My first Eid al-Adha experience started with a midnight train ride from Tangier to Meknès with my roommate and another friend. Traveling right before or after Eid is something I was advised not to do during orientation back in September, and if you picture Chicago O’Hare on December 23rd, you can understand why. The train was packed and we spent most of the trip sitting in the aisles… until a friendly group of Moroccans, in typical Moroccan style, offered to rotate their seats with us and take turns standing up. We rolled into Meknès around five in the morning and my roommate’s friend picked us up and took us to his family’s house. We spent the next day- the day before Eid- exploring Meknès.
We celebrated Eid at the grandparents’ house, with the whole extended family. It reminded me a little of Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ back home in the States. The difference: There was a sheep instead of a turkey, and it wasn’t already dead.
Actually, there were five sheep, since the family was so big. All of them were on the roof, baa-ing like they knew what was coming. After coffee and bread downstairs, we all headed up to the roof to watch the sheep become dinner. I didn’t want to watch, but my vegetarian friend and the elementary school age cousins were watching, so I figured I sort of had to. (The little girl cousin was taking pictures with a tablet in between listening to the Macarena and Gangnam Style and arguing with her brother.) The minute I got to the roof, one of the uncles jokingly grabbed my arm and tried to hand me a huge butcher knife, announcing that I was going to kill the sheep! I laughed and said no thanks and retreated to the back of the roof with the kids and the other two Americans.
The killing part was not fun, but watching the butchering was not as bad as I thought it would be. I made it through four sheep. Just as they started sheep number five, I suddenly started feeling nauseous and had to go inside.
By then, the grandmothers were already cooking and it was almost time to eat. Lunch was huge plates of vegetables and rice and bread and… sheep liver and sheep hearts! We ate the liver on bread, like a sandwich, and the heart separately. The heart was surprisingly good, as skeptical as I was at first. It tasted like roasted meat. After lunch, we drank mint tea and played card games. I teamed up with one of the little cousins against two of the uncles. We had coffee and dessert, some of us crashed for a nap, and a few of us went downtown for a couple hours. Then it was dinner time. The grandmothers put a huge platter in the center of each table and we all dug in, using bread as utensils. It was sheep stomach, lungs, and I’m not sure what else, chopped up and cooked with spices. (I am having a blast writing this because I know that some of you are loving this and some of you are throwing up in your mouths a little.)
Since the morning, people throughout the neighborhood had been setting up fire pits and grills to slowly roast the heads of their sheep, horns and all. The following morning, they would eat the brains with eggs. Then they would gradually eat the rest of the sheep. We were only there for day one of Eid, so we missed out on the brains, but I hear they are salty.
I left the next morning for Fès. I am so thankful to this Moroccan family for welcoming me into their home and including me in their Eid celebrations!
Fès was a lot of fun. I stayed with a friend from my program. It was so good to catch up with her and bounce lesson plan ideas off each other. We went to a beautiful little cafe called the Ruined Garden, built in the crumbling stone walls of an old riad, and full of plants and flowers and rustic, pretty tables and couches. We also went to a hammam- a Moroccan bath house! It was one of the more upscale, spa-like hammams, with a mixture of Moroccans and tourists. I’ll go to the local hammam in my neighborhood eventually, but this was a good first hammam step. Steam room, hot water faucets, pool, soap, naked ladies everywhere, and being scrubbed so thoroughly that I could see the amount of dead skin that came off me (eww) and I don’t think I’ve ever been cleaner in my life. Another crazy long train ride later, I am back home!