For the past three days, I have been indulging in a buzz of barbeque, sweets, and kisses from my host family and relatives. We are celebrating Eid-al-Adha, a Muslim holiday, also known as “Feast of the Sacrifice,” which traditionally lasts three days. Every year, a lamb, sheep, goat or cow is sacrificed as a recreation and commemoration of Ibrahim’s (Abraham) willingness to follow God’s command to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Plot twist- Ishmael is replaced by an animal by God before he is slaughtered; therefore, Ibrahim passed his test.
Disclaimer: this holiday is not for vegetarians, animal activists, or the faint-hearted. Animal heads are roasted on the streets, an excessive amount of meat is eaten, and a lot of blood is shed.
As a Muslim, I was elated to celebrate this holiday in a Muslim country to get the “full experience.” It’s not everyday that you seen an animal sacrifice.
The morning of the first day of Eid, I attended prayers at the mosque of Mohammed V, the previous king of Morocco. The mosque was flooded with thousands of Muslims chanting verses from the Quran. The Imam’s eloquent voice echoed throughout the mosque, as he effortlessly recited the verses in a symphony. Tears formed around my eyes–tears of happiness–as I was mesmerized by the beauty of the recitation but also in awe at the grandiosity and intricate architecture of the mosque. I wish my family could share this ethereal moment with me.
After prayers, two butchers arrived at my homestay and sacrificed our sheep. The sacrifice is as follows: the animal’s head is pointed toward Mecca, Islam’s holiest city where Prophet Muhammad was born, and God’s name is mentioned before the initial slicing of the throat, in which only the wind pipe, jugular veins and carotid arteries are cut, leaving the spinal cord intact. This way, most of the animal’s blood is drained through the neck, resulting in more hygienic meat. I’m not going to lie, witnessing it was personally quite disturbing. The only other time I have seen this was at a farm when I was 10 years old. Slaughtering animals in your home is illegal in the U.S.
We then prepared kabobs with the sheep’s liver, heart and kidneys, wrapped in tripe. I am assuming we eat the organs first because they spoil the fastest.
In the evening, my host sister and her in-laws visited us during tea time. Tea time consists of mint tea, coffee, and many sweets. I sit there and smile, translating snippets of their Darija (colloquial Moroccan tongue) conversation in my head. I am still a beginner at Darija and really need to improve. They mostly talk about the sheep and ask where I am from.
For dinner, we had organ tagine, a stew dish. Tagine is my favorite Moroccan dish so far. I’ve had vegetarian tagine, lamb tagine, fish tagine, and now, organ tagine. The meat is always so tender and melts right in your mouth.
The second day of Eid, the weather had cooled down and it rained and I somehow caught a fever. I stayed in bed most of the day, getting up for meals and homework. We had another barbeque, but this time with leg meat.
In the evening, a few relatives and friends came over for tea time and dinner. My favorite part of the night was dessert, which was a strawberry, pistachio and coffee ice cream cake from a popular ice cream shop, Oliveri.
The third day of Eid, I woke up with an upset stomach, assuming it was just my body getting used to the food. However, my host dad and sister experienced the same sickness and we all laughed about it as we ate potatoes and rice for the rest of the day.
I had a total of five days off for Eid, if you include the weekend. Many of my classmates left Morocco to travel and take advantage of the vacation. I am glad I stayed in Morocco because not only did I bond with my host family, but I ate a lot of delicious food and celebrated a holiday dear to my religion.
Erum Jaffrey is a senior majoring in international relations. Her column runs every other Friday.