Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Zack's Sbu'a

The official sbu'a party, coming from the word usbu'a, meaning "week" in Arabic, was held with a dozen close friends and family members exactly one week after Zack's birth. In our living room, we ate dates packed with walnuts, various almond based cookies and washed them down with sugary glasses of amber tea.

At noon, the small party headed down to the appartment's garage where our building's concierge and a hired butcher took the sheep we'd bought, swept the legs out from underneath it and slit the beast's throat. Blood spurted about ten feet across the garage, landing just short of my shiny black shoes (I'll spare you the photos!), and soon the sheep began to convulse into its final death throws.
One of Siham's uncle's then led us in a prayer. The photo taken was the concierge with Baah-sil minutes before the carnage scene.

The big sbu'a party took place the following week so as to give Siham time to recover more. Due to the size of our apartment, we had room for a cramped fifty people sitting around five circular tables. When making the list, we counted around twenty-five relatives, and another twenty-five colleagues, and another twenty good friends. Point being, invitations began to get tricky. In particular, Siham couldn't invite a few select colleagues without inviting the entire office.
In the end, enough colleagues, friends and relatives didn't confirm to give us the comfortable number of around fifty guests, plus a couple uninvited ones...

The scandalous Aunt made a surprise appearance, sporting a heavy gift wrapped in gold couloured lacy cloth. She immediately demanded one of Siham's cousins race into town and collect her daughter.
Meanwhile, she trapped Siham's older brother at their table and, when her daughter arrived, brought up the uncomfortable subject of marriage.
Had I realised "The plan," I might have sat Siham's brother next to one of our prettier friends - if only for the joy of creating scandal myself.
It didn't help her husband-seeking daughter's cause that she wore shocking red lipstick that highlighted her disproportionate teeth and a jutting lower lip. I'll move on now before I say something that really gets me in trouble. Again, I'll avoid posting the photos.

Question. Have you ever been in a situation where a relative bought you awful clothes? Did you have to wear them out of respect? It happened to me when I was thirteen. An aunt bought me this green outfit, a sweater and a bright lime green trousers. The sweater was fine, nice even, but how many thirteen year old kids would wear bright lime green pants to school? It was probably the dorkiest outfit ever made. Then again, I have seen some doozy hand-me-downs here in Africa!

Back to Zack. For the big Sbu'a, his grandmother bought him a frilly dress-like gown with a cap that had a bow in it. After they dressed him, I waited for what I thought was a respectable amount of time, and made the excuse he was too hot and put him back in his baby suit. Unlike before, I'm provided pictures. As for my lime-green pants, unfortunately they are long lost and I didn't wear them long enough to even have a photo op.

The guests settled into their seats. Scandal cousin making googly eyes at Siham's brother, who responded with helpless looks toward others not at that particular table.

The first course was meshwi, a huge side of lamb that traditionally is eaten with the fingers. I suppose my table was a little more Europeanised than most, because everyone but me attacked it with a knife and fork while I ripped searing hot pieces off with my right hand, dropped them a couple times, dabbed them in salt and cumin and shoved them home.

Next came a plate of five whole chickens smothered in a thick salty-sweet sauce and decorated with pineapples, apricots, prunes and almonds. Again I was the only one at our table trying not to burn my fingers too much.

Next came dessert, a huge bowl of fruit with a tray of chocolate and merangue ice cream cake jutting out of the top.

People filtered out of the appartment as tea and cookies were served. Soon after that, a hired maid mopped the floor while the caterers dragged the tables and chairs out of the house.

All in all, a smashing success of a party. Happy one week, and two week, and now three week birthday baby Zack.

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