Eid Al-Adha in Morocco
What is Eid Al-Adha like in Morocco? Our colleague, Olivia, spent Eid with a Moroccan family in a popular neighborhood of Marrakech. Here’s how it went:
I can’t claim to have seen or done or heard or smelled Eid Al-Adha in all of Morocco. But I did spend the holiday with the Hourri family in M’hamid, a large neighborhood outside the old and new city centers of Marrakech. To the surprise of both my Californian and Moroccan communities, Sunday’s Eid this year was reminiscent of Christmas chez-moi.
At dawn, those who were so inclined joined the masses for a communal prayer at the mosque. My host mother prepared breakfast and the kitchen for the sacrifice to come, while my host father actually headed off to a half-day at work. Others, namely me and the family kittens, made no sacrifice at all: I slept in until 8:30 and was treated to my family’s in-home hammam (a traditional steambath).
Breakfast was oatmeal’s Moroccan cousin—Herbel—a wheat berry porridge boiled in salted water and then again in a more guilty mixture of butter and milk, with sugar sprinkled on top. It was perfectly in line with my nostalgia for home on December 25th.
SHORT AND SWEET
This first meal was short and sweet because we had to get out into the street to search for a butcher. Both my host father and the family’s only son had never in their lives actually preformed the sacrificial slaughter of their family’s Eid sheep. Traditionally a male’s role, neither of them could bring themselves to make the cut. Apparently many people feel similarly, because there were pairs of butchers ducking in and out of homes throughout the neighborhood, blessing the animals, thanking Allah, and then each taking a side to get the job done. The job at hand was a slit of the sheep’s throat before the entire animal was skinned and emptied, hung up to dry as you may see in any meat market. The day after Eid Al-Adha the carcass was sectioned off into three parts—one for the family, one to give to someone in need, and one to be preserved.
The rest of the morning was spent under a blanket on the couch. We read our books. The youngest daughter and her cousin grinned and chattered about something on their tablet. The son described the images looping on the television of around 3 million Muslims from around the world gathering in Mecca for Hajj (the annual pilgrimage).
Time lazed pleasantly on until my host mother and grandmother came up from their station downstairs where they were painstakingly cleaning, cutting and preparing the sheep innards. We shared a snack of local dried berries and almond biscotti-like cookies as the two women grinned with pride at the work they had just completed. While not obligatory, the slaughter is viewed as an incredible act of selflessness and love in the name of Allah.
Right around noon I noticed that smoke was leaking up out of the staircase into the living room. A few minutes later my eldest host sister followed the smoke in, calling everyone to eat. My small-town Californian family would call the meat skewers my Moroccan family had for lunch, quite simply, BBQ. As the representative vegetarian, I had couscous blanketed in perfectly spiced cabbage, carrots and turnips. The skewered beef and lamb was actually purchased the day before, because the real treat on the day of Eid Al-Adha is not meat and does not make its appearance until dinner: it is all the other bits. I mean, anything else that one might find in and on a sheep. I think the cowboys from my dad’s side of the family would prefer these specialities to the steamed veggies I feasted on, while the majority of my Moroccan family members actually passed on the innards and appendages.
The rest of the afternoon was full of naps, TV, books and toy time, melodic recordings of the Koran and visits or phone calls with family and friends. We topped the day off, as many others did, with a stroll down the thoroughfare of the new and old Marrakech Medinas and a bit of chocolate gelato for good measure. A day not at all unlike the cool but sunny Central Californian Christmas to which I am accustomed.
I was struck most by one simple but profound difference between Christmas as I know it in the US and Eid al-Adha here in Marrakech. The generosity and collective spirit of the holiday reached far beyond the walls of each family home and the linkages of immediate and extended family. The gifts being shared were time and energy within the family, and tangible offerings were saved for guests and complete strangers. The Hourri family invited me into their home and bought 3 sheep this year, two extra for families that could not have participated otherwise. The rest of my Moroccan community supported their friends, family, neighbours and countrywo(men) similarly, giving at least a portion of their own sheep away if not buying another or several others outright. Above all, the days leading up to Eid, the holiday itself and now the days off work and school trailing after Eid are each taken with the hope of giving to something much bigger than all of us.
This is characteristic of by far the most remarkable part of my experience in Morocco. The people I have met here have shown me time and again, with ease and authenticity, a pure desire to give and to share.
For more information on Eid Al-Adha check out : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eid_al-Adha