My name is 'Abd al-Khaliqu; I am a thirteen year old Muslim boy, Al-Hamdulillah. I live in Giginya village which lies in Hausaland, the large Islamic region of northern Nigeria. Barka da zuwa! "Welcome", as we say in the Hausa language.
I speak Hausa, a very important language spoken by more than 50 million people all over West Africa. For centuries, my language was written with the Arabic alphabet, but today we use the Latin one. Most Hausa people are Muslims, Al-Hamdulillah, and the Hausa language contains many Arabic words.
Giginya village lies in the Sahel (an Arabic word meaning "coastline") or the area to the south of the Sahara Desert. Very old rock paintings have been found in the Sahara Desert. They show that thousands of years ago our region of northern Nigeria was not a semi-desert but a land of forests with rivers and lakes. The name of our village comes from the word for the tall palm trees that grow in Hausaland. The giginya tree produces huge fruit that can weigh up to 3 or 4 kilos when ripe. Parents, therefore, always tell their children not to play under the giginya trees!
Like most people in Sahel Africa, we make our houses from local materials: corn-stalks, branches, and a mud mortar mixed with straw. Even our beautiful mosque is made of earth.
Can you see the calabash gourds growing on the hillside? My little brother 'Abd al-Karimu looks after them and says he wants to grow the biggest calabash gourd ever!
Our house is just down the lane under the shade of a big baobab tree.
This is my house. It was built in the traditional Hausa (2y style by several relatives who also worked with a master builder. Our house is made of mud but the exterior surface is covered with intricate arabesque designs first formed when the mud is wet. A thin covering of cement protects the designs. The windows are small to prevent the dust, harsh heat, and piercing sunlight from entering.
Most Hausa are farmers, artisans, or traders. My father is a groundnut (peanut) farmer and today he is working hard in the fields. I have many uncles in Giginya village. Some are farmers like my father, but others cure red goatskins that are still sent to Morocco by camel caravan. I also have an uncle who carves wonderful calabash gourds. Some of them are drying right now in the front of our house.
My mother cooks all our meals outside the house in a large cooking pot placed on three rocks. Hausa food is spicy. Today my mother will prepare a peppery vegetable stew, fried yam chips, and a delicious groundnut sauce.
A large baobab tree provides shade when we work outside of the house. Masha Allah, what an amazingly useful tree! Baobabs are some of the largest trees in the world; some baobab trunks, which store large amounts of water, are 9 metres in diameter! Some people think this tree is upside-down with its roots sticking up into the air! Baobabs are ancient trees that can live for more than a thousand years! The tree's bark also provides a strong fibre used for making rope and string.
The circular mud hut behind our house is a rumbu, or storehouse. Here my father keeps bundles of millet, guinea corn, and groundnuts.
The weather here in Hausaland is harsh; there are two main seasons: the dry season and the wet season. From the middle of October to the end of January, a cold, dry and dusty wind called the harmattan blows down from the Sahara Desert. Sometimes it blocks out the sun for weeks! The dry season (from February to April) ends with welcome rains that help irrigate fields where millet, maize, and groundnuts are grown. It is at this time that the famous calabash gourds are also planted even though many grow naturally in the wild.
Hausaland, the northern part of Nigeria, is one of the world's largest producers of groundnuts. This crop is also a very important basic food for the local people. Our family has been growing groundnuts for generations. Many villagers like my father work in the fields. The work is hard, but the results of our efforts are many, Al-Hamdulillah.
During the hot season, cow dung and the ash of burnt shrubs are placed on the fields as a fertilizer. The groundnuts grow to maturity in the rainy season. The groundnut harvest is a time of great excitement. Everyone helps out in the fields. All farmers place their unshelled nuts in hemp sacks. Eventually, these sacks are all transported to Kano, the largest city in Hausaland. Here the sacks of Giginya groundnuts and those from other farms are piled high into pyramids. Some of the nuts will be shipped south by train to factories where they will be processed into margarine and cooking oil. The rest will be exported. My father told me that there are about nine thousand sacks of groundnuts in each pyramid!
After each successful harvest, my father and other farmers in the village, meet in our mosque and give thanks to Allah, for He truly is Al-Razzaq, the All-Provider, Al-Muqit, the Sustainer, and Al-Waali, the Protector.
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