Sitting watching the hyenas, I’ve been struck by how many new and unfamiliar faces there are. This is quite meaningful for reasons which I’ll go into later but it also saddens the hell out of me. Imagine you go away for a year and return home to find your family replaced by very human-looking robots. They all seem kind of familiar and in fact an untrained eye couldn’t distinguish them from your missing family members, but there’s something about these facsimiles that makes them seem like total strangers. Well, it’s the same with these new hyenas.
Let me tell you who’s missing. There’s Kamareeya (Jalla). He was a sub-adult when I first came to Harar and I watched him grow. Kamareeya was also very comfortable in my presence so we spent a lot of time together in the Old Town, looking for food, suspiciously eyeing Aboker hyenas and dodging noisy people. Then there’s Hadha Kumar. She was a high ranking female who was also very tolerant of me. So too the high ranking Diraatu is gone, as is Abba Jabsee, so named because he apparently cared for young ones, like his folkloric namesake. Both Illili and Buriseey are missing. Illili was a timid youngster while Burissey was more audacious than Willi and went so far as to try to lick the jacket sleeve off my arm (link). Also gone, the brazen male Bouki who I’ve seen marching past terrified pedestrians in Harar as though they weren’t even there. But the biggest gap is that left by the manic-aggressive Dibbey and her pathologically neurotic stalker, Tukwondilli. While Tukwondilli was obsessed with the violent object of his hormonally overcharged affections, his attention incited nothing but rage in the big, aggressive female. I have a vivid memory of Dibbey displacing Tukwondilli as she marched towards the hill, after which Tukwondilli crept up behind Dibbey and nipped her on the rump. Tukwondilli knew what the reaction would be and he was off and running towards the road before Dibbey even turned around. The raging female lumbered after Tukwondilli but never had a chance to catch him. No doubt she put that one away in the vault, to be saved for a later date and an opportunity to tear the skinny male to pieces.
So while I sat at the shrine, gazing at the faces of so many unfamiliar, anonymous hyenas, my spirits lifted when a big female came charging around from the road. It was Koti, the confident, dominant female matriarch of the Sofi clan. She was still alive and still as arrogant as ever and I wanted to run up and give her a hug. Koti had never paid me much heed although I know she used to recognise me because she had no qualms about marching past me to within a few centimetres (this was always a little unnerving for me). So there I sat, watching Koti, basking in her familiarity, as though she was the only remaining connection I had with the Sofi clan.