• Though often a source of amusement, upcountry folk are Coasterians' brethren
Every year, Coasterians have a field day poking fun at the ‘upcountry’ dwellers who visit the region in December. We bash their dress code, their excitement for what we consider normal, and their lack of respect towards local culture.
I might interject at this point and clarify that when I refer to the Coast, I am talking about the entire coastline of Kenya, from the rocky shores of Lamu to the sandy beaches of Ukunda.
I believe visitors of the Coast are no longer uninformed about our expectations of them when they arrive. The big question is: do we know our expectations are towards those who visit our region during the holidays?
Even though Muslims, who are the majority population of the Coast, do not celebrate Christmas, I believe they have an obligation towards their neighbours who do.
This year, I decided to turn the tables and talk about the responsibilities that we, Muslims and Coast dwellers, have towards those who visit our region and towards those we care about who celebrate Christmas. For those who are unaware, there is a big debate among Muslims about the extension of Christmas celebrations within the Muslim community. Opinions may vary among scholars, but the commandment that has never changed is: “Be kind to your neighbours.”
I spent all my childhood attending my neighbour’s Christmas parties. Mama A was our neighbour for 18 years. Every year, she would slaughter meats in the Halal way so we could attend their parties and eat. During those rare moments they were not home for Christmas, she would send over goodies just so we could be a part of the festivities. Since she moved, I have made it a point to call Mama A every Christmas to wish her Happy Holidays.
While Muslims are debating about the degree of haram for saying, “Merry Christmas,” Christians and Hindus never hesitate to wish us an Eid Mubarak. Then why would it be so wrong to wish those around us a happy time during their own celebrations? If we claim that our religion teaches tolerance, then we must adhere to that principle.
Many of us have Christian neighbours and employees or some even family members. Let us not hesitate to wish our people a Merry Christmas and hope with all our hearts that they enjoy their holiday. We can even go the extra mile by extending the hand of generosity. Those who have Christian employees can give them a Christmas bonus. Those with wonderful Christian neighbours can send over a cake or goodies. Putting a smile on a person’s face is the greatest act of kindness.
While Mombasans are often annoyed by the brazenness of tourists during the holidays, we must remember that we have marketed our region as a holiday destination. We need the tourists and visitors to make the holidays an economic success. We need to ensure that our guests have a good time and get good value for money. To promote the region as a tourist destination, we must create a safe and enjoyable environment for the holidaymakers.
Coastal dwellers have always been known to be a kind and hospitable people. Our grandparents would welcome people into their homes and not expect a single thing from them. Although the years have made us cynical, we are the culture that embodies hospitality.
We need to revert to our old ways of being a thoughtful and welcoming people. To all my people from the Coast or Muslims worldwide, let us agree to give our Christian brothers and sisters a jolly festive season.
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