For our first Eid holiday in Morocco, it was quite an event. From weeks prior, we saw charcoal and bales of hay for sale in the streets of Rabat. In Carrefour supermarket, employees donned red fez hats and hung banners of Eid greetings. Sheep were bought and sold everywhere. We tried to brace ourselves for what was to come though we were in the process of relocating.
We moved into Casablanca the night before Eid, with just enough time to tidy up, eat dinner, and rest before the next day’s Eid prayer. A new friend of ours kindly offered to take us to Hassan II Mosque where the largest congregational prayer in the city would be held. Straddling the sea and land in grandeur, the mosque stood like a light tower amidst a sea of congregants. Most attendees wore traditional Moroccan attire—hooded djellaba robes with pointed leather slip-on sandals—but all fashion statements were welcomed and expressed. On light-weight palm mats, we sat in wait for the start of the prayer, reciting words of God’s praise and remembrance with the congregation.
The Eid prayer in Morocco is much like it is in any other country. However, this time we enjoyed the North African style of Quranic recitation which gave the familiar holy verses a nice Moroccan twist. A stark contrast from our earlier Eids as new Muslims, it’s a blessing to now savor the added sweetness of knowing and understanding the verses of Qur’an recited in Arabic. Lil’ Z prayed alongside the daughters of our new friend, and we left the mosque refreshed. We went for breakfast and returned home later that morning.
The rest of our day was mostly spent at home. Everyone else seemed to be preoccupied with the tradition of animal slaughter. On this particular Eid, the faithfulness of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) is commemorated. When the blessed prophet saw in a vision that he should sacrifice his son, Ishmael, he proceeded in obedience, but God made a ram appear for slaughter in the place of his son. While slaughter in Islam is not for atonement or sacrifice, it is an act of obedience and charity that is shared with family members and the impoverished. Even though we don’t eat meat, our new landlord’s family brought us skewers of roasted mutton and a bag of fresh meat, which we happily shared with a homeless man and our new neighbor.
Aside from the religious aspect of slaughter, Moroccans find it very culturally significant. It seemed like an act of machismo to sharpen your knife before slaughter, walk the streets after the slaughter with bloodied clothes and machete in hand, and roast the sheep’s head in the street. The urban adaptation of animal slaughter seems less reverent than it might be on a farm where the sheep roam freely. There is nothing sacred about sheep skins lying on the sidewalk or entrails hanging on your neighbor’s clothesline. Watching people try to manage a large, furry beast on their balcony or terrace seemed unfitting for an apartment domicile.
It was disturbing to hear my friend share that some sheep attempt to take their own lives or run away before the slaughter. It would be more humane for their lives to end in familiar green pastures versus unfamiliar concrete and pavement pathways. On the other hand, I have to give people credit for facing and embracing the reality of what eating meat entails and not divorcing themselves from the cost, work and responsibility that comes with taking an animal’s life.
Once the roasting ended and the streets were cleaned up, we ventured outdoors in search of strawberry sorbet to end our day. The streets were sparse with people and cars, which made walking around our busy neighborhood much easier than usual. We didn’t have the time or resources to decorate our new apartment or prepare a sumptuous meal, but we spent the day together as a family and that’s what matters most.