The day before Eid, Cadria was sick and we weren’t able to make Eid cakes as we had planned. I ended up having a quiet day at the hotel. That night, I came down with a bug too and woke at two in the morning with a raging temperature and a sore throat. I went to the hospital first thing in the morning to do a malaria test which was negative, and was sent back to bed with a bag of pills. Not the best start to Eid.
At around lunchtime, I was already feeling a little better, and took a bag of soft drinks over to Sulemao’s and Rabia’s house. They had laid out a table with a table cloth and chairs and she had cooked up the most delicious feast of goat curry, roast goat, liver, duck curry and coconut rice which we ate with our hands. Sulemao couldn’t stop beaming and neither could I. It was touching that they had gone to all the effort.
Though there was a place set for her, Rabia did not eat with us, but ate apart instead. I asked her why and she said she still had work to do but I wondered whether this was the patriarchy in action once again. I invited her to sit down but she didn’t; whatever this custom was, it was fairly deeply ingrained.
After lunch, Sulemao took me to meet his old mother and sisters and Rabia presented me with a huge bucket full of Eid biscuits and a tupperware of the leftover meat. I tried to protest but they were having none of it. I wondered what on earth was I going to do with two kilos of biscuits…
Sulemao accompanied me back to the hotel.
“This is my daughter,” he said, placing a hand on the shoulder of a young girl who was running pass. “And those two are my sons.”
“Are they Rabia’s children?” I asked, confused – she had told me she only had one child.
“No, no, they are from my second wife,” he grinned at me.
I asked him how many wives he had.
“Only two, three is too many. Think about it. If the first one has three children, and the second has five, how are you meant to feed all of those mouths? No, three wives is far too much work. You have to build new houses… No, two is the right number.”