Established by Fathi Ibrahim Bayoud 2005 - Homs

Ramadan drummer among the tents awakens Syria's displaced

Features | 2020-05-12 17:48:00
Ramadan drummer among the tents awakens Syria's displaced
In the dark between the tents of Syrians displaced by war, Ramadan drummer Abdelfattah al-Bayour bangs on a saucepan, calling on his neighbors to wake up for a last meal before dawn.

Every morning during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, the 42-year-old rises at 2 am inside his tent in Syria's last major rebel stronghold of Idlib.

He dons a long beige robe and white skullcap, grabs a metal ladle and cooking pot, and heads out into the night to awaken those fasting during the day for a pre-dawn meal called suhour.

His teenage son Mustafa tags along, shining a small torch into the darkness as they tour the tented settlement near the village of Killi.

"Wake up, sleeper. Profess belief in the Eternal," he bellows, topping off each call with four rhythmical bangs.

For 15 years, Bayour has been a musaharati, a traditional drummer whose role it is during Ramadan to wake up neighbors to grab one last bite or sip before fasting from dawn to dusk.

But this Ramadan is the first he and his family are spending in a camp after their home was destroyed late last year in a military offensive by the Russia-backed regime.

"Back in the village, I used to walk between the houses along paved roads," says Bayour.

"Today I'm following dirt tracks between the tents."

- 'Better there than here' -

Some eight months ago, he, his wife and his five children escaped as pro-Damascus troops advanced on their home village of Kafr Rouma some 60 kilometers 60 kilometers south.

In the rush to flee, Bayour left most of his belongings behind, including his musaharati outfit of baggy trousers, embroidered jacket and drum.

Months of violence in Idlib this winter killed hundreds of civilians and displaced almost a million people in the biggest such exodus in the nine-year-old civil war.

A truce since March 6 has largely stemmed air strikes and fighting, but Bayour's village in now on the other side of the armistice line.

But dozens of Bayour's relatives or old neighbors have also set up camp in Killi near the Turkish border, providing a little familiarity as he performs a role he describes as a "hobby".

"Being a musaharati is a profession, but also a passion. I love doing it and it earns me some money," he says, as he sometimes receives money or presents for his role.

During the day during Ramadan, he pushes around a wooden cart loaded with sticky pastries from a bakery, hoping to sell them.

Among the camp's residents, 55-year-old Suleiman Salamo says hearing a familiar voice brings solace in displacement.

"We've been used to having Abdelfattah al-Bayour as a musaharati since we were in the village," says the married father of ten.

"He would tour the village banging on his drum. All of us remember its sound," he says.

"We hope soon to return to it and its great Ramadan atmosphere -- so much better there than here."

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