How many sheep did you have? A food approach to holy days.

The Muslim holiday and holy-days of Eid al-Adha happens through Tuesday. I’m embarrassed to admit that all I know about the holy days right now comes from Wikipedia and from my cultural anthropologist mother who has researched the topic…(see Wikipedia for the story).

But what I’m learning about the holiday comes from AUI students and from being embedded in a culture fully engaged in celebration. Several times I’ve been told “it’s like a Muslim Thanksgiving and Christmas all wrapped up into one…”, meaning the gathering of families, traditions of ritual food, and closing of most businesses for the specific days at minimum and possibly for the full week.

According to one elementary school teacher, children return to school from the holiday comparing stories with each other — “how many sheep did YOU have?” as American children might compare “how many presents did YOU get?”

The central ritual is slaughtering of a lamb, then on one day roasting its innards and on a next day roasting the lamb. Abundance. Extended family. “Making memories,” one student described to me.

Multiple colleagues warned several non-Muslim new comers (myself included) to be sure that we stocked up on foods Friday and Saturday because everything will closed down until Wednesday. And so it was that I made my first journey to the souq — the traveling market that appears in a field outside of town on Saturdays and Sundays and then disappears again until the following week. I don’t have a frame of reference, but I imagine the level of chaos and excitement as if going to the Texas HEB on the Saturday before Thanksgiving or going to an airport on the Wednesday before! Today, Sunday, the town has a stillness I am seeing for the first time.

I look forward to becoming more familiar with the rhythms of life here.

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