Home for the holidays

Yesterday Comoros celebrated the Muslim Day of Ascension, or as it is know here – Mi’raj. It is the day the prophet Muhammad was supposed to have ascended into heaven, where he met with many other profits before finally speaking with God directly. It is one of the most sacred days on the Islamic calendar and a holiday my friends and neighbors have been long anticipating.

I love holidays in Comoros. The villagers seems more relaxed. The men come in in droves in their best robes and hats, ready linger in the streets for hours after the holiday prayers have finished. The children, though maybe not aware of why the day is important, pick up on their parent’s change of mood and become excited and even more energetic.

All my neighbors called to me on my way to my family’s house, asking if I was having a good Mi’raj, inquiring what I would cook that day, or inviting me to come eat with them. Food is a crucial part of Mi’raj, though some people do choose to fast. Everyone was pleased I had plans to partake in the celebrations.

Under the pretense of looking at the photos I had taken during the day, Nusrati snapped a few photo of me attempting to cook coconut bread sticks. 

There seemed to be a predetermined meal plan for every household in both my villages: stewed beef, fried plantains and cassava, and a grilled coconut bread. All of this is washed down with fresh homemade juice.

Mi’raj is the first holiday I have celebrated with my family in Harembo and the time felt special. They were eager to share their traditions, food, and home. The day slipped past quickly, filled with cooking and eating, playing with the kids, taking photos, and just enjoying having a day off to spend together.

Everyone helps with the cooking during Mi’raj. Abou and his son Chevdei peel plantains before dropping them in oil to be fried to perfection.

My family keeps me well fed and I rarely feel like I have the chance to share with them, but in the oddest a ways a chance presented itself yesterday. A few days before Mi’raj someone in the family came down with a cold, still don’t know who patient zero was, and it quickly spread to the rest of us.

We all spent the day talking through plugged and stuffy noses, covering sneezes, and taking little rests that eventually turned into naps on the back porch. I had come armed with cold medicine and toilet paper for blowing my nose, a luxury not provided in the typical Comorian home.

It wasn’t long before my roll of toilet paper was making the rounds, being passed from one sniffling person to the next. I’ll pass you the plantains if you hand me the toilet paper! With everyone already infected germs weren’t much of a concern, though I feel sorry for the few healthy visitors we had during the day.

It seems almost silly, but it felt like such a family thing to be doing – sharing food, a cold, and a roll of toilet paper. I’ve never felt closer to my Comorian family. I am already looking forward to next year’s Mi’raj, though I am hopeful we will be healthy and I can bring something to share besides TP.


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