Tuesday, May 20, 2008


My student's father died the other day. I went with the the head of the English department to pay my respects. There were chairs and tables set up in the courtyard of the local mosque for friends, relatives and neighbours to gather. The men, that is. There was a similar gathering for the women outside the father's house. There was that air of strained jollity you find at any wake. Young men came around with dates and leban, and then with barley bread and tea.

There were some of our other students there and we sat around and talked in English about random subjects: mosquitos, Libyan driving, and halal slaughter techniques. The bereaved student told a story about Libya's Jews dispatching their chickens in a chest of drawers, leaving the head sticking out and slamming the drawer shut; someone else thought that this was actually a story against the Italians, not the Jews.

There was another wake in another part of the courtyard, and my student told us that earlier in the day he had received condolences from a man who was then himself told us that this was the wrong mourner, they should be on the other side of the courtyard.