The End of Ramadan, Kashmir

The End of Ramadan

So the last day of Ramadan has come and I am here in Srinagar in Kashmir. We woke up and decided we would go to the the main mosque to see the prayers. Mustapha one of the houseboat owners. Mustapha who cooks better than anyone. He who is the most responsible and serious of all brothers recommend me and Luisa not to go. He thought It could be dangerous as in the last couple of days lots of Kashmere boys have been attacking the police. Yesterday all motorbikes had been confiscated and 300 boys arrested. It was possible that conflicts could arise. He would take Francis, but thought it would be safer for me and Luisa to stay in the boat. I considered the idea for about 10 seconds and then thought: there is no way the whole town is going to pray to celebrate eyd and I will be floating in the Dal lake!

So we went. People along the way told us we would not be allowed in to visit the mosque. Today, they explained, was a very important date for Muslims. Only when I explained I wanted to see the people, the ritual, did they understand we were not simply interested in architecture of the Mosque. So our rickshaw driver took us about 15 km away to Hazratbal Mosque which enshrines Kashmir most precious relic- moi e muqqadas- a hair of the beard of the prophet mohammed.

As we drove the traffic became crazier and crazier. all men were dressed in white, all women dressed in different colourful colours. As we came closer we could see more and more police and army around. Beautiful tall soldiers carrying machine guns. Barbed wires, rikshaws passing through small spaces, motorbikes carrying evem more people than they usually do. Eventually we reached a point we could not go further driving so we got out and started to walk following the multitude of people.

Suddenly we started to see people laying on the floor crippled, with leper, very skinny, burned, dying, not moving begging. Muslims walked giving money at the people. It was a shocking site. i truly felt like in a movie. The closer we got more intense was the begging, the suffering, the touching. As I veiled, and so did Luisa we were not so much held as was the blond blued eyes Francis. We were speechless. We just followed the people not knowing where we would end up.

Eventually we reached the fields that surround the Mosque. There was police, army, metal detectors, thousands of people and only two doors. One for the the women, one for the men. i was convinced they would tell us to come another day. instead they let us in. A tall sikh looking like soldier came to ask us what we were doing there. francis said he would try to pray and I said I wanted to see. He let us in but made us promised we would be back there in 30 minutes. And so we separated, women to one side, men to the other. Luisa and I followed the rainbow of cloth in front of us,till we had to remove our shoes, then we sat next to the women outside. There were tens of thousands of people there. We strolled a bit more, completely fascinated. As we had promised the guard we would be back in half an hour to the entrance we walked back to meet Francis who had gone to the other side.

As he was not there we sat in the middle of the garden watching thousands of men stand. Suddenly the call for prayer started. We saw thousands of men in white, in line stand and then bow, than prostrate and do the whole ritual. We saw that among the soldiers there were sikhs and hindus, and also muslims who ran in the middle of their duty to honour Allah. We watched moved and in silence. When the prayers finished we could feel the tension in the air be substituted by joy. Children played with enormous plastic guns, for the first time since I arrived I could see people now eat during the day.

As we walked out, with the thousands of people we realised we did not know the address to go home. As in magic among 60 thousand people Rafiq found us. Francis climbed the top of a bus and I died to do the same. I knew however i had already done all that i could today so instead i thanked Mustapha and Rafiq for the ride. We came home and they offered us their celebration meal.
Eyd Mubarak to all my Muslim friends!


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