Note #1: I am writing this post as an observer, not as an expert on Islam or on holidays in Morocco. The information in this post comes from my recent observations, conversations with my host family and peers, and Wikipedia articles. If you find anything that is wrong or just shouldn’t be in this post, or that I’m missing information that should be here, please email me. (This goes for all of my other posts, too.)
Note #2: This post contains multiple images that contain raw meat and the sheep-slaughtering process. If you would not like to view these pictures, please skip the section “The Process of Sheep Sacrifice.” There is a link to skip it at the end of this first section. However, I have added these pictures because they depict a crucial part of the holiday.
During Eid in Morocco, each family that can afford it sacrifices a domestic animal. Here in Rabat, the most common animal is the sheep.
Why sacrifice an animal for Eid? Here is some information that is better worded than what I could explain:
[Eid al-Adha] honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son, as an act of submission to God‘s command, before God then intervened sending his angel Jibra’il (Gabriel) and informs him that his sacrifice has already been accepted. The meat from the sacrificed animal is preferred to be divided into three parts. The family retains one third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbors; and the remaining third is given to the poor and needy.
Families can buy sheep from a lot of places. Large supermarkets, like Marjane, carry them. Or you can travel to a farm and buy a sheep from there. My family’s sheep cost approximately 1500 Dh ($150).
I am fortunate that my host family allowed me to take pictures of the sacrifice so that I can share my observations with other people.
Our host sister, Maha, works at an organization that raises money for buying sheep for families that cannot afford it. The Saturday before Eid, she worked with sheep for the whole day, on a farm around an hour from Agdal.
Our family also received our sheep Saturday afternoon. We placed him in the outdoors patio and gave him some water to drink and grass to eat.
Everyone in Rabat receives his/her sheep at around the same time. When Elizabeth and I walked to a grocery store called BIM the day before Eid, we smelled sheep each time we passed a basement parking garage. Also, because each family has a sheep, the area is loud. I’d thought that sheep communicate with cute “baaaa” sounds, but, lol, nope. Our sheep honked loudly through the night every ten seconds or so. I think he was communicating with the neighboring sheep that were honking in response. Their honks last around two seconds per honk and are very low pitched. Nobody slept too well during the two nights before Eid.
The process of sheep sacrifice
***TW: multiple graphic images follow. A sheep is slaughtered and then sacrificed. If you would not like to view the images, please click here to skip to the next section.***
My family hired butchers to slaughter the sheep. Every family sacrifices a sheep on the morning of Eid, so butchers go from house to house and are very busy. Our butcher came at around 10:30 AM.
The butchers performed the sacrifice on the patio. The initial sacrifice was quick. The sheep, who never saw the blade, didn’t struggle for long.
For a halal killing, the sheep must be left alone after making the initial cut so that the sheep can move freely as the blood drains.
Then, they use an air pump to inflate the sheep before skinning.
They break the legs off, hang the sheep up, and then skin the sheep. The whole process goes very quickly. When they finish skinning, they put the sheep skin in a bucket and give it away.
After they skin the sheep, they remove all the inner organs.
The organs are then put in a bucket to be cleaned. Because they are best eaten fresh, families cook and eat the inner organs on the first day.
The sheep carcass is then hung to dry and age. The meat is tough if eaten right after—that’s why we eat the organs first.
Families eat the organs first. Then they move on to other parts of the sheep. Yesterday, we ate the heart, lungs, liver, and stomach. Today (the day after Eid), my host mom barbecued sheep thigh with cilantro for lunch.
Eating every part of the animal is important. In the United States, it’s slightly taboo to eat non-skeletal-muscle animal parts, but in reality, a lot more is edible than just the muscle.
On Eid, every family cooks the sheep innards at the same time. Smoke fills the air and the whole area smells like barbecue.
My host mom first barbecued the entire organs over coals. Then, she sliced the parts into cubes and seasoned them with cumin, salt, pepper, and paprika.
The seasoned sheep cubes are then wrapped with the stomach fat and strung onto a kebab.
On the night of Eid (after the skewer meal), our host mom cooked a saucy stew of stomach and other parts of the liver, which we ate with bread.
I am not a frequent meat eater at all—at home in the US, I eat meat once or twice a week. However, as an outsider and as an observer of the slaughtering process, I definitely think it’s important to be closer to where the meat you eat comes from. When you buy large packets of ground beef from Costco, you’re so removed from the whole process that you think of meat more as a product you just pay for than as an animal that has to be killed and processed. I’m pretty guilty of having lived with this sentiment for most of my life.
A large part of sacrificing an animal for Eid is being thankful. The process reminds people that life is sacred, and that as humans we have sacrificed animals for years in order to provide sustenance to ourselves. If it were not for domestic animals, many people would not have been able to live at all. Therefore, it’s a common practice during Eid al-Adha to give much of the animal to charity or eat every part of the animal that is edible.
After having watched the whole process from start to finish, I definitely have a deeper understanding of the meat that I eat.
Also, although I focused this post on the sheep-sacrifice part, the sacrifice and the meat is by no means the only part of Eid al-Adha. There is so much that I want to share, but I can’t fit all of it into one post. So, more will come later!