Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holiday of the Sacrifice

... A gentle reminder to those sacrificing a lamb this holiday...

Each morning that throaty tune from the neighborhood mosque warns me that I have a few more hours of sleep and lulls me back into my dreams. Yet the sounds echoing from the mosque this week are the kind that might accompany war scenes in Braveheart or Gladiator. The first day of the three day holiday was shephered in at 3:30am with a sort of Arab drum and chanting, which continued for several hours. I stood shivering in the twilight looking for the chanters, but they were hidden by the neighboring buildings.

Eid Al-Adha, or Holiday of the Sacrifice, commemorates Abraham’s journey up the mountain to sacrifice his son and Allah’s provision of the ram in his son’s place. Muslim families sacrifice an animal (sheep, goat, cow, or camel) to remember this provision, and meat is then given to poor families.

The highways are spattered with sheep pens so families on-the-go can grab an ample lamb on their way home. Propriety is not forgotten in this sacrifice, and there is an exact method to the killing. The animal’s throat is quickly slit and left on the earth to bleed out. Often, all the neighbors or family members will conduct a ‘mass killing’ and an entire street will waft in the aroma of blood. A few hours later, it is overtaken by the smell of barbeque.

Children run through the streets sporting new dresses and jackets, buying candy with wads of cash. It is a tradition for all males to give money to children and unmarried women in their family. Usually the recipient walks away with 500 dinar, or about 700 USD in one day. It is spent immediately on candy, toys, and clothes.

Arab hospitality was extended to my roommates and me, and meals of lamb ensued. We arrived at one friend’s home, 10 kilos outside of the city. Upon arrival, we were ushered into the house, which was encircled by an olive orchard. Oksana, the Russian woman that had married into the family, was standing on a tree branch, dropping olives onto the blanket spread beneath her, so we waved and continued. Once inside, we were given seats of honor, those farthest from the door, and all of the family members came downstairs to visit. The next several hours we chatted and laughed with our generous hosts in broken Arabic. (There may also have been belly dancing when the men left the room!)

Finally, we were served lunch and told that the lamb was fresh- killed just the day before. It was so fresh in fact, that there were still little bits of animal hair stuck between the flesh and bone. We washed it down with hot yogurt poured on top.

It was a BEAUTIFUL start to the Eid, sure to be followed by more house visits, food, dancing, gifts, and extended chants and calls to prayer from the mosque.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Around Town

Pigs are 'haram' or 'forbidden' in Islam. There is also no 'p' letter in the alphabet. As you can see, adjustments have been made.

Church's Chicken becomes Texas Chicken in the Middle East

This is the sign on the inside of our apartment building. Thankfully, there have been no 'clefty events' yet.

My roommate posing in our favorite coffee shop. We wear Western clothes in this cafe and drink tea by the pitcher! Doesn't feel that different from the States...