Carmen participated in the 2012-2013 Arabic Academic Year program in Morocco.

Written on October 26, 2012

Today is Eid Kabir, which takes place about two months after the end of Ramadan. This is the second of two Eids; the first marks the end of Ramadan. This Eid celebrates the Qur'anic story of Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, before God stepped in and told him to sacrifice a ram instead. Thus, the major event of the Eid is the sacrifice of a ram, although large families may sometimes have a cow, and I was told that people with cholesterol problems get goats because they are less fatty. To prepare for the Eid, families will buy a sheep that they then keep on the roof or the courtyard of their house depending on the style of their home.

Last Sunday, I went to the sheep market with my family (just to look; a friend of the family gave us the actual sheep we used), which was a pretty interesting experience. A field about a kilometer from my house had been converted into the sheep market. There were close to a hundred trucks/vehicles of some sort that farmers had brought their sheep in. Men, women, and children were wandering around, examining the hundreds of sheep that were milling around and questioning their owners about price and quality. In addition to the sheep (and a few goats), merchants also sold rope and sacrificial knives. The week before Eid was a pretty sheep-filled time in Marrakech. Every day on the roads you would see people on horse or donkey carts, trucks, and motorbike-pulled trucks carrying a sheep down the road. One of my fellow American students said she even saw two men on a moped with a sheep between them. The sheep typically stay with the family for a few days, and often the little kids will bond with the sheep during this time. Our sheep arrived later than most of the other host families', the day before Eid (yesterday). I didn't see too much of it, as it was on the roof, but I certainly heard it baa-ing all last night.

We spent the eve of the Eid fasting in preparation for today. We woke up at four in the morning before the sun rose and ate, then went back to bed. We spent most of the rest of the day hanging out at home, before breaking the fast at seven p.m. with various members of the extended family.

This morning, on the day of the Eid, we woke up, had breakfast, and set about cleaning the house for the Eid. Then the butchers arrived, and we all headed to the roof for the sacrifice. The two butchers held down the sheep while my host dad cut the sheep's throat. The butchers then set about undertaking the process of skinning and disembowling the carcass. My host grandmother stuck her finger in the blood and tried to put dots of it on my siblings' and my foreheads. We kept the liver, heart, and various other parts, while throwing away some others like the intestines. The parts we kept were made wrapped in fat and roasted on kebobs, which we ate later in the day. The rest of the day was filled with visits from various extended relations and a visit to the other grandparents' house in Medina Qadima.

I was initially pretty apprehensive about the Eid, having never seen an animal as large as a sheep killed before my eyes. But I ended up really enjoying the holiday. The sacrifice was bloody, but I had a chance to see where my meat came from, which is an experience we don’t often get in the States. I also loved the aspect of spending so much time with family, both immediate and extended. Overall, it was a great Moroccan experience that I wouldn’t have missed for anything.