The travelling gentleman had been walking the arid plains for three days. He was exhausted and famished. His legs were covered in dust up to the knees just at the point where his maroon car igaddi—a type of kikoi—had stopped. The straps of his brown rubber sandals—ambiraa, as the nomads endearingly call them—had been torn that morning and he had torn off the edge of his turban to serve as makeshift shoe straps. His plastic water bottle, which was covered with a piece of cloth to keep the water cool, had been empty since the night before. He heard the sound of children and the noises of animals and immediately determined they came from four miles to the north-east.  He followed the sounds and the footprints of animals and just as the sun turned into a large orange ball on the western horizon, he came upon a homestead.

He was welcomed with open arms. A large sisal mat had been laid for him before he arrived, as the children, upon laying eyes on him, had run home to deliver the news of the arriving traveller. The family matriarch instructed her daughters to prepare tea for the guest. They should particularly be generous with the milk and the tea leaves, she said. Though the family had just had tea and there were several cups still left in the smoke-darkened kettle, this was a special occasion that called for a fresh kettle of tea. The traveler downed a several cups—big wooden cups—of tea, the exact number of which he himself would not recall. Suffice it to say that the large kettle was soon depleted. This was as he exchanged quick pleasantries with the matriarch.

The man of the family and his sons were soon heard whistling and singing and making such guttural sounds as was the custom to rein in the camels safely into the pen. When they were finished, they came in and found the guest and sat down. The matriarch instructed that tea be prepared. A fresh kettle. The family exchanged news with the guest. “Yaad tihiin?” the man asked. Who are you? He was asking which tribe or clan he belonged to. The question of “Xageed ka timid? (Where are you from?} would come later. He said he was from that clan and that sub-clan and that “knee” of the sub-clan and he was the grandson of so and so and the son of… Before he finished, the man exclaimed

“Oh, you are the son of the one and only Abdi Malaria of Iskoot?”

“Yes, I am Qoofil Abdi Malaria” the guest said.

“That arched nose, I had a feeling it was related to Abdi Malaria. How is the old bugger by the way?”

“He is growing younger by the day.”

“Bet he is. Last I saw him was many seasons ago just on the right shoulder of Shanta Abaq. We ‘balled’ together back in the day. Quite the player he was too!”

“Women were always his weakness.”

“Where is the settlement these days?

“Just on the left leg of Abdisamad.  You’ll see the forehead of the settlement. You can’t miss it.”

“Right. Just on the brink of the mashes?”


“Any news of rain?”

“Not much. A drop had hit us five suppers ago.”

Qoofil was given a special hut. Garoor (yogurt) was brought out of the dhiil and served to the guest. A fresh ameel of milk was served too. A camel was slaughtered that night. A strong, male camel. The skin was removed and the meat was roasted and fried and boiled. Maize floor was cooked. Lots of it. It was yellow and sweet. Though the family ate some of the meat, the bulk of it was reserved for the guest. The guest did not disappoint. He put away, with relative ease, all the nyirinriri first, the tiny piece of meat prepared with extra care and expertise. He did not take too long on te ribs either. As soon as they were served, the bones were seen naked on the plate, dry and neat. When the meat took rather long to cook, he put away the maize meal, sent it down with fresh milk. When the steak was finally served, he washed it down with a bowl of soup. When the soup was over, he ordered a refill of the yogurt and carefully dipped the steaks into the yogurt and savoured the taste, closing his eyes.

Notwithstanding the high temperatures of the afternoon, Qoofil asked that the fat from the hump be served after being fried in a manner that he preferred. The intestines and the bone marrow were the last to be dealt with. The former, he asked for a special sauce—made from a mix of macasara oil, sixin oil and honey, in equal proportion of one-third each—and dipped them into the sauce before sending them for storage into his stomach. With the latter, he asked that a branch from a specific tree be fetched, and from this branch, he fashioned a thin but shockingly strong twig and used it to extract 100% of the marrow. With regards to the head, he asked that it be steamed for exactly five hours, in low heat, and be seasoned with rosemary leaves. Once this was done, he directed that it should be sprinkled with xulbad seeds and just a pinch of salt. When this was done, he asked that it placed outside for airing.

After exactly two night, Qoofil announced that he would be leaving. The family filled his water bottle and prepared some supplies for the journey. The head, which was airing outside, was put in a special container and given to him.

When all was ready, the man asked, “Where are you headed?”

Qoofil, looking sad, said, “I have not been well of late. I am going Garissa to see a doctor because I have lost my appetite.”

The man looked at him, completely lost. “Listen, brother. When you come back from the doctor,” he said, “Please use an alternative route.” Qoofil departed.


Image: araweelonews.com


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