The ramshackle shops lining the red dirt streets of Niamey are all shuttered and quiet today. In the afternoon a savoury smell of roasted meat wafts over the city. Niger is celebrating Tabaski today, a Muslim festival known as Eid in many other parts of the world.
We found our way through the happy chaos of Niamey airport, glad that our luggage wound up in the same place as we did. A few things are like home – it’s hot and humid, and there is red dirt everywhere. Georgina exclaimed “it’s just like Wandawuy”. It wasn’t long though until we noticed the sheep everywhere – scrambling around in the backs of taxis, tied six at a time to the roof of vans, perched precariously on motorbikes, wandering along the streets.
Families everywhere have been preparing for Tabaski, buying sheep and preparing to cook them. The celebration remembers the story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son, and God miraculously substituting a sheep a the last minute. Each family would need at least a few sheep – preferably one for each wife in the household, and more for wealthy families. On the day of Tabaski the sheep are stretched out on poles to roast around a huge fire. The next day meat is shared with family, friends and those unable to afford their own sheep.
The Tabaski holiday meant that shops were shut and the city was quiet. We enjoyed some restful time in the SIM guesthouse and some great hospitality from an Australian family and the SIM team. It made such a difference to have some “locals” who could take us shopping and help us find our feet.
On Sunday we got to church with our Australian friends. It was a colourful and lively morning, with great singing and spontaneous dancing. The message was in French, translated from the front into Zarma, and translated for me into English by a man from Ghana sitting next to me. It’s a place of many languages and people groups but everyone seems to just get on with communicating.
Next stop – Galmi!