(During the sacrifice)…Right there with you buddy.
L’Eid Kabir, or Eid al-Adha is a big deal. In the weeks leading up to the big day, I saw several women rushing to buy ingredients to prepare elaborate cakes and cookies and hundreds of sheep being transported in the trunks of taxis and storage underneath buses. People travel across Morocco to spend the holiday with their families. It took place in early November this year and it was more substantial for me this year for several reasons: It will most likely be my last l’Eid Kabir spent in Morocco, or possibly ever, it was my last few days in site, as I have since moved and I committed myself to sampling each and every part of the animal—which, if you read my post from last year, includes scrambled eggs and brains….
The night before l’Eid was spent busily preparing meticulous cakes and cookies with my neighbors. I had many “surprise” visits and consequently was baking most of the night. Around 7 AM the next morning, I was summoned to breakfast with my neighbors. Breakfast included coffee, sugary tea, milk, msmn (Moroccan crêpes), harira (soup) and cake. The electricity had gone out which made the meal much more enjoyable, since I have yet to visit someone’s house without the T.V. glaring the background.
Around 9:30 AM, after the King had slaughtered his sheep, my neighbors informed me they were about to do the same. Each family is required to slaughter a sheep and if they cannot afford one, a goat. Some families that are very poor are given a sheep or meat from the sacrifice. Muslims are asked to sacrifice a sheep or goat in honor of Abraham’s submission to God’s commandment to sacrifice his first born son, who sent him a ram to sacrifice instead.
They only use very sharp blades and the animal is said to die a quick, painless death. Regardless, I held onto my friend just as tight as the year before and had her take pictures for you…
The sentiment on the “Big Holiday” generally reminds me of Christmas time in the States, people seem to be in a jubilant mood, feeling extra charitable and gorge themselves on large, fattening meals. Small gifts are also given to children and everyone buys new clothes for the big day.
After the slaughter I prepared my plates of brownies, pumpkin loaf, banana bread and chocolate chip cookies to bring to various houses. I spent most of the day with two of my good friends who just had baby girls and went to a gathering near the Mosque for kids to play games and win prizes. This year I did not go with the women to clean the sheep—seeing organs close-up was interesting but watching a stomach be emptied and washed once was good enough for a lifetime.
After a large lunch, everyone leaves their houses to greet one another, have some tea and share cookies and cake. After the sun sets, people return to their respective homes and the smell of smoked meat fills the air. The first cuts of the sheep are prepared into spiced kebabs, and each house is filled with smoke. The first night of feasting generally includes gorging on meat, the heart and kidneys. I held to my commitment and ate all of these, the meat—although a bit greasy being the preferred of the carnivorous buffet.
The next two days were spent doing much the same—visiting and gorging on meat. Each meal was preceded and followed by spiced shwa or kababs and the main feast consisted of scrambled eggs, tomatoes and brain, grilled cheek and eye, ears and some parts I could not identify. I have to say the brain was very rich and similar to butter, and not at all what I expected. The face meat was very difficult for me to eat—because it’s both fatty and extremely chewy. Over the last month or so, many families prepared kordez, or dried meat balls—sort of a Moroccan equivalent to beef jerky. Lungs, the stomach and various other parts are spiced, wrapped in intestines and dried in the sun. They have been appearing on top of couscous ever since and in my personal opinion it was one of the foulest things I have ever tasted. It may be an acquired taste, however, but already preferring a vegetarian lifestyle I cannot say I will go out of my to try them again. Not all Moroccans enjoy these things, a lot of families merely eat the meat of the animal and throw the rest to the cats.
(Kordez, drying in the sun)
The only parts of the animal I have yet to try are the hooves, testicles and penis. I am not particularly disappointed to have missed out on these items and from other volunteer’s testimonies they are not something to look forward to eating.
As a perfect ending to this holiday weekend I spent my last day in site with “Mama Juj” (my second mother). She left me in a sitting room by myself, with a giant sheep carcass displayed in the middle on a small wooden table, sort of like a centerpiece at Christmas time. She strategically placed tea, peanuts and cookies between the contours of the sheep’s body and told me to “eat!”. When I took a sip of tea she began to sharpen several knives and blades on the floor. Acting as her own private butcher, she proceeded to drag the meat to the corner and began hacking away at the legs and body. Somehow nothing is very shocking to me anymore and it only struck me that this whole situation might be considered odd when a small piece of sheep bone flew into my teacup. So there I sat, enjoying my peanuts as she and her son portioned meat to be frozen and used at a later time.
The next day I left my site, happy to have experienced this Holiday to the fullest yet sad to leave a community in which I have invested over a year in behind. Thankfully, I have not moved too far and plan to visit often.