cap!
That's all for now! For the rest of Tobaski weekend we went up country. It was an adventure.. Stay tuned!


  1. Your Gambian mom is beautiful (even after a day of cleaning!!). And so are you!!! Love you

  2. Aw shucks my American mom is beautiful too! I'll tell her you said so :)