Around the streets of Fez and all over the Islamic world today, the words most often heard were “Eid Mubarak Said”. It is a greeting, a congratulation and a celebration of one of the holiest and most festive days in the Muslim calendar. Eid al-Adha - "feast of sacrifice" or "Festival of Sacrifice" or "Greater Eid" - is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son Ishmael (Isma'il) as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a sheep— to sacrifice instead.
It is a point of honour that every family who can afford to do so purchase a sheep, so in the past two weeks, the appraisal, buying and transport of them has been the main obsession. All over the Medina, sheep are being cajoled, pushed, carried and transported. The sound most frequently heard for the past few nights is bleeting and baaring, as mystified sheep taken from their fields find themselves in strange courtyards, up on a roof terraces, or even secreted away in bathrooms.
All that came to an end this morning, when following the King’s example, the signal was given for the mass sacrifice to begin. The View From Fez team was invited to share the celebrations with local restaurant owner Thami and his family. Their two sheep were waiting on the terrace.
Thami and his cousins took the biggest of the two rams and laid it on its side and stroked its neck for reassurance. After a prayer, the sheep was slaughtered and immediately bled.
Looking on were Thami’s wife Fatima and their four month old baby son, Hamza. Within minutes it was hung and the cleaning up began.
Then Thami cut a slit in the skin of the rear hind leg and blew into it, to make removal of the hide easier. After that it was cut open and the stomach, liver and lungs removed. The lacy fat (boulfaf) of the inner stomach lining was separated and carefully hung on a nearby washing line, for later use.
|Everyone gets a go at fanning the flames|
|The lacy "boulfaf" ready to wrap pieces of kidney and liver|
|Choice pieces of heart, liver and kidney are wrapped in stomach lining and then cooked|
Thami brought down the liver and kidneys, which were barbequed and then wrapped in pieces of the stomach lining, before being skewered on kebab sticks and put back on the fire. The fat sizzled and spat, and the resulting meal, served between pieces of just-baked bread, was delicious and fortifying.
It gave us the energy for the walk up the hill. Along the Tal’aa Kebira, as in small squares and anywhere there was a few metres of open space all over the Medina, young men were barbequing the heads and bones.
|The Medina in a haze of cooking smoke - Photo Gerard Chemit|
Through the smoky haze, scenes resembled those in Dante’s Inferno. Beneath the skin of this ancient city, and echoed all over Morocco and the Islamic world, an ancient tradition endures.
Story and photographs: Suzanna Clarke & Sandy McCutcheon
Copyright The View from Fez 2011