Friday afternoon as I walked through the medina to my home, I ran into my neighbor (Soukaina’s classmate) who was headed in the opposite direction. He stopped to talk. “There’s a ram in your house,” he told me.
Me: “YES! Wait...in the house or on the roof?”
Him: “In the house.”
Me: “In my room?”
Him: “Yeah...in your room.”
Me: “Oh...that’s not a ram. That’s just Soukaina.”
I continued on my way and he continued on his, until a couple minutes later when he came up right behind me. He decided to accompany me home to witness my reaction to the ram.
When I opened the door to the apartment I was greeted not by affectionate kisses from my little shneula Souks, but by the angry bleating of a ram ready to fight for his life.
So I suppose this begs the question...uh...why do I have a ram in my house?
EID AL-ADHA. Also known as Eid al-Kabir. “The Festival of Sacrifice.” On this day Muslim families all over the world remember the Qur’anic account of Abraham’s submission to Allah, when he intended to follow through with the sacrifice of his promised son, Ishmael. Seeing Abraham’s submission, Allah sent a ram to sacrifice in Ishmael’s place and further blessed Abraham with a second son, Isaac.
In remembrance of Abraham and his submission and sacrifice, every Muslim family in Morocco buys a ram to sacrifice on this day. Including mine. Oh, and then we eat it.
So. Back to me and my ram...
This thing is feisty. We named him Jackie Chan. Throughout the day I’d forget about him briefly...until I’d go to the bathroom or the kitchen and there he was, staring me down, just hoping for the rope to snap so he could get a piece of me.
“Alright, alright,” I told Jackie, “today you’re in my house, but tomorrow in my belly!”
Last night I slept soundly until daybreak, when I awoke to the sound of “Baaaaaaaah” coming from every house in the city. I’m fairly certain Jackie Chan was communicating with our neighbor’s ram. It suddenly seemed to me like a conspiracy. They were organizing. Souks and I looked at each other from across the room, and I said, “l-thawra diyal kebsh!” – The Ram Revolution! Soukaina rolled over to face the wall and ignored my early-morning conspiracy theories reminiscent of Animal Farm.
I went back to sleep, but had a bizarre dream that the rams of Fez organized, with Jackie Chan as the leader, and they turned the knives on us. It kind of gives “lamb to the slaughter” an entirely new meaning.
A couple hours later Soukaina and I got up in earnest. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew we wouldn’t do the slaughtering until late morning, but I didn’t know if we had morning festivities or not. We didn’t. Souks and I did our typical morning routine – breakfast, cleaning, and dancing to whatever was on MTV Arabiyya, alternating between American and Moroccan dancing styles depending on what’s playing.
At around 11:00 Hamza came in to tell us that the time had come. He and Hamouda took the ram by the horns and dragged it up the stairs to the roof, where they did the deed.
All the neighbors watched my reaction. Normally I’m able to play it cool, “Guys, I’m practically Moroccan,” I always say, “I’m used to everything.” But this was something entirely new. I stood at a distance, eyes wide, as they slit its throat and let the blood drain out.
We (ok, they) spent the next hour cleaning the ram, and then cleaning the roof. I was fascinated, but I didn’t really want to get all bloodied up. I took pictures.
After the slaughtering it was time for family bonding. Soukaina and I made henna to dye our hair. This was my second foray into the world of henna hair-dye. The first was a disaster with my sister-in-law Mary and our friend Mic. Henna looks and smells like poo and you have to put it on your head and leave it for a couple hours. But Moroccans do the whole henna thing much more than Americans do, so I have faith in Souks’ henna advice.
With poo on our heads we had more bonding activities – cooking our old friend Jackie Chan. We started with the liver – grilled it, spiced it, rolled it in fat, then grilled it again on a shish kabob. Then we ate it on a sandwich. Mmmmm....Jackie Chan...
In the evening (after I washed the poo out of my hair) Soukaina, Latifa and I went to visit Dounia and her family. It was lovely. It was a beautiful brand of holiday family togetherness that I think must be the same in every country.
More and more guests kept showing up, with Eid Mubareks (Happy Eid's) all around. Of course, it’s always a little awkward for me, since I’m only partially an insider. The immediate family and those of the extended family who I see often treat me like just another cousin. But the more in-laws show up, the more French is thrown my way, despite Latifa’s insistence that I’ll understand a lot better if they speak to me in Arabic.
When we came home, it was just us girls. More MTV Arabiyya and dancing. Latifa joined us this time.
We had Jackie’s stomach for dinner. Um. Yeah. One bite was enough for me.
But all in all it was a good day. And the best part is that Jackie Chan will continue to provide our food for the next week or so.
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