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Sahara

Day 43: Djenné

Djenné, Mali 
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Thousands at prayer on Tabaski morning, in their best outfits. Dress code: be different to the person next to you.
Michael Palin - SaharaAfter the prayers, a collection is taken and the impressive discipline of the worshippers breaks up. Some of the older men are helped away, the younger ones are allowed to move up to get a better view of the proceedings and everyone starts chattering, even though the imam is still delivering benedictions and demanding responses.

I hear Pigmy mutter 'Enough benedictions', but it's another five minutes before the imam concludes the blessing and two of his assistants move forward and release the sheep from the tree.

This is accompanied by a great surge forward to the area where the sacrifice will take place, completely obscuring the view of Nigel and Basil, who have been at carefully chosen camera positions for an hour or more. Everyone is turning to each other and shaking hands and exchanging greetings. My hand is pumped as
enthusiastically as anyone else's.

'Sambe, sambe. Amina,' Pygmy teaches me to say. I presume it's the equivalent of 'Happy Tabaski'.

Somewhere in all this mass of humanity, the first sheep of the day dies in Djenné.

Pigmy now has to emulate the imam's sacrifice and he is unusually preoccupied as we trudge back through the winding streets of the town. A cloud of dust raised by the feet of 8000 celebrants hangs thick and unavoidable in the hot and motionless air. By the time we reach his house I feel as if I've swallowed a small desert.

Pigmy makes a traditional round of the neighbours, briskly darting in and out of doorways exchanging greetings.

'Sambe, sambe. Amina.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 43
  • Country/sea: Mali
  • Place: Djenné
  • Book page no: 133

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