Festival of Sheep

Spain/Morocco 2010 - 9Like every other weekend we went on a trip to somewhere in Morocco. On this trip we went to Meknes and Volubilis. We stopped first at Volubilis which is the site of the largest Roman ruins in Morocco. An earthquake destroyed many of the walls but the arches and floor mosaics still remain. The Romans chose the spot for a reason; it was beautiful. We spent the rest of the day in Meknes. We went to a mosque, one of the only that will allow non-Muslims to enter. The other main important place in Meknes is a massive granary monument. It was apparently used for the King’s army horses that saved Morocco from invaders.

While that trip was an interesting part of our week, the highlight was the Festival of Sheep. This festival is extremely important to Muslims. The point of the festival is to sacrifice a sheep for the family like Abraham did, instead of sacrificing Ishmael. In the Muslim version of the story, Abraham was about to sacrifice Ishmael and not Isaac. Each family buys at least one ram (with all of its teeth) and sometimes a cow or goat in addition. Our family bought four sheep for the day. We will spare all the gory details, but our family did kill each of the sheep on our roof while we watched. Throughout this week, everyone will be eating basically all parts of the sheep. For the first day, we ate the liver and the heart, wrapped in stomach lining and the encasing of all the organs. We were surprised at how good it was in a sandwich with homemade bread. It was really fun to spend time with our host family, and everyone was really excited for the day. It reminded us of our Thanksgiving celebration. In fact, it wasn’t all bad as we thought it might be.

During the day it is normal for people to go and visit friends and family in their homes. Because it’s a holiday, people dress up in traditional clothes, especially when going to the mosque. People came to our house and it was really neat to see how the community works together. At one point during the day the neighbors came over with a man who was crying. He couldn’t afford to buy a sheep for the day. Because this holiday is so important, it is a big deal not to have a sheep and he felt terrible about it. So our family gave the man the extra sheep that they had bought the day before. We were really touched by this. We thought it is an example of how generous our family and people here are.

-Malea Gascho and Rebecca Martin