Our stay in Morocco has coincided with a holiday known as the Feast of Sacrifice and it’s the most important feast of the Muslim Calendar.
Eid al-Adha concludes the 3-day pilgrimage to Mecca and commemorates Abraham’s willingness to obey God by sacrificing his son. According to the Koran, Abraham, father of all prophets, dreamt that he was to sacrifice his son. As dreams were considered to be messages from God, Abraham was compelled to live out his dream. When he went to carry out the act, an angel replaced his son with a sheep. Abraham’s obedience to God is now celebrated by the annual Feast of Sacrifice, where sheep are meant to be sacrificed.
The day before the holiday there was certainly an air of something special happening, very much like the lead up to Thanksgiving. What seemed like the entire city of Rabat was out on the streets, in the medina and filling up the supermarkets to stock up on supplies. What was strange about it was that there were live sheep in the supermarket. There were live sheep being walked down the street. There were people transporting sheep by motorcycle. There were truckloads of sheep everywhere.
Every family celebrates the holiday by slaughtering, skinning, and breaking down every bit of a sheep. That translates to people bringing live sheep home to be slaughtered. The night before the slaughter, every apartment building in the city had live sheep in it. I know this because I could hear echoes of sheep voicing their displeasure of being kept up in an apartment. It was disconcerting in a surreal kind of way.
The day of the slaughter, machete-wielding butchers make their rounds to people’s homes according to pre-scheduled times. They slaughter and skin the sheep in people’s kitchen, on their balcony, or on the street out front. When the process is done, the butchers move on to the next home.
All of this takes place in the morning, with the duration of the day spent feasting and spending time as family. Until 2 or 3 in the afternoon the city is completely shut down and you wouldn’t even find a single taxi on the street. By late in the afternoon, a minimum amount of activity ensues to assure that life still goes on.
In hindsight, the festival really does have its parallels with the Thanksgiving we celebrate in North America. While it was certainly strange to witness this as an outsider, it helped to reinforce my understanding of how similar people are, regardless of race and religion.
Side note: I didn’t take any pictures of the holiday because I was kind of grossed out by the whole thing. Therefore, the photo to accompany this post is, in my opinion, a more natural cycle in the food chain. This kitty is patiently waiting scraps from a slaughter that is carried out daily, multiple times a day in the medinas of Morocco.