flowing robes on the beach

We took refuge from the screaming kids at the school, sitting on the veranda at the beach. Mom’s passion-fruit “sorbet” never melted in the hour that we were there and ended up looking like a round slice of whale fat, and I played with my cold Nutella crepe, and we were almost lying on the table, enjoying the overcast freshness of the sea breeze. So thick, and salty.

These two days have been a muslim feast called “Tabaskee” from what I gather. It’s more fun to take people’s random comments about it, and it seems like everyone’s killed and eaten a goat and then the ladies went out yesterday afternoon for ice cream and cakes and sodas with their children, and all the men went walking on the beach today.

The women in the diner-like cafe yesterday evening looked like models. Mauritanian and Senegalese women, tall, slender, very regal, dressed in incredible flowing robes of batik and finely embroidered yards of cloth, of so many different colors, like live desserts, sitting then standing. A delicious fragrant ballet inside a cheap patisserie. Their unbelievably beautiful dark skins, smooth and soft, blemish-free and their fine fine features, perfect features of women from the far West, those desert lands of mysterious peoples. They would sit, with calm, almost leonine expressions, and once in a while, would grab one of their screaming boys (they all had boys, so either they all only made little boys or they only paraded around their little boys for everyone to notice) and hold him to their breast, feeding him through the magically huge sleeves of an outfit that almost became that of a Wizard. What else could they pull out of that large robe with the gaping sleeves?

The little boys dressed in their perfect embroidered robes looked like they inhaled the cakes, always the highest, creamiest cakes in the bakery, or more like they would press the cake against their taut round face, as if they could consume it by osmosis. Then they would stand on their chair and turn around for everyone to see the accomplish feat. The mothers, yogic in their calm would just turn their head slowly and the boy would sit, again, to try and consume the huge cake.

The men today, on the windy beach, would walk in groups of three or four, again with these superb robes, a bit wrinkled, as usual, you could tell even from that far away. They held hands sometimes, not uncommon in Africa for men and women to hold hands between friends, and it is all quite innocent, though it always takes foreigners by surprise.


Robes waves and palm-fronds all flowing in the crazy overcast wind, under the grey skies against the beautiful grey sea. With the threatening rain that never falls.

Another Friday afternoon in Pointe-Noire.


One thought on “flowing robes on the beach

  1. You’re killing me I tell you, killing me.
    love it vi, I absolutely love the pictures you just painted in my mind. no photo could ever do it justice.
    And I remember that festival in Abidjan and how every muslim man I knew was in a mad rush to findagoat!anygoat!quickcuickgetmeagoat!
    hope you’re having a beautiful day.

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