A long time ago there lived a man called Galgalo who had a humble herd of camels and goats and cows. Galgalo lived well with his neighbours and was a good husband to his two wives;Habiba and Ebla. He performed his religious duties to Allah well and was blessed with healthy children.
But Galgalo was human. Sometimes he loved his sons more than he loved his wives. Sometimes he loved his camels more than he loved his daughters. But such is the nature of men-the ebb and flow of love in man’s heart can be unpredictable like the direction of the wind.
Galgalo was good to his neighbours from his bullah or village. When their flocks died leaving them with nothing to eke out a living from, he gave out his calves to them. When their wives had nothing to cook for their crying children, he gave a sack of bariss or rice to them. He was generous to a fault. The Somali have a saying that if people come together, they can even mend a crack in the sky. This saying was Galgalo’s constant north.
One day, Galgalo’s female camels pranced about and brayed all night. They trumpeted at his neighbor’s male camel in some amorous animal gibberish, begging for some primordial proteins. It was life begging to perpetuate itself. Galgalo, acting from ancient pastoral instinct passed from father to son, realized he had to move with speed if he wanted his herd to grow.
The following morning he went to Shukri his neighbor’s duful or hut and asked him to lend him his bull camel so that it could play with his female camels. Shukri was sitting on mat, furiously brushing is ever shiny teeth. He spat heavily to the ground and coldly told Galgalo off.Next, Galgalo went to his friend Dekow-the man who owned a thousand camels and was poised to be the next kaliph.Dekow pointed a brutal finger at him and disappeared into his big herd. Dekow was known to have a tongue that could flog a camel so Galgalo let him be and went home, bats of sorrow flying ominously above his head.
By the time he went to the fifth person in his bullah,Galgalo had realized that there was a village-wide conspiracy to deny him a bull camel. He got sad, like grief had laid actual hands on him. His heart curved inwards like a dry leaf with sorrow.
Allah, what have I done to deserve this? He cried one day.
From then on he made Masjid Noor the nearest mosque his abode. All night he prayed till his knees were sore and his eyes red.When his wives brought him pasta and aleso for his super, it went cold and ants started feasting on it.He became a thin pencil of a man with ribs sticking out like those of a cow that had survived ten droughts. His wives got worried that he wasn’t eating well owing to his praying. But there is no such thing as too much of a good thing; Galgalo kept on praying.
One evening as Galgalo lay on a mat after saying his magharib prayers, there was a celestial rustle in the air, like a great force was in motion. Galgalo went on his knees and prayed earnestly, for he could feel he was in great presence. Then, a beautiful strong bull camel dropped from the sky. Its flanks were the colour of gold, its hump glowed like a minaret. Galgalo gazed and mumbled to himself, then realized this was an encounter with the supernatural.
Galgalo marveled at the golden camel, but before he could tie it, Allah spoke to him. He asked him to take good care of it.He finally asked Galgalo never to tell anyone about the source of the camel. Galgalo solemnly swore to Allah never to do so, even at the pain of death.
After a short while his camels were pregnant and they bore very strong calves which made Galgalo proud. The beautiful calves pranced about like little animals of heaven. When they went to drink water at the shallow wells, the herdsmen stopped their throaty water songs to marvel at them. When they went back to their pens, women fetching firewood sat on logs to admire them and wonder why their husbands didn’t have such beautiful animals. To add to their beauty, Galgalo bedecked his camels with gold and silver and precious felt rugs from Persia.
Abdi Majid the itinerant griot and the poet laureate of that region even composed some poems nad water songs for Galgalo’s camels.
Galgalo’s ranking in the village circles where the men met went up. You see, a great man needs no introduction. But Galgalo wasn’t great man-until his camels increased tenfold and gave forth very strong calves. If he was living in 21st Century, he would be on Instagram with his camel from heaven-tagging all herders to make them feel envious and getting likes from Kismayoo to Kakuma.
Whastsapp groups by then consisted of wazees meeting by the watering hole, with theone with biggest herd of camels being the group admin.As long as human beings admire wealth,rich men will always be elevated,and poor men disrespected.Galgalo was made the group admin owing to his new-found wealth. He started wearing imported kikois and high quality open leather shoes reserved for emirs and rich sheikhs.
The Somali has a saying: aaddane eed ma waayo .Human beings are never without a fault. The biggest challenge after success is shutting up about it.Most men cannot keep their mouths shut after hitting it big. By and by, Galgalo started boasting about his camels with a heavenly pedigree.
Galgalo you are such a braggart! One old man told him someday.
It’s not boasting when you can back it up, Galgalo answered back.
One day, Dekow his friend borrowed his bull to mount his female camels which were on heat.
Wewe mtu hasidi! You are a bad man!
Galgalo told him.He furiously spit a gallon with disgust.Dekow recoiled into his kikoi,for he didn’t expect such an answer from him.
Ngamia ya mbinguni hawezi zaa na ngamia hio yako ya badia.
My heavenly camel cannot sire with your bush camels.Galgalo told Dekow, waving his walking stick mortally close to his chest. It is the habit of bad men to repay unkindness with unkindness.
Despite all his vanity, Mzee Galgalo was careful not to let the secret out about the source of his camels. He had made a solemn promise to Allah never to let tell anybody about the camel that fell from the sky. He even slept far away from his wives and sons, let he talked about the camel that fell from the sky in his dreams.
He avoided speaking about it even when he was alone. He feared that the haboob-the dry wind that blew from El Adow and was strong enough to knock down a strong camel might take the secret to the four corners of the world. He avoided singing about while herding lest the leaves and the barks keep the secrets and tell them to strangers.
Nothing in the world remains hidden forever. Gold or silver which has lain hidden in the bowels of the earth reveals itself on the surface one day. Sometimes the sand turns traitor and betrays the footsteps of the camel caravan, giving out not only the size of the herd but also the direction it has taken. Water eventually brings to the surface the body that has drowned. Revelation is the law of nature-the eternal preservation of a secret by a living man is a miracle we are yet to see. Galgalo was no exception to this iron rule.
Thus one day, as Galgalo sat down with wazees in a khat chewing session, he let out the secret.In one moment of weakness, he bragged about how he once talked with Allah. He said that Allah sent him beautiful camels direct from heaven the way one sends a parcel to a friend. He even added that he had a ticket to heaven where VVIP seat was reserved for him.
In that moment, the big beautiful bull camel that Allah gave to Galgalo took to the sky. It was followed by its off springs which were now a sizeable herd. They say the best way to cure a braggart from bragging is by surgery-the amputation of the neck. But since Allah is most merciful, He didn’t do that to Galgalo.
On a clear night, the golden camel together with its off springs can be seen up in the sky, next to the moon.
This story was told to me by one Mohamed Kosar one breezy evening as we sat on a mat stargazing, in small hamlet called Diff on the Kenya-Somali border.