First thoughts on a holiday celebrated to commemorate the prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God (but, as many of you may know, God stepped in and told him to sacrifice a lamb instead) This brings us to EID, the Muslim sacred and much anticipated fall slaughter of sheep, where the streets literally run red.
From an outside perspective some might say it seems a tad ‘barbaric’. These type of words coming from those travelling halfway across the world to judge the traditions of another country is, well, quite barbaric itself.
Digressing. Many of the things related to EID do in fact stir a lot of emotions and questions. What do I know about consumerism? (Sidenote, I just stopped to listen to the beautiful sounds of Adhan or “call to prayer’ – which again makes me wonder if my fascination and appreciation with the Muslim culture comes from their strong beliefs and thousand year old customs or simply the differences between our cultures). Regardless, EID, a strange and beautiful time. Think Christmas, but with more blood.
The streets are relatively empty for Moroccan Medina standards. Replace men trying to sell carpets and silver with fires and sheep heads and boys sawing horns with hack saws. Utilizing every part of the animal – the fur, brains and horns with not a part wasted! Even the blood is used to colour clothes — not really intentional, but it happens. Traditionally (as I understand) families who can afford to do so purchase live sheep, whether from a farmer directly or at the side of the road at the various locations available (ie. corner store etc.). Following the King’s lead they slaughter/offer the animal and a feast ensues. Families who are not so well off and cannot afford to buy an entire sheep receive offerings from wealthier families. Butchers wander the streets with bloodied knives roaming from homes that have nobody able to do the killing. It is a happy time for all, I found the atmosphere in the street and in the people I met very welcoming. The following days I found a general sense of excitement and contentment present everywhere I roamed.
It is a joyous occasion with happy smiling faces and cheap taxis. Please don’t take pictures as it is extremely rude.
The entire city smells like burnt hair and bone. Cats and dogs wander around with a drugged and gluttonous induced daze from a day of feasting on sheep entrails and organs. A sight to be seen and smelled. Note – do not travel on EID’s eve. Needless to say, the lamb is very fresh today.
Overall I found this to be a beautiful time and a wonderful experience. I do not intend to offend any person and my words are simply my first thoughts on the holiday
In anticipation of EID, most things seem to close early. Even my students were mostly absent on the day before the holiday. So instead of teaching, I showed my classes ‘Groundhog Day’. Explaining that Groundhog Day is real made me realize how silly some traditions are. Anyway, we headed south for the 5 day weekend.
As Matt mentioned, we DO NOT recommend travelling on the eve of EID. I have never experienced such a horrendous and terrifying train ride. We were sardined in a smoky train cart for 6 or 7 hours, standing. The trip was meant to take 3. It was like the movies. Babies crowdsurfing, people fainting, and me having panic attacks. I didn’t realize I was so claustrophobic. Arriving in Marrakesh, I felt surprisingly alive.
I knew that Marrakesh was a tourist Mecca, but I was still taken back by the amount of foreigners. I can’t imagine what the summer is like. Highlights include snake charmers, the most beautiful hostel I have ever stayed at, Spanish food, and dried amphibians in jars.
Okay so EID from a vegetarian’s perspective. If you eat meat and enjoy it, I think you should have to see how it is killed, how it looks dead, how bloody things get, and all the smells involved. EID provides all of those experiences. Also, the fact that every part of the animal is used is pretty impressive. For me, wasted meat is quite irritating and upsetting. So, although I don’t like the thought of almost every Moroccan family slaughtering a sheep every year for this holiday, there is so much more to it than that. Who am I to really comment on such old traditions? Factory farms and Mcdonalds are infinitely more crude, and ultimately barbaric.
After Marrakesh, we took a bus to Essaouira, a beautiful and warm coastal town. Matt said it reminded him of Atlantic Canada. We were able to go to the beach there. We escaped the wind by hiding in the sand dunes. It would be great to visit again in the spring, when the temperatures are a a bit higher. Regardless, it was still amazing. We saw camels on the beach (for touristic purposes of course), and hundreds of adorable cats!!
Overall, the trip was great! Also, travelling around Morocco costs a fraction of the price of travelling almost anywhere else. And I’m happy to say that I had a seat on the train the whole way home.