(SomalilandPress)Amal Osman had come to Hargeisa not only to visit her uncle’s family but to also do some research for her PhD. Her thesis focused on a microcredit NGO, ran by a cousin of hers named Fatima, which gave small loans to help support female entrepreneurs. Fatima had, prior to living in Hargeisa, lived in Norway, where she had met, married and subsequently divorced her husband. After the dissolution of her marriage, like many independently spirited Somali women over 40, without an established career, she was faced with the difficult decision to either open up her own Somali related business or start an NGO. Having always viewed herself as being rather altruistic she decided pursue the latter and subsequently moved herself and her three small children to Hargeisa. Through, helping others she found a great deal of joy and satisfaction, and most importantly helped take away much of the bitterness of her failed marriage.
The morning after the wedding, Amal showed up to work and ran into Fatima at the gate of their office.
“Great news!” says Fatima beaming, as she closes her car door. “We’ll finally be able to get those computers we have so desperately wanted.”
“That’s awesome!” states Amal as she walks over to her. “Who’s the generous donor?”
“Sheeko Telecommunications. They are upgrading their systems and have decided to donate their old computers to various different charities, and they have selected us as one of those charities.”
Amal’s smiling expression faded to shock.
“The head of their company personally called on Thursday to inform me about the donation,” Fatima informs her as she began to walk towards the courtyard that led to her office.
“Ayub Dalmar?” asked Amal, following after her.
“Yeah! Do you know him?” asked Fatima.
“Not really. I just know he’s a jerk. I met him for like five minutes this weekend at a wedding and that was more than enough to last me a lifetime. Giving us his unwanted computers—-the nerve of that guy! Well, we don’t want any of his charity.”
“Ah—-Yes we do. Hello—you’re the one that is always going on about how desperately need computers for our clients. Imagine how much good we can do with them. We can final start giving those computer classes, you’ll always talked about.”
“We can hold off on that idea for a little while longer. I’m sure something else will come along.”
“No it won’t. Do you know how hard it is to get a donation like that? Next to impossible. Why are you so against the idea anyway? I thought you would be thrilled.”
“Because, our organization is setup to help improve the lives of improvised Somali women—-he has a very low opinion of and despises all Somalis and in particular Somali women. Taking anything from him would be like PETA taking money from a butcher. It’s just wrong!”
“Surely not!” protests Fatima.
“This is probably just some publicity stunt, you know,” Amal states. “And look at the timing of the offer— right before Ramadan—-He’s probably trying to paint himself as this generous businessman—-I bet he’ll have this place full of cameramen and journalist.”
“Well, I’m meeting with him this morning to discuss the offer and if I feel his views are not aligned with ours, I can always refuse.”
Just then they turned the corner and saw Ayub Dalmar standing a few feet away.
“Mr. Dalmar, how good of you to come so early,” says Fatima as she greets him.
“I thought you said to meet you at your office at 10:00am, if so, than I’m right on time,” he replies.
“Oh, but you know how we Somalis are, you tell us 10 and we show up at 11. It’s so refreshing to meet with someone who is actually punctual,” Fatima remarks.
“I think it rude and inconsiderate to waste other’s time,” he replies, with his usual somber tone of voice. “Somalis lack of respect for other peoples’ time has always irritated me.”
“It’s not being disrespectful— but rather just a cultural difference,” Amal states. “We, Somalis are a proud and free spirited people and refuse to be shackled to anything—-even time. This belief in being unshackled steams from our nomadic days. When one is living on the big open gazing lands, one has no conception of time, the hours and minutes simple melt together.”
“Which, I suppose, explains too the shocking lack of progress and development amongst the Somali people in general,” he says.
Amal’s, jaw drops, and Fatima, seeing that she was about to boil over quickly ushered Ayub into her office, before she could reply.
To make matters worse, when Amal got home that evening she was reminded that her uncle had invited the Bashirs’ over that evening for supper. Khadra had also extended an invitation to Zahra and her family. She had two motives for doing this, the first was that she felt her daughters would appear at an advantage when compared to Zahra’s daughters, and the second, that Zahra would have to return the favour and invite them over when she invited the Bashirs over to her home.
A third benefit occurred to her after she saw Ayub, whom she had spent the whole of the morning bashing on the telephone to her friends; with the attendance of Zahra’s family, the dinner party was so large that no one need trouble themselves to speak with him.
After discovering that Ayub was the son of the famous owner of Dalmar group of companies, Mr. Ismail managed to seat himself beside him at dinner, for nothing made Mr. Ismail more proud than the sight of a successful enterprising Somalilander. He spoke consistently, about the “the wealth of investment opportunities in Somaliland”, and the “need to attract more Somalilanders to invest in business in Somaliland” and “how someday Somaliland would a great economic power!” Ayub not troubling himself to appear at all interested simply gave the occasional monosyllable reply.
After dinner, the gentlemen rejoined the ladies in the living room, for it was the custom in Somali culture that ladies and gentleman eat separately. Ayub utterly bored began to study the people around him, passing unfavorable judgment on each one, when his gaze arrested by Amal Osman who was in the middle of relating a story to Zahra’s daughter Ubah, and his cousin, Salma. Her face was bright and animated, her eyes sparkled intelligently and her lips were curved into a very pretty smile. He remembered what she had said to him that morning, and smiled to himself as he did. And though he had convinced himself, last night, that he had found her utterly unattractive, this evening he decided he would be generous and say that she was in fact not unattractive. Though, he would hardly call her a beauty, as he watched her for a little while longer he felt that there was something almost bewitching about her. He continued to observe her throughout the evening, with a great deal of interest and curiosity.
To be continued…..