Silence of the Lambs

“Happy Moroccan Holiday,” is what I’ve been hearing for the last week as I’ve wandered through the Medina, along with the angry cries of sheep and the harsh noise of knife-sharpening stations.  In hind sight, we were seeing all sorts of signs leading up to today, with hay piled up in little forts around the city being sold in bunches and men waiting in line with their biggest knives for a quick sharpen.  This is Eid al-Adha, one of the most important days in islam.
Eid al-Adha occurs approximately forty days after the end of Ramadan, dependant on the placement of the moon, I think.  In English, it means Feast of the Sacrifice, and in practice it is just that.  Celebrating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God, people all over the muslim world gather in their families to sacrifice a sheep or goat.

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So there are sheep EVERYWHERE.  In car trunks, on rooftops, in apartments, on balconies, on motorcycles…  Everywhere.  And they’re loud.  I’ve been woken up almost every night this week by the angry cries of sheep on balconies right outside my window.  And you can’t really be mad, can you, because they’re about to be sacrificed.  But it’s definitely a strange feeling seeing rural mix with urban so casually.  Seemingly overnight, the Medina was flooded with sheep, and now no one bats an eye when a man walks by with a sheep over his shoulders.  There are sheep all over our building, and people just keep them in their apartments for the days leading up to the feast.

e1This morning we were woken up by the desperate cries of sheep (for one last time).  We elected to stay inside for the morning, when the bulk of the slaughtering would happen, but I could watch from our little balcony because our building is a lot higher than the other ones around.  Some people in our building were using our roof, as well, for the ceremony.  I thought about going to watch, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be welcome, and I also wasn’t sure if I could handle seeing a sheep slaughtered.  They apparently have a special method, where they give the sheep some water so it bends its neck down, then while it’s down they slit the back of its throat.  It was much easier to watch it from above on my balcony, where it was so far away it almost seemed like I was watching it on TV.

We met up with some friends around noon to wander around and sort of take it all in, and the sights were just completely unbelievable.  The medina
was so empty and eery; it felt post apocalyptic.  The few guys that were outIMG_9203.JPGand about were covered with blood, clearly having just dealt with a sheep.  All over the place there were little fires where young guys were blackening sheep heads and hooves, and the whole city smelt like burning body parts.  Wandering around, we eventually went down Mohammed V, the main street in the Medina, and every few steps there was another massive pile of sheep hide or more little fires roasting the leftovers.  It was really unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  Around the streets there were specially placed garbage bins meant for sheep guts and intestines: all the parts that can’t be used.  I think it would have been different to have actually been a part of the ceremony with a family and everything, but wandering the streets during Eid al-Adha was definitely an experience unlike any other.

The only place that seemed to be safe from the smell of burning sheep heads was the beach, so our group of international students elected to hang out there for the rest of the day.  After being surrounded by smoke and body parts, the ocean was the perfect way to wash it all off.  The ways were massive, and we had such an amazing time jumping in the tide and just relaxing.  We stayed there all afternoon until the sun went down, playing cards and hanging out.  Even though wandering around through Eid wasn’t physically tiring, seeing all the things we did definitely tires you out, and this was the perfect way to let it all go.

All I can say now is I’m glad I won’t be woken up tomorrow morning by the sheep.

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