advent calendar Aïd el-Kebir

Today, 9 December, is Aïd el-Kebir in Morocco, the “grande fête”, the celebration of Abraham’s sacrifice by Muslims all around the world. The Aïd is one of the main celebrations of Islam commemoration the willingness of prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael. It is a social fest, with families and friends getting together for the days of the celebration. This year, the 9 and 10 of December were given as holidays.

One of the main rituals, and probably the most visible one, of the celebration is the sacrifice of the animal, mainly sheep and mutton, but also goats, by cutting their throats. Walking through the streets of the rather tiny town of Chefchouan prior to the day where the food for the animals being sold in the narrow streets, I could observe the people letting their knifes being sharpened, hear the sheep being held in the houses baaing. People dress up for the day, and in Chefchouan they also re-freshed the blue painting of the houses.

9 December - re-freshing the colour of your house

9 December - re-freshing the colour of your house

The official estimates talk about 5 million animals being sold and sacrificed, which makes on a population of just over 30 million basically one animal per family. In previous years, nearly all Moroccan families celebrated the sacrifice. An astonishing number, especially when looking at an average price of 40-50 Dirham (3-4 Euro) per kilo of the living animal, making up to 2500 Dirham for the animal, more than the average monthly salary of low-income families. So no wonder that small credits to purchase your yearly mutton were announced well ahead. Some of the newspapers and magazines also highlighted the social constraints, rather than the religious necessity, the cost of the animal and the sacrifice entails.

I was invited to join the family of one of the members of Transparency Maroc, staying over in a hotel next to a lake, about an hour drive from Rabat. A very nice experience.

More information on the Aïd on wikipedia. Does anyone have any other good sources on this to share? I would be interested to know. If you google, the main resources coming up are sacrifices filmed and put on youtube.

advent calendar day 7

Things yoou do in Morocco once a year: get yourself a sheep or goat to celebrate the Aid El Kebir, honor Abraham’s sacrifice. This year it’s on 9 December. But be warned, there will be many, many other families buying one, too. Estimates expect 5 million animals to be sold for the celebration. The picture shows the market in Tetouan, prolonging my bus ride from Chefchouan 2 hours, stuck in the traffic, between sheep, cars and people.

7 December - sheep market

7 December - sheep market

With a bicycle in Tanger

I have been travelling a little bit this weekend, wandering Chefchouans beautiful medina and breathing the air of the Rif mountains chain at the ruins of an old Spanish built mosque. Today I arrived at Tanger, the border tozn in the north, new economic centre. Baptised the Interzone in the 50′s, where everything was allowed. I like the word; expressing so much more, describing the feeling of transit, of beeing between the worlds. Although Tanger actually appears more Arab. Curiously, the Instituto Cervantes will be opening an exhibition of the Mexican-American border, advertised with a picture of the border fence in Tijuana; this other famous border town on the American continent; Tijuana, welcome, where… Standing at a viewpoint in the Casbah, looking over the straight of Gibraltar, thinking of all the hopes, the dreams these places bear.

But here again I found a nice and very central movie theatre, inviting to watch the 7pm function of the Moroccan movie “Le Velo”, first full time feature  by Hamid Faridi (see an interview in French with him here). The theatre was, again, empty, but I enjoyed the movie:

The movie is set-up with a basic plot of telling the story of a father and its two daughters, of which one is handicapped who are faced with their evil uncle and the superintdendent of the local police, who want to get hold of the house the family lives in and owns. When the father’s health is getting worse through a heart attack, things turn into worse as the daughters face loosing the house to the uncle, only male in the family. There seems to be no way out until the handicapped daugther disappears with the sick father and the bicycle.

The second part of the movie is the stronger part of the story, turning into a dramatic-comic road movie with the whole police force, the daughter and her best friends chasing behind the missing. Le Velo criticises machism in Moroccan society, believing women to be helpless without a men and displaying everyday machism and the constraints society places upon them. The movie portrays strong women, fighting for their place and right. An atmospheric soundtrack flickers to the takes, catching the landscape and the faces of the characters (not always well focussed). A brave little movie that deserves definitely more audience.