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[casi] From Riverbend

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Eid Mubarek...
The last few days I've had to give up the keyboard and
blog for something less glamorous- the bucket and mop.

It started about 3 days ago. I was out on the
driveway, struggling with the garden hose and trying
to cunningly arrange it to give a maximum trickle of
water. My mother was standing at the door, chatting
lightly with Umm Maha, from across the street- a
stocky, healthy woman in her late forties.

Umm Maha had made us 'kilaycha'- a special Eid desert
(and the recipe is a bit too complicated to post).
Kilaycha are like… not exactly cookies or bars but
something like dry, sweet dumplings. They are,
basically, a sort of baked dough filled with either
nuts, sesame seeds and sugar, dates or just flat and
plain, almost like Christmas cookies- but less brittle
and sweet. Every house either makes them or buys them
for Eid- they are almost as necessary as lentil soup.

I was vaguely listening to the conversation. They were
discussing the blackouts and how they were affecting
the water flow in some areas (like ours). My mother
was mentioning how she was thawing out the freezer
because the intermittent electricity was turning
everything to mush and Umm Maha suddenly looked awed,
"But isn't your freezer clean? Haven't you began with
the Eid cleaning?!" I froze as I heard the words and
peered around at my mother. She was looking
uncomfortable- no we hadn't started with the 'Eid
cleaning', but how do you say that to the Martha
Stewart of Baghdad?

Yes, Umm Maha is the Martha Stewart of Baghdad- I defy
anyone who can show me a neighbor with a cleaner
driveway. Her whole house is spotless… rain, shine or
cluster bombs. Her kids are always groomed and ironed.
Their car, while old and dented, is spotless. She's
always the first one to make the Eid kilaycha. She's
the first one who is out of the door and washing down
the house, the car, the driveway and the TREES after
an infamous Iraqi dust storm. She's the neighbor who
will know the latest cleaning fads (like using talcum
powder to get out oil stains), and the one who'll be
chasing the stray cats away from the garbage bins with
(what else?) a broom.

My mother smiled wanly- we all knew Eid was coming up,
but no one had the energy or initiative to begin the
huge job of making the house spotless before Eid. Eid
Il Futtir, as it is called, is the 3 day holiday that
comes directly after Ramadhan. In Iraq, we celebrate
it by visiting family and friends, and, generally,
eating. It's a celebration of the end of fasting
(especially if you were able to fast all month).

Preparations for Eid often begin a week ahead of the
holiday. Kids have to have new clothes, pajamas and
haircuts. The kitchen has to be stocked with good
things to eat for visiting family, friends and
neighbors. The family has to be prepared to have
guests every minute of the 3 days of Eid. The house
has to be spotlessly clean.

It's traditional for households to begin 'tandheef il
eid' a few days before Ramadhan ends. On Arafat, or
the eve of Eid, many people stay at home to get things
organized. It is believed that Eid isn't complete and
the holiday 'spirit' won't enter the home if the house
is unclean or messy.

So Martha Stewart, aka Umm Maha, reminded my mother of
the coming event a few days ago. That moment, I tried
to subtly drop the hose and disappear behind a shrub,
knowing my involvement in the cleaning process was
going to be extensive. It didn't help. As soon as Umm
Maha left the house, clucking disapprovingly, my
mother got into 'cleaning mode' and began "Operation
Spotless Eid".

Major General "Riverbend's Mother" instantly gathered
her army of cleaners together and began giving orders.
Riverbend would get to do the closets, father would
have to attack that pile of 'valuable' junk in the
driveway, and E. would move around heavy furniture to
wipe beneath- dust bunnies must be abolished and dirt
must be demolished.

That's what I've been doing the last few days-
scrubbing, folding, polishing and flushing. It has
been difficult because of the constant blackouts.
Vacuuming is next to impossible and most of the
clothes have to be washed by hand because the water
tank on top of the roof is never full enough.

For some Sunnis, Eid began yesterday (as it did in
Jordan and Egypt). For the rest, Eid is tomorrow. For
families like mine, with a combination of Sunnis and
Shi'a, we follow Saudi Arabia and they have declared
Eid to be today- the 25th of November. It bothers me
that we didn't begin Eid 'together' this year because
that's what Eid is really about- togetherness.

Mosques are being watched carefully and most people
are safely in their homes by 8 pm. We're not quite
sure how our families are going to meet- who will go
where? Not everyone has telephone access and many
people, in certain areas, are somewhat hesitant to
gather together in large groups for fear of being
mistaken for 'terrorists'. It's a strange sort of Eid
this year- with helicopters and tanks… and possibly

To those who began Eid yesterday, and to those who
begin it today- Happy Eid, or Eid Mubarek…

- posted by river @ 3:12 PM

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