My aunt Siham (who lives on the second floor of the building I live in) had a baby girl two weeks ago! The following week, lots of family and friends visited to give congratulations to Siham and the baby. There were many special foods served, including all types of bread, cookies, and a cake called silo made out of different nuts that is typically made when a baby is born. I met lots of women and they all asked if I knew how to clean and cook, and if I was a Muslim. I explained that I am focusing on work and I cook simple things. Inshallah I will cook them some American food! I shared that I had lots of Muslim friends in Palestine and fasted for part of Ramadan when I was there, which they loved! The family, especially the children, was talking about what to name the baby the entire week, which was fun. My cousin Ryan wanted to call the baby Ryana.
It is Islamic tradition to slaughter an animal in gratitude to Allah (God in Islam) for the blessing of having a child. This is called Aqiqah in Modern Standard Arabic and it occurs a week after the baby is born or the Saturday or Sunday after the baby is born. During Aqiqah, the baby is given a name. I was lucky to be here last Saturday to learn more about this Moroccan tradition.
My new baby cousin is called Hiba. After the sheep was slaughtered and we had an incredible breakfast, Fauzeeya, a relative who I met this week, insisted that she teach me how to cook in order to become a good Moroccan woman. We worked together to cut some parts of the sheep. It was my first time seeing a sheep slaughtered. Fauzeeya and I focused on cleaning and preparing the head, stomach, intestines, lungs, and feet of the sheep. At times I felt queasy with all the blood and poop. Part of cleaning out the intestines was getting out all the poop. Hahaha!
My grandma (who lives on the first floor of my building) was really proud of me for working with Fauzeeya. She took lots of photos and videos of me during the process and showed them to people at a party we had for Hiba that night, where we served djej alhamr, a typical grilled chicken dish, as well as a lamb tajine (popular clay dish used when cooking) with prunes and almonds called tajin bibrquq ou louz. My mom let me borrow a gorgeous caftan (traditional Moroccan dress) for the night and did my makeup. I had lots of fun meeting women (the party was split into men and women). They are always interested in the foreigner! Sometimes there is music and dancing at Aqiqa but a relative passed away that week so my family explained the program had changed.
The slaughtering of a sheep is also practiced during Eid al-Adha, which is the festival of the sacrifice. It honors Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmeal, by the command of God. However, God prevented Abraham from committing the sacrifice by sending down the angel Gabriel to stop him. (This is also a story in the Bible).