Sunday, July 8, 2007

Bakh-ing in the Muslim World.


Our translator had trouble explaining to us what “Bakh” meant in English. Sitting in the Sinai in the middle of the night, we were learning different sayings in Arabic with six Bedouin men. Why were we in the middle of the deserted desert? It was part of an excursion called Bedouin night, a time when Bedouin men take people to the desert, cook food, play music and dance.

“Bakh,” one of the men said, flaring his nose and baring his teeth.
We looked at him with blank expressions and watched his face fall. Our translator was unable to explain what bakh meant.
“Bakh,” she said, motioning us, forcing us to understand, “you know, Bakh.”

Talk about lost in translation.

And then the meaning of Bakh materialized in a series of comedic performances.

One of the men, Salim got up and slowly started ambling towards the white pickup truck that we had driven to the mountains. In his starch white thobe and his red and white kufiya wrapped around his head, he slowly tip-toed over to the car, sneakily looking at his friend who was about to get something from the truck. Salim hid underneath the truck, crouching low before his friend unknowingly walked over the the car.

Salim leapt out from underneath the car and yelled, “Bakh!” and everything fell into place, as his friend fell to the ground.

Bakh in Arabic means “Boo” and we got to see Bakh in action.

Laughing, we watched as Salim scurried off into the darkness followed by our raucous laughter as his friend chased after him. Watching two adult men in their white thobes and red kufiyas “bakh-ing” each other certainly put things into perspective for us.

Bakh, Boo, laughter and jokes are all the same wherever you go. Even if it is the Arab world.

Salim rushed back to the camp-site, wheezing and laughing. He smiled as he realized that we finally understood what Bakh meant. He whipped out his cell phone and then proceeded to show us videos of people “bakh-ing” each other, videos downloaded from web.

Even the bedouins have better cell phones than me, my friend Zoe exclaimed.

Salim boyishly shoved the cell phone under our noses making us watch cats jump on dogs, men jumping from trees and a dog bakh-ing a monkey. It is still beyond us how a dog could actually say “bakh” which it does in the video but thats one thing that even translation can't help us figure out.

After the men lost interest in playing pranks on each other they started playing games. It was the weirdest competition I have ever seen. Men in their later 20s and 30s, possibly even 40s were trying to see who could stand on his hands and lift his legs, while squatting on a rock.
It has to be one of the strangest things I have ever seen in my life. But one that made me laugh at the absurdity of it all. Here I was with my friends, lying under big thick blankets, about to sleep on the sand in the desert, and the bedouins were playing like a couple of children.

I fell asleep with a smile on my face as their laughter rang in our ears, late into the night. No one was apparently successful in the squatting game. But Salim did manage to bakh someone else.
Score: Salim 2, everyone else: 0

We'll have to get him next week.


No comments: