Monday, January 15, 2007

I do not know if the stars and the moon have aligned, but due to a freak cosmic chance the moon and the sun have shifted together and placed the Muslim feast of L'Eid (spellings differ) along with the Gregorian based fete of New Years Eve.

I think that most of you are familure with the more Western of these two holidays. To be honest, I have never been much impressed with it. But, this is not a post about that.
This is a post about L'Eid! Or as a greating, "MBrook L'Eid!". To get the prounciation just right, the "E" should sound as an "EA" combo. So much so that I have seen many people spell it Aid, or L'Aid. Also, the "L" is jammed on in the French way, so demphisise it. If at this point you are tripping over simple words and the concentration of rules causes you to question even your English, welcome to my world where speaking follows the same rules as horse shoes and hand granades.

The feast is a commereization of a true act of piety. Abraham was set to kill his son Ishmael. The boy was bound, the knife was raised. But, knowing the sincerity of Ab's heart, God did not make him go though with it. Exchanging a errant ram for his son (who was as hairy as one), he sealed the fate for millions of father goats down through the milinia.

Let me say that this was obviously an act of God. I have spent much of the last week following and talking to shepards, and it is a rare moment indeed when they let even the smallest fall behind and get lost. Let alone overlooking a large male with horns getting stuck in the brambles. Today I talked to one who was carrying a young kid as gently and securely as if it were his own Ishmael.

Each family here buys (or raises) their own ram. Those who did not have one already been picking them up at market over the last month, so that yesterday you could hear the bleatings all over town. To be honest, in a more agragrian town like mine, this is not that uncommon on most days. But, I have been told that in larger cities it is a sight to see and hear when horn honks are replaced with baaaa. I have seen goats recently stuffed into the trunks of grand taxis, slid under souk buses, and (once) slung over a mans shoulder while he was driving a moter scooter.

On L'Eid the sun rose warm and as full as the promise of tomorrow. It was perfect weather, and I suppose if I were a ram it would have been as good of a day as any to be sacrificed. This is a time that sons who are working abroad or in a major city like Rabat come home. There is that rich wholesome feeling of families enoying eachother. Groups of teenage girls roamed the streets, dashing into one house and back out the side door just as quick. Boys gathered on corners to buy and share candy. And if you listen closely, you can even hear family fights as the prodical son tells his parents about the new job he took last week.

I went for a walk this morning not knowing what exactly to expect. One of the first people I spotted was my local Imam from the mosque. I have often thought about how he is a young fellow, probally in his early 30s. He was walking quick enought to be called a trot down the street sharpening a rather impressive blade that he used to wave out a hurried hello as he flashed a bright smile. I didnt have the heart to call out a kindergarden teacher's warning about the danger inherent his Jason Voorhees-esqu behavior. It was his moment to shine as he was called from house to house, to carry out his duty to sever arteries and windpipes with a twist of the wrist and a wisper of prayer.

As I stood around the local shop, the single most talked about killing was of Saddam. Poor timing from the persepective of those here. Nothing says "Stop the Violence" like a hanging. I tried my best to explain that it was not actually Americans who hung him, but real honest Iraqis. I think we all had a decent grasp of what went on, but we stuck to our stories just the same.
I finished my tour of town as the last ram was put down to find my neighbors already well on their way to preparing lunch. The ladder that was used last month to replaster the house was now doing duty to hang the now dead, decapitated, and skined ram as my friendly neighbor Usfe worked quickly and carefully to take out each of the improbally shaped internal organs to be cleaned by his neice, while two young boys of 5 or 6 watched nearby listening to The Band (self-titled). That night, as well as the next, and those after will find dinner plates pilled high with mutton until every bit had been consumed. Eyes and brain too.

You might wonder why the two boys were listening to The Band. I would like to think that even from a young age they appriciate good music. But, its because that is what I was listening to on my iPod. The enire day has a feeling of Thanksgiving, of appricating what you have, and those who you can enjoy it with. Looking around the table, being happy in the moment...right before you stuff your face and fall asleep. The youth of M'ssici liked The Band almost as much as I do, even if they did not yet understand the profound connecion between history, family, celebrations, and roast meat. But, I think they are getting closer now, and maybe the New Year will find us all understanding each other a little better.

***There will be those who ask why the boys were listening to the "Self-Titled" and not "The Last Waltz". It is because I dont have that release here. We all make some sacrifices.***

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