There’s a magical time of the day when the afternoon sun hits its climax and bathes everything in warm rays of light. During these golden hours, whether I am in Seattle or Somalia, I have a ritual of resting and taking my casariyo.

My hands move with memory. Every day, I carefully brew ginger-laced, spiced Somali shaah and arrange my sweet of the day: moist and dark slices of date cake, a paper-thin stack of tender malawax (a cardamom crepe), or still-warm pieces of fresh bur (a fried beignet). I plate my food carefully, consume my sweets slowly and let my shaah soothe me. No matter what my day may bring, I know that I have casariyo to look forward to.

In Somalia and throughout the diaspora, there is the tradition of casariyo (A-sar-iyo), an afternoon tea or coffee break that follows lunch and the Asr Islamic prayer. Some also take a nap before or after their casariyo. It’s a time of the day where everything slows down before coming to a stop, like the final droplets of honey settling at the bottom of a cup. Casariyo encourages time to rest, nourish oneself and connect with others over a warm drink and a bite of something sweet.

In popular culture, the tradition of a leisurely afternoon tea is typically associated with the British aristocracy. However, the British tradition of afternoon tea, which was borrowed directly from Chinese tea traditions, wasn’t introduced until the 1830s, when England established tea plantations in India during its brutal colonization of India and Sri Lanka. While there’s conflicting information on who popularized the British afternoon tea, the drink itself eventually became affordable enough for the tradition to reach the rest of British society.

In contrast, despite coffee’s initial high cost, the modern “coffee break” is primarily associated with both work and the working class. Coffee has been around for thousands of years, having first been discovered by a goat herder in modern-day Ethiopia. This powerful and aromatic drink found global popularity along Arab trade routes.

The origin of the American worker’s coffee break can be traced to Buffalo in the late 19th century, where bosses at either the Barcolo Manufacturing Company or the Larkin Company introduced it to their workers as a way to increase employee productivity and output.

Today, a tea or coffee break tradition can be found in many cultures and across societal class lines; whether it’s the Somali casariyo or the Swedish fika. So much more than a brief work break, these traditions prioritize rest and bake it into the rhythms of the day. They are a daily reminder of how fundamental food, rest and connecting with others are to the human experience.

During my time in Mogadishu, every afternoon was marked by casariyo. In the villa, we took casariyo on the balcony where we had all of our meals. On occasion, my mother would take her casariyo in the courtyard, where she looked like the definition of grace. Her relaxed state could be seen in the way her bright garbasaar draped itself over her shoulders. Her feet, covered in bold red henna, outstretched before her on the stone bench as she sat nursing a cup of shaah in one hand, basking in the sun and resting for a time.

My aunt would bring out all the classic casariyo treats: fluffy slices of Somali cake similar to angel food cake; sticky and thick cuts of xalwo (halwa) gleaming a fierce orange-red, sugar-coated ridges of shushumow and buttery crisp Somali cookies bursting with cinnamon and cardamom — handmade fresh into the shape of flowers.

Accompanying the food were trays carrying thermoses of qahwo (coffee) and freshly made spiced Somali shaah. Alongside the Somali coffee and tea were pitchers of camel, goat and cow milks. We would take turns praying outside in the warm sun as each person fixed themselves a cup of tea and a plate of sweets.

People would slowly wander from out of the house to join us or to make wudhu (ritual cleansing) in our outdoor bathroom. Occasionally, neighbors would knock on our door or children from the neighborhood would ask my cousins to come and play. Casariyo always felt like more than just a break in the day. It was a continuation of tradition; I could imagine my nomadic ancestors taking pause in their day to set up camp, tell jokes and talk politics over shaah.

When I think about rest, I think about Somalia and my mother glowing under the sun’s warm rays. I think about the spread of casariyo treats and the taste of hot shaah at the peak heat of the afternoon.

It took living in a place where work is glamorized and rest is discouraged for me to appreciate casariyo. To understand that slowing down is just as valuable for the human spirit as producing something. Sometimes rest looks like pausing for rich conversation alongside a cup of spiced tea and a slice of cardamom cake.

Casariyo is a tradition that anyone can appreciate, because everyone is deserving of rest.

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