Eid Al Adha, aka Eid al Kabir, is the biggest (and most holy) holiday in the Muslim world and took place on Friday, September 1. It is also known as the Festival of Sacrifice and honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son. The animal sacrifice is observed in each Muslim family around the world with the head of the household killing (most commonly) a sheep or goat. Traditions within Muslim communities vary and I wanted to share my experience in my small douar in southeast Morocco.
Volunteers were under a travel ban starting on Monday, August 28 through Wednesday, September 6. The main reason for this is the massive increase in Moroccans traveling to visit their families. Because there are more people on the road there is a higher chance of accidents. Also, there is an increase in the cost of travel as bus and taxi fares go up 5 to 10 dh.
I did a little research ahead of time to be prepared for what I should expect and knew people purchased new clothes for the event (similar to Eid el-Fitr celebrated at the end of Ramadan). A few days before Eid I was having lunch with my host family when my host siblings received their new outfits and it was so awesome seeing how excited they were! I confirmed with my host mom what time I should arrive on Friday. She originally said 1 pm for lunch, then noted maybe 8 am or 9 am. Thinking things don’t typically happen on exact time in Morocco anyway, I planned to leave my apartment at 9 am for the 12-minute walk to their house. I was just finishing up dressing in my new black tunic shirt when I heard a group of men pass by singing. I knew I’d already missed the beginnings of the celebration!
I rushed outside and felt like a salmon swimming upstream as the males in my community headed to a field next to my apartment to begin the day with prayers. Next year I’ll be prepared to video the procession. As I arrived at my host family’s house I received a text from a fellow PCV stating she’d already witnessed three sacrifices. While I wasn’t exactly looking forward to seeing this myself, I really hoped I hadn’t missed out. Not to worry though. The female members of my family were finishing up breakfast while the male members were praying. They complimented me on my new shirt and the fact I was wearing earrings (not an everyday thing anymore!) Then the ladies started getting ready and I realized my host mom and aunts were wearing the same beautiful dresses from Eid el-Fitr. This makes practical sense because there are not many occasions to wear dressy outfits and the cost of such outfits would be difficult for many Moroccans.
At approximately 10 am the visiting began. This was exactly like during Eid el-Fitr where people went from house to house to extend greetings and pleasantries. These visits don’t last long but they are very important. After receiving people for about an hour, the men folk arrived and settled in for some chatting. This whole time I’m thinking ‘has the sacrifice taken place and I didn’t realize it?!’. Finally, one of my host cousins gathered all the guys together and out they went. The ladies stayed put. So, my concern with how I was going to handle and react to the actual sacrifice was alleviated. Apparently, my host mom knew exactly how long the actual killing would take and she suddenly called for me to follow her. We stepped out of the house and I was confronted with a dead sheep hanging upside down while my host dad was skinning it. Honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. The entire process is very humane, done for a religious purpose and nothing about the animal goes to waste. We took a few photos and then went back inside where I got to witness King Mohammed V sacrifice his sheep on TV. This was actually a replay and tradition in the country is that the King makes the first sacrifice and then the rest of the country can proceed on with their own.
The ladies then headed out for a few visits around the neighborhood. We enjoyed some locally grown dates as a pre-lunch snack. Around 2:30 pm we had lunch, which was a traditional tagine of veggies (oh yeah – I had hung out in the kitchen that morning while my host mom prepared this!) and some type of meat served separately. I didn’t ask if it was from that day’s sacrifice, but I assume it was. My host dad suddenly realized I didn’t eat meat (I’ve only been here for nine months) and joked that I could have sacrificed a chicken while everyone else was killing sheep. He’s a pretty funny guy.
At 4 pm I decided to head home for a quick change of clothes (everyone else had already changed in to more comfortable attire) and a quick rest. I told them I’d be back for tea. So, at 6:30 pm I arrived back expecting tea to be served around 7:15, only to find my host mom and aunt cleaning the insides of a sheep my host dad killed as I had left earlier. So, I sat there watching them do this incredible task while helping keep the flies away. At 8:30 my host mom looked at my Aunt Fatima and said ‘go make Laila some tea’. After tea, I hung out with the guys watching Morocco and Mali play soccer – Morocco dominated the game winning 6-0. My host mom said she was fixing salad for supper, which surprised me with all the meat from the day, so I agreed to stay. Turns out she made the salad just for me cause the rest of the family had what I believe was kidney kebabs. It may have been liver – not being a meat eater I didn’t get too close to examine them.
All in all, my experience with Eid al-Adha was just as incredible and mind expanding as every other experience I’ve had here in Morocco. I love seeing how people celebrate and enjoy the things in their cultures and traditions that are so very far from my own way of life. Trying to explain to Moroccans that we don’t celebrate Ramadan, Eid al-Adha, or drink tea the way they do can be difficult and mentally exhausting when you don’t have the language skills. But it is also a great cultural exchange to help them understand that other people in the world are different from them. And I hope that blogging about my daily life and experiences are helping my fellow Americans understand this as well.