"…To understand the meaning of this lullaby, you must know that the funeral rites and ceremony in the Arabic Djiboutian community are a women's business first... When someone passes away among the Djibouti Arabs, the mortuary washing is done by a 'wash-man' or a 'wash-woman', according to gender. The body is then dressed in a white, cotton shroud, by a 'cover-man' or a 'cover-woman'. Women are the ones who organize and overview the different steps of the mortuary ceremony... These women's efforts will vary depending on the ties that link them to the deceased. Thus, very often women don't make the same effort when it's for their mother versus their mother-in-law. They'll be more careless if the deceased is their mother-in-law, at least it's what this lullaby suggests." –extract from Souad Kassim Mohamed's commentary (translated from the French by Monique)

ٲشى عشر بنات بل قليلاتي - Djiboutian Children's Songs - Djibouti - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image


*"Ghasila" is the Arabic term for the female corpse-washer. It comes from the term for the woman who washes clothes for a profession, "ghassal". (Source: "The Mysterious Plus" by William Tarvin.)
**The woman who puts the shroud on the corpse.


Pronunciation of the song name:

aʃa ʕaʃara banāti bi-l qulejlāti

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Souad Kassim Mohamed from the University of Djibouti to allow us to use this lullaby and her French translation of it from her blog.

English translation by Monique Palomares and Lisa Yannucci.