Holiday Weekend

26 11 2009

In the back seat, all three kids strained against their seatbelts and craned their necks to get a good look at the big white tent in the parking lot of a large grocery store. “What is it?” Marco asked.

Hmmm. Should we just tell them? After all, the banner over the entrance to the tent was most unambiguous.

While we looked forward to this weekend because of Thanksgiving, Saturday is the Muslim holiday Aid el Kibir, which commemorates God’s provision of a sacrificial ram in place of Abraham’s son. The tradition here is that every family must purchase a ram, sheep, or goat and slaughter it.

So yes, the ram markets are everywhere – kind of like Christmas tree sales in the US – in parking lots and vacant fields. We have seen live sheep in luggage-rack-like cages on top of cars, on balconies, and even offered as a promotional bonus for buying a new stove from an appliance store.

Our students and friends all have an Aid el Kibir story – mostly ones that don’t make for the most appetizing dinner conversation. And ubiquitous is the advice that if we go driving around on Saturday, we should get a babysitter and leave the kids at home: The blood flows, the streets are eerily quiet, and the air is pungent with the smell of burn hair and flesh rising in the smoke of the charcoal fires that dot the fields to roast whole ram heads for the first celebratory meal.

So what do you tell the kids?

“It’s kind of like a petting zoo,” Chrissy finally answered. “Only they just have rams, nothing else.”

Under his breath, Tony added, “They call it the killing fields.”


“Can we go in there?”

“Sure, we can go in to see the rams.”




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