'Twas the night before Eid... / by George Bajalia

…when all through the land,

not a creature was stirring, not even a ram. 

The jellabas were hung by doors with care,

in hopes that Sidi Abraham would soon be there. 

As winter descendes upon Fez, and in case my weak slant rhyme didn’t quite do the trick, here is a quick Eid story to warm your bones!

Earlier this week, one of the kids who lives down the street asked me if I had a sheep yet. I responded no, we haven’t bought one and she invited me to her house to celebrate the Eid on Monday. On Eid Kbeer, Muslims celebrate when God gave Abraham a sheep to slaughter instead of Ishmael (or instead of Isaac, according to the Juedo-Christian tradition). In remembrance of this, each family slaughters a sheep or a ram, depending on what they can afford.

As poor researchers, the members of our dar decided that a ram carved into a pumpkin was probably all we could afford on our budgets. Also, 2/3 of us are vegetarians, so squash soup fit in a little more with out diets. However, when I told our young neighbor that we didn’t have a sheep, her first instinct was not to ask us why, but to react with generous Moroccan hospitality. Her mother should be so proud! 

Hospitality is not a one way street, though. As a guest, there are important ways to show your appreciation and gratitude. After a particularly delightful meal, for example, a guest may belch to show the depth of his or her enjoyment. For me, that hasn’t been the easiest thing to master. Perhaps not surprisingly, I can’t shake the feeling that if I burp at the table someone will shoot me glares and perhaps whoever is sitting closest will smack me upside the head. 

Later that same day, I was walking home around dinner time, I heard a belch coming from my neighbors’ kitchen. Ah, I thought, this guy knows how to do it. As I got closer, I heard another long burp, and then another. As I began to imagine what sort delicious feast could inspire this deep of appreciation, the belches started to grow longer and more pronounced. 

Then it hit me. This neither a belch, nor a human guest. This was a sheep. And I may be wrong, but I don’t think it was expressing its gratitude. As tomorrow’s feast grows more and more near, I’m seeing less and less sheep in the streets and hearing more and more “guests” on my street. Pretty soon, human guests will start to join them as Moroccans from all over head home for the biggest Eid of the year. We still haven’t decided exactly how we will celebrate in our house, but we’ve ruled out trying to save all the sheep by housing them in our courtyard. 

More later this week on Eid festivities, but for now check out this awesome photojournal from The View From Fez on buying sheep for Eid.