Sunday, November 29, 2009


Sunday, November 29, 2009

This weekend is the weekend of Eid (عيد). Eid al Adha or Eid al Kabir are other names for the holiday. It’s a worldwide Muslim holiday to commemorate when Ibrahim was going to sacrifice his son to God. In place of Ismail, God allowed a sheep to be sacrificed. So, on Eid al Adha (the holiday of sacrifice) each family sacrifices a sheep by slitting it’s neck and draining the blood.

For a week leading up to Eid, I saw people transporting sheep throughout the city. They were being dragged out of trucks, carried from little truck beds on the back of motorcycles, or led up three flights of stairs to reach the family terrace on the roof. You could hear the “baa – baa” of sheep throughout the medina and in Oudayas. My landlord, Haja, didn’t bring hers up until Thursday, two days before. However, when I went onto the terrace on Friday, there was another sheep. It’s crazy for a family to have two sheep (or even one) because buying a whole animal is very expensive. I asked some of my students how much they paid and one said 2,300 dirham and the other said 1,700. The former price is about 300 dollars.

For a lot of families, a small sheep is more than they can afford upfront. One day in the medina, Mau and I were given a flier advertising a financing program from a Moroccan bank. Here’s the credit information from the Wafasalaf website.

A l'occasion de Aid Al Adha, Wafasalaf vous fait bénéficier de ses meilleures offres. Pour un montant de 3000 dhs vous ne payez que 290 Dhs par mois sur une durée de 11 mois ! De quoi passer un Aid en toute sérénité.
Jusqu'au 30 novembre 2009, demandez ce crédit sur Internet où dans n'importe quelle agence Wafasalaf.
Pour toute demande d'information ou simulation, contactez le centre de relation clientèle Wafasalaf au 05 22 54 51 51.

On Friday, Mau and I went into the medina to do some shopping for the weekend. One of my co-workers, Matt, had warned me that most everything is closed for Eid and that I should get all of my groceries on Friday. It was an overcast day on Friday and I could feel that people were excited about the big holiday on Saturday. Because it was one of the first cold days here, and because of the excitement I felt among the people in the medina, if felt like Christmas to me. Even yesterday morning, while all of my Oudayas friends were gathered around Haja’s table for breakfast, felt like Christmas. I had a whole weekend off, all of us were gathered together, Haja was serving tea, and we knew a big feast was to come. That feeling went away when we stepped onto the terrace and saw blood lining the ground. Haja’s cousin had slit the throat of the first sheep while we all were watching the king sacrifice two goats on the local television.

Kaamilah, Angelo, a French friend Dorothy, Mau, my invite Charlie, and I watched from afar as Haja’s cousin meticulously removed the skin and wool from the sheep they had hung from the roof. This wasn’t as bad as I anticipated but the worst part was that the other sheep was still alive, tied up right across from the sheep Haja and her family were gutting. There was no question as to whether he knew what had happened to his fellow sheep. The part I found the most interesting, was trying to identify the parts of the sheep as they were removed from inside. I correctly guessed the liver, the heart, and the intestines.

Finally, after the insides were washed and the wool was cleaned of the little blood that got on it, Haja’s cousin was ready to kill the other. We watched from afar and I remember thinking what it must be like to have grown up with this holiday that happens every year. Soon after they killed the second sheep, Charlie, Mau, and I headed to the medina. One thing I new before we entered the area of the medina was that the people who live there don’t have access to a private terrace like the people of the Oudayas. So, I braced myself for bloody doorsteps and smoking heads in the street.

We got to Khadija and Hussein’s house (Hussein is my surf instructor and I’ve been tutoring Khadija, his wife, as a sort of volunteer gig) at around 11:30am. They were just starting to remove the skin and wool of the second sheep. We literally stepped over the bloody floor and carcass to get to the living room where Hulud (Khadija and Hussein’s 3 year-old) was watching cartoons with her uncle, Adil. Charlie, Mau, and I sat there for what felt like an eternity since Khadija and her mom and Hussein’s brother were occupied with “dealing with” the second sheep. Finally, after over an hour of sitting in the tv room, trying to communicate with Adil, Khadija was finished and was able to sit with us. By then, I was getting cold, I was feeling sick from the smell, and feeling a bit claustrophobic. I suggested that we go outside the house to play soccer with Hulud. We did that for a few minutes but then Adil wanted to take us to his sister-in-law’s house so we could see another sheep. ANOTHER SHEEP. I couldn’t believe it but sure enough, we walked a few streets through the medina to see Hussein’s brother working on another sheep. By then, I was thinking about excuses to tell Khadija and her mom that would allow me to not have to spend the rest of the day with them “celebrating Eid.” I knew it was special for them to have Mau and me, and I also knew that telling them we couldn’t spend the day with them was not an option. So, I told them that I needed to go home to get a sweatshirt. I took the time to recuperate and to eat something before a meal I assumed I was not going to be able to stomach. The sandwiches I made for myself, Charlie, and Mau, and the two generous glasses of rum and Coke were the perfect sustenance to help me survive the afternoon.

We returned to Khadija’s house in time for Hussein’s arrival. He had been working all morning as a butcher, as many families pay to have outside people kill, hang, and take out the insides of their sheep. We had tea while watching a bit of tennis on the tv, and then headed the sister-in-law’s house carrying salads, bread, and the livers from our two sheep. Khadija and Hussein had two sheep at their house because every married couple/family is supposed to have a sheep. Since they live in the house of Khadija’s mom with Khadija’s mom and brother, they household had two sheep. At Khadija’s sister-in-law’s house, there were twelve people. Hussein worked the grill, Khadija’s mother, Hussein’s brother, and a friend prepared the liver skewers, and the others helped put the rest of the food on the table. Mau and I didn’t “help” much with the food but we were the un-official caregivers of Hulud who is a girl with a lot of energy and not much space to spend it. In the end, the day wasn’t that bad. The morning was rough with all of the sacrificed sheep but being with all of Hussein’s family in the afternoon was really nice. I learned how to make mint tea (the process was explained to me in Darija), discovered that a lot of people take the fat off of the liver pieces once it’s been grilled, learned that the liver of three sheep is a whole lot of food, and got exposed to a lot of Darija, and even practiced my Darija with Hulud who is still the only one patient enough to understand me.

Now Mau and I are off to have sheep couscous with Haja, Angelo, and the others.

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