Sheep Sacrifice: A Holiday Story

Morocco has given me so much by way of knowledge, experience, and friendships that will last a lifetime. I just wish there was something I could do to thank this place for its generosity and insight. These were my thoughts as I sat in Professor Nachit’s riad in the medina. After talking about it for a while, our professor saw how much we wanted to make some sort of gesture of gratitude to this place. Professor Nachit was able to give us this opportunity by introducing us to a very old woman who was in need of a sheep for the Eid Kabir (Festival of Sacrifice).

This holiday occurs in the beginning of December and is in remembrance of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, to prove his faith. On this day, each family sacrifices a sheep. Now, I know how it sounds… gross. I’m a vegetarian. I, of all people, understand the apprehension when first hearing about slaughtering animals, but it has a deep religious meaning that should not be overshadowed. There are many poor Muslim families that are not able to afford a sheep for the festival and it is a very trying time for people who are not wealthy. That is why, after hearing all of this, there was no hesitation- our class would donate a sheep to someone in need.

The woman we gave the sheep to is old, frail, and lives off of generous donations from the people of Meknès. Her husband was a prominent Imam who has passed away, and she now lives with her son who is a bit challenged. The night we decided to donate a sheep to her Professor Nachit took us over to her home (or a room to be more specific) because we simply could not wait to let her know. We went inside, met her, and told her the news. She told us that God would bless us and we went on our way.

In the upcoming week we went as a group and bought the sheep. Professor Nachit was a huge help in that he took us to pick up the sheep and brought it to his mother in-law’s home the day before we were to give the sheep to the woman. After our semester closing ceremony at the Moulay Ismail University we piled into the car and went down to the medina (which, on the day before the Eid, is more crowded than you can possibly imagine). We got the sheep and brought it to the woman which was quite a task, given the amount of people around. At one point we were even carrying the sheep (in its cart) over people’s heads to simply get by!

I can honestly say that this opportunity to help a woman and her son celebrate a holiday tradition was more humbling than anything I have ever experienced in my life. The fact that moves me the most is that this is not too odd of an occurrence in this society (well maybe Americans doing it is). The Muslim culture teaches generosity and encourages zakat. People help out those less fortunate here. Morocco has amazed me each and every day in this aspect. I am getting ready to go home and it upsets me that I will do so during the “holiday season”, because the spirit of giving simply isn’t the same. Instead of going out of our way at home to help others, we will simply rush around (often being rude) and forget what the holiday season is all about. I know that my time in Morocco has changed my outlook on life greatly, and it will only continue to change when I return home.

Kathryn Rich is a student at Rowan University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Meknès, Morocco.

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