"It's been two years that I didn't sing and dance and forget about work and madam" was the comment of Rachel Worko, an Ethiopian maid in Lebanon who attended a party for Ethiopians and Sudanese in Saida.
The event was reported today by Al-Akhbar newspaper and by The Daily Star. Ethiopian singer Ahmad Shumi had set the room on fire with his singing. The Ethiopians sang Sudanese songs, and the Sudanese sang Ethiopian songs, contributing to the cultural exchange between the two communities.
Image published in Al-Akhbar newspaper. Below are excerpts from the Daily Star article.
Sudanese, Ethiopian workers find reprieve at Sidon restaurant party By Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star staff, Tuesday, December 15, 2009
SIDON: Songs, laughter and dancing are not uncommon in Sidon’s many restaurants, but the festivities at one establishment on Sunday were unique because they gathered Ethiopian and Sudanese workers for what could be considered one of their rare days of freedom. Men and women raised their voices and moved their feet, celebrating an event they dubbed “It’s my day off. It’s my day to sing and dance.” Ethiopian singer Ahmad Shumi sang songs of love in Amharic and called on his lost lover to come back while other guests danced to his melodies and forgot the hardships they often face in the homes of unjust Lebanese employers.
Life outside the walls of the Sidon restaurant is frequently harsh for foreign workers in Lebanon, many of whom are domestic workers. Many are believed to be forced to work for long hours without leaving the house of their employer and to suffer other sorts of abuse.
HoweverSunday was a cheerful day and an opportunity to meet new people. That was the case for Mohammad, a Sudanese citizen, and Gigi, an Ethiopian, who met on the dance floor and soon declared their love for one another. The party was very well organized with a lower entrance fee for women than for men because female foreign workers are paid less, as Mohammad Massar explained. “The aim of this gathering is to meet, have fun, unload the burdens of work and strengthen the ties between the two diasporas,” he added. The women also found in the celebration an opportunity to wear their best clothes and show off their looks. “Look how beautiful we can be outside of work,” said Moha Clomon. “Not only Lebanese women are pretty. Just wait to see us when we’re not working,” she added.
Ethiopians sang to Sudanese songs and vice versa as everyone remembered their homeland and the families they left behind. An Ethiopian worker explained that her country had love, dance and happiness but only lacked those dollar bills that Lebanon could provide. “These are stolen moments of joy for us,” said Inrahim Issac, a Sudanese engineer working at a Lebanese contracting company.