Loyal reader, allow me, this evening, to take you to our neighbourhood.
There is something magical about spring nights in Hawler. It is as if the entire neighbourhood has come out form their winter hibernation.
At 6:30 as the Mulla of the local mosque calls for the Maghreb prayer every child runs inside, everything is on immediate pause. Kids, with all the dirt under their feet, with all the dust on their hands, with all their bruises and sweaty hair they walk like a flock of waddling ducks into their homes.
Basketballs, footballs, little dolls, bikes, rollerblades and dusty na’el are dropped by the door. No questions asked.
Between 6:45 and 7, little Lala (Laylan), who has recently lost two of her baby teeth, knocks at our door with a plate full of something. And of course, we never send back empty plates. Common sense etiquette we all know too well. This is the time neighbours exchange meals.. sometimes!
There is peace in the air until 9 pm. After that doors re-open. And life becomes a different story.
The same people who devoured Kurdish rice, mrishk, fasoolya and Kfta less than an hour ago, then topped it with Luqma qazi and not one, but two chais (with sugar) are now off to their night walks. After all, it is all about moderation. Right?
The same people who walked in with fancy handbags and suits, are now in tracksuits and slippers (na’el) walking to the local market. These women and men are like the Piccadilly Line from the outskirts of London going into Oxford street. They pickup people along the way, and never reach their destination alone.
The kids are now squeaky clean. Rubbed and dubbed. Hair brushed. You can almost smell their shampoo. Yet again on the street for their night shift of games.
With the evening spring breeze, the smell of baby roses just born and freshly watered grass of every home the symphony orchestra of my neighbourhood begin. The chatter of women as they pass by in their evening walks, laughter of neighbours sitting at their veranda, 10 year olds pretend gates are goals well past 10 o’clock. Sound of TikTok videos. Laughter to TikTok videos. Kids crying. Kids falling. Teas being served. Cars arriving (at 10:30 pm), cars leaving (after midnight), of course bawki Sarmad’s radio is on news all night until he walks in to brush his teeth. And is this the sound of plates and cutlery I hear? Second round of dessert is served.
There there is little arguments, Sherzad has just got a new car and is always late home, his “aw sayara dafroshm” his dad exclaims every night. little Dyar cries because he’s always hurting himself, and poor Dia, almost always not allowed to play because she doesn’t enjoy homework. And dayki Sherzad is always heard outside calling (screaming) out for Rabar.
To our left is Dayki Sarmad’s house, they’re Hawlery, with her seven married children there is always life at her home. The lights to the little front yard come on at 9 pm. Every night a different child is there. Grandchildren run and play well into the night hours; the sound of gula barozha and spoons dissolving sugar in tea become my call for bedtime. Their conversations are never ending.
Opposite, to the right, is mali bawki Sherzad, a family of four. His wife is from Rwandz, he is Qaladzayee. The rare neighbours who make their guests park two roads down, but will never take the free parking space outside your gate.
Down the road are a larger family, they’re badini, calm and quiet. We share the shy hello. The entire road swear on the beauty of their four daughters.
Six houses down are the loudest in the neighbourhood. Laughter reaches the stars at night. Their string of cars block every door way and lights outside are like a Christmas Tree Disco! Their home is the heartbeat of the entire road. And they speak every language on planet earth, so for that reason I can’t tell you where they’re from.
Bawki Sarmad is always in his Shrwal, bringing an English manual for a radio of some sort for us to translate. “Kchm mali babta awa” he tells me. They’re the 911 of our neighbourhood. Knock anytime for any emergency (except if you have an English manual for a radio. For that you knock at our door).
Then there is Shilan and her husband, Karwan. Who live with dayki Karwan. They have a son called Saleh, named after bawki Karwan. By day she cleans the windows seven times, while Karwan is always fixing the white Nissan outside. By evening time the Kawa of her Jli Kurdi glides behind her as she walks, she frames her eyes in black liner and the smell of her perfumes dance in the air behind her. They’re love birds. We all know the story about Karwan proposing four times before Shilan’s dad said yes.
My neighbourhood loves to talk. In the spring nights, doors are wide open, shoes are lined up outside front doors like the Taraweeh prayer at a mosque during Ramadan. People eat. People talk. People walk. Kids slam doors. Accidentally. Parents scream after them.
In my neighbourhood I’m the weird one. The kids are tucked in bed at 7 pm, even if its summer and the sun is shining bright. Dayki Sarmad isn’t shy of her loving remarks “awa naley disan dayan-nweni.” I smile.
The magic of living in Kurdistan is in its people.
Love, lots of love, from My Nest in Kurdistan