September 24 was another major Muslim holiday called Eid Al Adha (Festival of Sacrifice), which commemorates when in the Islamic Koran Allah (God) appeared to Ibrahim in a dream and asked him to sacrifice his son Ishmael to demonstrate his devotion to him. Though when Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son, Allah stopped him and gave him a lamb to kill instead. The story also appears in the Jewish Torah and the Christian Old Testament. Around Eid Al Adha many Muslims perform the Hajj, the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia and one of the 5 pillars of Islam. I am delighted that I got to experience it for the first time with my sister, Andrea, who came to visit from London for the week. She was my first visitor!We woke up early (around 8am) and went to my next-door neighbors, the Lafati’s, to have breakfast. We had fresh, homemade, and delicious hubz (bread) with butter and honey and of course Moroccan tea! When Abulmajid returned from the mosque (there is a special Eid Al Adha prayer), he sacrificed the lamb they had gotten from a farm in the countryside at around 10am. During Eid Al Adha, it is compulsory for men to go to the mosque, but not women. The sacrifice also must happen after the prayer and the Imam’s sacrifice. The day before Abulmajid had sacrificed a goat because he is diabetic and lamb meat has lots of sugar, which I never knew about! Families typically sacrifice goats, sheep, cows, or camels. They buy them from farms or at the souq. Monday souq before Eid was especially hot and crowded and vegetables and fruit were pricier! Everyone was buying knifes, skewers, barbeques, and sheep for Eid Al Adha! People were carrying goats and sheep on their shoulders, in carts, on motorcycles, and in cars. I could not stop looking at a man adjusting a sheep on his motorcycle. Hahaha! Also, people that do not know how to sacrifice pay a butcher to come in. Mohammed, the middle son from the Lafati family, had actually gone into Marrakesh to work on Eid.
Before Abulmajid cut the lamb’s throat he said Bismillah (In the name of God). Muslims say this many times throughout the day-most often before eating meals, but also when starting to drive, entering a house, cutting hair… Sacrifice is carried out according to dhabihah, a method of ritual slaughter in Islamic law. Besides saying Bismillah, a Muslim must carry out the sacrifice and the animal must be laid down gently with its head facing the Mecca in order for the meat to be halal (allowed). Typically the large arteries in the neck are cut to kill the animal with one swipe of a sharp knife. While the blood is draining, the animal must be held.I watched while the sacrifice happened but my sister couldn’t. She actually ended up going on a motorcycle ride with a cousin of the Lafati family around town. Hahaha! I had seen some slaughtering of chickens when I worked at Mighty Food Farm before the Peace Corps and also during Aqiqa with my host family in Fez so it wasn’t new and more comfortable. I also feel that I must know how an animal is killed in order to eat meat. I am interested in how the meat is cut and prepared.After the sheep was skinned, I observed how Abulmajid methodically removed and cleaned most of the insides (heart, lungs, liver, intestines, stomach, etc). I didn’t note the details because I was busy meeting extended family members who stopped by and introducing and translating for my sister. Many members of the extended family stopped by though they didn’t do the slaughter together. Each family slaughtered their own sheep in their house. Abulmajid hung rest of the sheep after most of the insides were removed. This was all done in the entrance to the house that has a cement floor and walls, a drain, and a metal hook to hang the animal. I have heard that other people slaughter in the kitchen or roof.
For lunch around 1pm we grilled sheep heart, lungs, and liver skewers wrapped in fat and ate them with spices (salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and ginger) and bread. I only ate a bit since I do not eat lots of meat in general and especially these types of meat and I didn’t want to get sick. It all tasted ok. Andrea and I left for a nap around 3pm before we could taste sheep brain. They scramble it with eggs here.
In the afternoon around 6pm we tried to visit all my friends and neighbors to say Mabrook Eid Said (Happy Eid) but we got stuck at two peoples houses eating more skewers, drinking tea, talking, and laughing before we returned to the Lafati’s to eat dinner with the extended family at 9pm. We had boiled meat, bread, and Moroccan salad (chopped tomatoes, peppers, and onions). Some friends and neighbors are still mad at me for not stopping by and meeting my sister. There was not enough time though! They always complain that I don’t stop by enough. Whenever I do though, they always ask where I was, why I didn’t stop by, that they missed me, whose houses I did stop by at and why not theirs, etc. I must remind myself that it is their way of expressing their amazing hospitality! Sometimes I do worry about offending people because I know my work depends on relationships and the trust and confidence I instill in my community. Village politics are tricky!
The people that did get to meet my sister were thrilled and asked her lots of questions and made sure she ate and drank until she was stuffed. Kuli, Kuli, Kuli (Eat, Eat, Eat!) I translated most of the time since Andrea doesn’t speak Darija and told her what was halal and haram (prohibited). She did learn some key Darija words like Salam (Hello), Labas (How are you?), Shukran (Thank you), Benin (Delicous), Zween (Beautiful) and my friends and neighbors went wild when she used them. They told her that she has to stay and learn more Darija like me. They invited her to their houses again to eat couscous and tagine. It was nice to have all the attention on Andrea instead of me all the time. It gets exhausting sometimes to be a celebrity in a small village in Morocco. Hahaha! Also when we were eating dinner, and wearing a jellaba (traditional Moroccan dress) with material I bought in Madrid and that my friend’s mom made for me, everyone told me that I am Moroccan now. Hahaha! I guess in comparison to my sister I seem Moroccan.The next couple of days of Eid, the rest of the animal is cut and a third of the meat is eaten by the family, a third is given away to extended family and friends, and a third is donated to the poor.Andrea and I spent the last couple of days of her visit in Marrakesh being tourists. We went to a pool at an hotel (It is still 90 degrees Fahrenheit out!), ate delicious French pastries, wandered around Jemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakesh’s main square and the many souks around it, and visited Medersa Ben-Youssef, a gorgeous Koranic school. It felt really nice to get away. I realized through my sister’s visit that I need to get out of my village more. Being at site is like being a fishbowl. I am in a public eye. Everyone knows when I have left my house, where I am going, what I have bought at the hanut (corner store) or souq, etc. Hahaha! I need some privacy. I am also quite isolated and feel lonely at site. I do enjoy the company of my friends and neighbors but there are significant cultural and language barriers that are hard to ignore. I hope to go into Marrakesh not just to do errands but to go to interesting events like art openings, film screenings, and concerts and meet different types of Moroccans.