Rabat - Baaa, baaa, is the common sound you hear these days in every corner of the streets of Rabat, Morocco's capital.
Rabat – Baaa, baaa, is the common sound you hear these days in every corner of the streets of Rabat, Morocco’s capital.
Flocks of sheep are invading the city. Moroccans are cashing in sheep sales ahead of Eid Al-Adha, which marks the end of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
This year, an estimated 7.5 million cattle are available in Morocco, of which 4.5 million are male lambs and 3 million goats and ewes, revealed a recent release of the Ministry of Agriculture. Sheep meat production has increased by 2%, nearly 450,000 tons in 2012, the statement added.
Prices might range between MAD 30 and MAD 34 per kilogram according to the race, age and size, but will however obey market demand and offer laws. The sales expected from the Eid-related transactions are estimated at around MAD 6.5 billion to be transferred to the rural world.
The high demand for sheep wields economic influence beyond the world of agriculture. Retailers of electro-domestic goods in both the capital and the economic cities of Morocco also cash in, as the feast day causes a yearly spike-up in sales of refrigerators and other kitchen appliances (knives, forks, plates…)
Supermarkets and other companies provide prizes and bonus sheep for lucky customers each day. Consumer-credit companies are more active in this period, as they provide loans to people who are in need of money to buy the sheep. They also provide you with the possibility of winning a sheep if you borrow a certain amount of money.
Many newspapers complained that the El Eid festival has become more commercialized and has gone far from being a religious ceremony.
On your way to work, you see tens of billboard adverts with different pictures of sheep (photos, cartoons). It is also a time when advertisers became more creative in designing advertising messages related to the occasion. In these adverts, you can see a sheep speaking, skiing, dancing, and singing. All depends on the nature of the ad, and the type of the product.
Ads read “buy a fridge, get a free sheep,” “get a credit, you could win our sheep tombola.”
Because of their need to buy a sheep, Moroccans are influenced by these ads, and eventually go to the bank to get credits.
“In Islam, God does not tell you to ruin yourself to buy a sheep,” said Amina, 45, who was accompanying her husband to buy a sheep. “I know many people who will not buy a sheep in our neighborhood, simply because they could not afford to. I believe they are not obliged to buy it if they do not have money,” she added.
Mohamed, Amina’s husband, said that they had not celebrated the Adha feast many times when they did not have money. “It’s not shameful not to buy a sheep, and it has nothing to do with honor and pride as many Moroccans think when they decide to borrow money, or get credit from banks to show off in front of their neighbors that they have bought a big sheep,” said Mohammed.
Another man, Ali, 50, father of three children, joined in the conversation. He said that according to Islam, you will not be condemned if you can not afford to sacrifice a sheep.”
Maati, another 40 year old man, has just bought a sheep. His children surround him screaming “Chrina El Hawli (we bought the sheep)” and imitating the sheep bleating baaa baaaaaa.
Maati said that in their neighborhood, people help those who did not buy the sheep and give them food and meat. The sheep market was so crowded. It is the best time when farmers, called “Kessaba”, make more profit. A sheep in the capital Rabat could cost between MAD 1,500 and MAD 4,000.
Civil servants all over the country should have already received their next month’s salary ahead of time, and credit offers for sheep purchase were also delivered to those interested.
On your way home from the sheep “souk”, you see street vendors everywhere, selling packs of hay to feed the sheep for its final days, and barbecue charcoal. Knife-sharpeners also wander along on the streets hailing those who want to sharpen their knives.
El Eid presents a challenge for Moroccans. Many people have nowhere to keep the sheep before it is slaughtered.
“We do not have anywhere to keep the sheep. We live in a small apartment with no balcony. So we go to our grandmother’s house to celebrate the occasion there,” said Leila 23, a student.
Many people like Leila go to their grandparents’ house to celebrate the occasion; others travel to their home cities to spend El Eid with their families; the rest choose to keep the sheep on their apartment balconies, or in their bathrooms, or in the building’s terrace.
As a result, the sheep smell and bleating become common within homes and apartment blocks.
Though Eid el Adha today has become so commercialized, its traditions are typical.
On the day of al-Eid, people show their support and solidarity towards their neighbors. Unemployed young men, kids and teenagers find a way to earn money through grilling the sheep heads and legs. Kids are rushing everywhere in the courtyards of homes, whose doors are widely open for neighbours to exchange al-Eid greetings.
In many neighborhoods, boys, who had spent the whole week selling packs of hay to feed sheep for their final days, supervise the day of El Eid the barbecue charcoal, used to grill the sheep’s heads. Knife-sharpeners join the butchers and the neighboring volunteers to slaughter the sheep.
The smell of “Boulfaf” will pervade in the whole area after the sheep slaughtering. The streets became empty; not even a single man would be hanging around. Late afternoon, families would have already prepared the year’s common traditional spicy dish “Tkalia.”
“Tkalia” or, as some call it “Chkanba” or “Kercha”, is made up of the sheep stomach, intestines, heart, and liver. This special dish is either served with tea or with a soda.
The next day, early in the morning, people slice up their sheep, put the meat in plastic bags and stow it away in the refrigerator.
After the slaughter, people in poor areas specifically usually make the meat last at least a fortnight. Normally people should only keep 1/3 and give 2/3 to the poor.