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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Remembering Abdou Aleem Faye (1959 – 2023)

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By Alieu Faal

February 14, 2024, marks one year since our friend, brother and colleague, Abdou Aleem Faye answered to the call of Allah. It was on a Tuesday, early in the morning that I got a devastating call from a close friend and former school mate of Aleem Faye, Alhaji Baba Ceesay, asking me whether I have heard the news. I asked him, “what news”? He sounded traumatised telling me, “Boy, Aleem demna”.

I couldn’t believe what I just heard and immediately went searching the social media for confirmation hoping that this was just untrue. While my mind started recounting the times and joyful moments we spent during our youthful days, I kept visualising his usual gleeful smiles. Anybody who knows Aleem could attest to his smiles which could be the face of The Smiling Coast. His bright personality and constant smile are full of kindness and empathy.

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I became friends with Abdou Aleem around 1973 through his elder brother Mutada Faye, a kindhearted elderly brother who admired my footballing talents at a young age and brought me to Dobson Street where Aleem and I started our long and sometimes rocky friendship. At the time, Aleem was in his second year at Armitage and I was a first-year student at the Gambia High School.

We were both members of our schools’ junior football teams. At a secondary school football competition held at Armitage football grounds whereas he was my host, we still had to oppose each other on the field. Our friendship blossomed further even when we were miles apart and saw each other intermittently whenever he came for his school holidays. We did everything that kids were supposed to do at our age and spent most of our time playing Scrabble, going after girls, and playing soccer.

Aleem was deeply knowledgeable and a fantastic Scrabble player. Many of our contemporaries loved watching our games. It was always tough and full of gigantic words that one would never think existed in the English language. As an avid player, Aleem would spend most of his time memorising these words in the Collins Scrabble Dictionary that was always by his side.

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Strange words such as Ziz, Zex, Zycal, Shoyu, Putz, Pyx, and those starting with the letter Q without being followed by u, such as Qoph, Qaid, Qorma and so forth, were words that I shared with Aleem. He would wait until towards the end of the game when the scores are very tight and the tiles in the bag are few and come up with those deadly words of his while smiling profusely knowing a challenge will be suicidal and make him win the game. His games were always an emotive wonder to watch!

As teenagers, we grew up at the time when the legendary Bob Marley was at his very best making chart-hitting records such as Catch A Fire, Burnin’ and Looting, Natty Dread, Babylon By Bus, Rastaman Vibration, Exodus and a host of other popular songs that brought him global fame. My knowledgeable friend, Aleem, will memorise all the songs of each release which he will be gleefully singing while we spent time relaxing at Wharfi Njago or Sofu Wanterr during our nightly weekend outings enjoying the Half-Die seas. Through Aleem I mastered most of the lyrics of many of Bob’s songs in his early albums.

Writing a eulogy for Abdou Aleem will not be complete without sincerely mentioning his influence on improving my academic studies which suffered a big blow because of divisive family issues at a time when most of my friends and former classmates were in sixth form preparing to take the GCE Advanced Levels. This happened towards the end of the 1970s. With support and encouragement from close friends and Aleem, I registered with AEB in the UK and completed my A Levels privately in commercial subjects that were not taught at the high schools during our time. I must say that my association with Aleem gave me that necessary impetus to further my academic pursuits successfully.

As fate would have it, on one of my visitations to the Banjul Muslim cemetery I was standing in front of my uncle’s grave praying for him and as I turned around to go, I noticed an epitaph with the name “Abdou Aleen Faye, Died 14 February 2023. Age 63 years”, written in gold almost opposite that of my uncle’s. Because of the large crowd who attended his funeral, it was impossible to pinpoint his exact burial site. I thanked God and prayed heartily for his eternal rest in peace. Now, passing by his grave to pray for him has become a regularity.

I wish to extend my condolences to his two wives, children, brothers, Pa, Tada, Ya Marie, Wahab, Habib and Fatou Faye and the entire Fayen family and close friends of Abdou Aleem Faye. I know he will be continuing to smile in heaven. 

Adieu Abdou Aleem, the kindhearted, knowledgeable, affable, smiley and religious friend and brother. May your memory continue to be a blessing.

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