Get All Your Sheep in a Row

CONTENT WARNING: POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES OF ANIMAL SACRIFICE

On September 24th this year, Muslims all around the world celebrated 3id al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. In Morocco, the holiday is called 3id Kbir (“The Big Holiday”) to distinguish it from 3id Sghair (“The Small Holiday”) at the end of Ramadan. The holiday honors the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son at the command of God. At the last moment, God replaced Ibrahim’s son with an animal sacrifice—and so the main event of this feast is the ceremonial slaughter and feast of an animal.

It was incredibly special to be in an Islamic country during the 3id. It’s a celebratory time, and the entire country felt festive. Just like during big holidays in America, 3id Kbir is a time to travel home to your family if you live far away. So of course, Robert and I traveled to Agourai, our training site, to see our first host family!

The usual sacrificial animal is hawli (sheep), though some families do get other animals. Robert’s barber bragged to him about getting TWO COWS for his huge family.

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Our family, procrastinators just like us, didn’t get their sheep until the verrrrry last moment. We had two sheep, which we later learned is because the tradition is one animal for every marriage in the family. Robert and I apparently counted? We got one ram and one ewe. Pictured above is the cute little ewe (and all her little leavings, hashak).

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Here is the regal ram:

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Our family told us that we had to wait until the King sacrificed his sheep on TV before we could sacrifice ours. We were late on the draw anyways though. From the roof, we could see that our neighbors were already sacrificing theirs before we were even ready!

Little Meryam's family

Little Meryam’s family

Ben, whose host family lives next door, holding the bloody knife. Ben made it over to our roof in time for our sacrifice too.

Ben, whose host family lives next door, holding the bloody knife from his roof. Ben made it over to our roof in time for our sacrifice too.

Alright, readers. One more warning. The next few pictures will be of the sacrifice itself. I know many people do not want to see them, so skip over these.

If you do want to see them, here are our thoughts: We think that Americans are too sheltered when it comes to the origin of our food. Robert likes to say, “Every meat eater should kill their own food at least once.” He thinks that if this happened in America, our terrible meat industry would be a lot more ethical and conscientious and delicious. I agree. Knowing, fully and viscerally, what is takes to get that rack of ribs on your plate makes a huge difference. Robert grew up in a hunting family. I grew up in a household where at least a few times, I met my food in the backyard before it appeared at my dinner table. Being a part of this 3id was meaningful in so many ways.

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One of the coolest parts: blowing up the sheep by mouth to separate the hide from the flesh. Whoa!

One of the coolest parts: blowing up the sheep by mouth to separate the hide from the flesh. Whoa!

The next few pictures are a series of Paul posing with the sheep head, which is quickly separated from the body.

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Robert and Paul helped hold the second sheep down while Baba sacrificed it.

Robert and Paul helped hold the second sheep down while Baba sacrificed it.

 

Robert and Paul helped hold the second sheep down while Baba sacrificed it.

Ahlam and DJ documenting the moment too. 

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Okay, squeamish readers, it’s safe now to come back! 

We donated the sheep hide to the mosque, to be made into prayer rugs for those who can't afford them. They picked them up in this cart.

We donated the sheep hide to the mosque, to be made into prayer rugs for those who can’t afford them. They picked them up in this cart.

While the sacrifices were happening, so was barbecue preparation.

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And then, finally… feast time! The first day of the feast is innards only. We went in determined to try everything at least once. Quick low-down: most everything is delicious! Lung and heart are not great though. Intestine has the texture of calamari. And liver wrapped in fat (“bulfaf”) is AMAZING.

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Bulfaf ready to be bbq-ed!

Bulfaf ready to be bbq-ed!

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When we got to the ribs and flank meat the next day, I only got this quick snapchat before we scarfed it all down. Soooooo delicious.

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It was an amazing holiday in Agourai. We’re so happy we got to be part of it. Being away from home for a couple of years means missing out on so many holidays with our own families. Being invited into other peoples’ homes and hearts means a lot, and it means even more during important times. 3id this year was everything holidays should be: full of family, food, and festivity. No bright lights or cheesy music, but definitely all the necessities.

Oh, Agourai.

Oh, Agourai.

Yours Truly,

Robert & Julie