It’s all about sand

Varess is a small oasis village close to Mhairith (أمحيرث) and hardly available for a virtual visit on Google Maps. As a prelude to the urban Nouakchott, where you see signs of nomadic lifestyle even in contemporary housing, I wanted to share a couple of photographs from this region where dates are produced and where the housing is amazingly practical and ecological. Here the buildings are designed either for a permanent occupation or more often for temporary shelter for the workers who live here during the harvest season. Everything is build from what you get from the surroundings and with very basic purpose: to provide shelter from sun, wind and sand. This is a very rocky environment, and yet there is also sand that moves and it does so constantly. You don’t necessarily want to fight it and so you build stone walls with holes in it that allow the sand pass through rather than make the sand pile up against the wall and eventually break it.

Then of course you have the traditional Mauritanian tents, another very practical invention for people on the move. Even tents have found their way to the city environment in various ways – more about that next!

Dubai Fever

When I see cityscapes with the silhouettes of skyscrapers, I often wonder: how do these massive buildings make you feel in a city? Urban? Contemporary? Modern? Proud? Chic? Rich? Poor? Small? 

Addis downtown area and some other parts of the city are growing fast into the skies creating striking contrasts with older buildings that are still standing next to them. You can’t but wonder whether Addis is contaminated with what is known as “Dubai fever?” This syndrome, or Dubaiization manifests itself with the desire to copy an urban model lined with capital and power, and it gives you the impression of a city designed overnight. Buildings look as if they were imported from another location and planted to a new one without the original context. This cut and paste method leaves out local history altogether. 

When I was strolling the streets of Addis I could still feel the historical identity of the city in some neighborhoods but at the same time I noticed that many buildings had simply disappeared since my last visit and had been replaced by massive gated construction sites. The city certainly has interesting and challenging times ahead! This really is the time to document the amazing transformation that is taking place in Addis. My humble contribution to this documentation will be visible in the upcoming exhibitions for Afropolis 2020

If you would like to read more about the Dubai Fever, I recommend the article by Katriina Stoll: “Dubai Fever. The Dream of an Urban Model in Ethiopia” in Cities of Change: Addis Ababa by Mark Angélil and Dirk Hebel (Birkhäuser, Basel 2016).

Tata 36

Keroog dama dugg ci benn bis Tata bu 36 bi lay jële terminis Ngor yobbu la Guediawaye. Tata yu ndaw yii dañuy gaawa fees ak nit waaye wii yoon amoon naa palaas kon toogoon naa. Sopp naa jël ‘taranspoor pibilik’ ci biir dëkki taax yi ndaxte di leen faraldi jël dafay tax nga xam bu baax bërëb yi ci dëkk bi, dinga mëna toog ci booru palanteer bi yoon wi yépp. Jël bis ci dëkki Senegal yépp lu ci ëpp, lu rëy la ndaxte bis bi dafay taxaw lu bari te dangay faraldi di jokkonteek nit ñi ci biir bis bi. Seneglais yi dañu may jaaxal lool ndaxte lu bis bi fees dinañu fexe ba xajalante ngir ñeneen ñi mëna am palaas, itam ni ñuy jallale xaalis yi ngir jënd tike ci rësëvëër bi toog ci ginnaaw bis bi te mu naqare gis su bis bi feese dell. 

Wute-wute dem beek dikk bi ci Dakar dafay wone ni koom-koom bu ñu teg ci yoon ak koom-koom bu jaxasoo di liggééyandoo te muy dox. Ni dëkki Afrik yu bari, Dakar am na ay goxam yoo xamantane dañu dajale, ci ay bërëb yu ñu aar, ñi am alal te ci yeneen bërëb yu nekk boo génnee Dakar tuuti mu am ñi nééw doole ñu dajaloo foofu ak ñi dëkk ci gox yi nekk ci diggante bi te nga xamantane seeni tali yi baaxuñu. Wante nit ñi dañuy faraldi di demak dikk fu leen neex léppaangi nekk ci naka lañu mëna faye rekk ndaxte ku nekk foo bëgga dem dinga fa dem muy ci gox yu rafet yi walla biir dëkk ba walla ci ‘banlieue’ ba walla feneen.

Damay faraldi jël bis tata ci diggante Yoff ak Ngor su fekkee du ci waxtu yu xat yi su dul loolu damay jël taxi walla kalandó. Bis Tata yi ak Dakar Dem Dikk yi dañuy dem fépp ci biir dëkk bi. Dakar Dem Dikk am na itam ay bis yuy génn Dakar di dem ci yeneen gox yi ci Senegal. Ci biir Dakar am nañu itam li nuy tudde kaar rapid ay ay melokaanam yu bari kulëër yi, itam am na njaga njaay yi di ay kaar yu soppi def leen ay bis te ñuy faraldi am ab xale bu góór taxaw ci buntu gannaaw bi di wax fi ñuy jëm tey nangu paasu nit ñi. Njaga Njaay yi dañu lay yobbu fépp foo bëgga dem ni itam sept-place yi nekk ci garaas yi te ñuy daw dëkk ak dëkk ci biir rééw mi. 

Am na itam ay taksi yu mboq yu dul jeex ci biir Dakar. Dañu lay piip su ñu la gisee ci booru tali bi ngir jël la. Ma yëgal leen : boo yakkamtee, boo moytuwul rekk taksi itam dinañu la tardeel. Dal na ma ay yooni yoon ma jël taksi mu dem ba ci digg yoon wi mu paan foofu balaa sax ma doon agg fa ma doon jëm, kon soo leen mënee fexe leen ba tann oto bu baax te rafet ngir moytu yooyu jafe-jafe. Yenn saay taksi bi ngay jël mën na nekk sax amul kayitu dawal ñu tudde ko ‘permis’ te lu ci ëpp dawalkat bi dafa lay jaaraale ci yoon yi doy waar ndaxte dafay moyto alkaati yi. Ci lu gëna rafet : Benn bés dama fattewoon sama ‘smartphone’ ci benn taksi, bi ma wootee ay yooni yoon ci la benn kiliyan ci biir taksi bi tontu woote bi te ginnaaw loolu nee na ma buma jaaxle, ndaxte dawalkatu taksi bi dina ma delloo sama telefon ci nu,u gëna gaawe, te loolu la def ! 

Am na yeneen fasoŋu taksi yi di xëccoo ak taksi yu mboq yi te ñu tudde leen kalando ndaxte amuñu sañ-sañ ngir nekk taksi. Waaye kalando yi dañoo am njëriñ lool ci yenn gox yi ci dëkk bi ndaxte dañoo yomb lool te dañuy dugg fi nga xam ne bis yi duñu fa dem. Dañu am njëriñ, yomb te gaaw. Yooyo oto ay nit ñoo leen moom di leen jëfandikoo di yobbu nit ñi jóge bërëb bii dem bërëb bee. Ci waxtu xëy ak wacc danga wara gaaw ngir mëna toog rawatina boo dee tubaab: dawalkatu kalandóo yooyu duñuy faraldi taxaw ngir jël tubaab su fekkee jéémooleena taxawal.

Bi ñu doon defar tali yu mag yi ci Dakar ñu leen di woowe otorut, nit ñi dañu doon def ñetti waxtu diggante Yoff ak Diamaguene. Nit ñi tammoon nañu yaggaay boobu bo doon dem ci ab bërëb – Ban meneen pexe lañu amoon? Léégi ak otorut yu bees yii ak ay yuquteek bis yi ak jëmukaay yi mbir yi tane nañu bu baaxa baax. Su fekkee sax dem beek dikk bi dafa metti ba léégi ci waxtu xëy ak wacc ndax ni nit ñi yoqoo ci dëkk bi rawatina oto partikiliye yi bari ba dee ci tali Dakar yi, mettiil dem beek dikk bi te posonal jawu ji. Jambaar dëgg mooy mëna dem aka dikk ci biir dëkk bi! Bi ma jóge Ngor doon dem Guediawaye def naa ko lu jege ñaari waxtu ab ajjuma ci suba sis u fekkee sax toogoon naa ci palanteer bi te doon xool ba nga xamantane ni yëguma waxtu wi romb. Xëy na sax def naa ko lu gëna gàtt li ma foogoon.

Am na lenn lu wara am ci Dakar mooy Tram. Dina ma doon neex ma gis Dakar am ay Tram di dem ci ñeenti boor yépp maanaam Bëj saalum jëm Bëj gannaar ak Sowu jëm Pénku. Waaye lii dafay laaj mu am nguur gu mëna toppatoo ak defar gu dëgër te yagg ak xaalis.

* * * 

Ak tekstë bu neex ci ay taksi ci Lagos ak Yaoundé, maangi leen digal ngeen kontine di liir (ci Angalé) “Taxi Drivers who Drive Us Nowhere” by Howard M-B Maximus, written for Bakwa 09: Taxi Drivers who Drive Us Nowhere and other Travel Stories.

Addis is not decaf

The one thing hard to live without is the gift that Ethiopia gave to the world: good coffee. In Addis and throughout the country you can sip freshly roasted and brewed coffee just about anywhere, any time of the day. From temporary coffee tents to old Italian espresso machines to local coffee chains and trademarks to fancy venues with the latest innovations, there is something for all tastes. Coffee culture is thriving with probably millions of cups brewed daily.

Raw coffee might still be the biggest export of the country but a good sign is that coffee beans are increasingly finding their way to both local and international market also in processed form, roasted and packed and thus keeping a bigger profit in the country. 

If there is one thing I would really like to export from Ethiopia to Senegal – or anywhere – it’s that ease with which you can spot a venue and sit down, not for a bitter nescafé or chemical nespresso but for a genuinely good coffee!

Next Stop Nouakchott

Nouakchott in a postcard from the early sixties.

I hope to be able to return to Nouakchott soon for further research on some of its suburbs. If there is a city that started from scratch, well this is it! My impression of Nouakchott is a curious sense of intermediary space, although this is not based on knowing much about what it is like to actually live there. So far my visits to the city have been very short and my impressions were based on observations of that somewhat surprising balance between private and public life. In comparison to some other cities: there is a lot of private and not much public.

Nouakchott is easily considered a place where a city dweller would come from neighboring countries to work on a temporary basis. Transit migrants and immigrants leave their own imprint to certain neighbourhoods such as the Fifth District and produce interesting transnational connections not only to Nouadhibou – a cosmopolitan Saharan city in Northern Mauritania – but also to Dakar, Saint-Louis, Bamako and other Sahelian cities. Such districts show that Saharan cities are not simple stepping stones for a migratory flux to the north but a fundamental element in the development of regional economies. There is a lot to look into here so I think I will start my journey even before entering Mauritania by chatting more with people who are in one way or another connected to Nouakcott here in Saint-Louis. 

Ksar district in the sixties. Courtesy of the National Museum of Mauritania.

* Cross-link to one of my my earlier posts titled Saharanness.