Sunday, November 13, 2011

One door closes...

Today marks exactly 2 months since Justin and I joined the Peace Corps, and it also marks the end of one phase of our time here and the beginning of a new one. This morning, we left our training community in Moulay Yacoub and exchanged tearful goodbyes with our host family who has done so, so much for us. They sent us off with jllabas (pictures forthcoming!) and a slew of other memorabilia that we will cherish and think of our time here. In just a short time we have truly connected with our family and with the Moulay Yacoub community and it will always fill a donkey-shaped place in my heart. Justin and I are absolutely planning to go back and visit, hopefully when our language is even better and they might understand what we are saying :)

A "quilt" from a program that I ran with girls in our community. Thought it looked cute :)

While we are sad to leave, we ended our time in Moulay Yacoub with a bang – this week was L-3id L-kbir (also known as “the great feast”), one of the largest holidays in the Muslim community. The holiday is held on the tenth day of the month of du l-Hijja in the Islamic calendar (the last month of the year) and is derived from the sacrifice story of Abraham and his son Isaac. For those who don't know or need a reminder – the holiday honors when God (or Allah) told Abraham (for Muslims, he is called Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son Isaac (for Muslims, Isma'il) as a test of his faith. As Abraham was about to kill Isaac, God stopped him and gave him a lamb to sacrifice instead. *16-Nov: Clarification at bottom of post!

For 3id, each household purchases its own sheep (those who cannot afford a sheep buy a lamb or a less expensive animal). Then, the head of the family kills the sheep (or in some families, a butcher comes to the house and performs the ritual). Over the days following this, the family eats all the different parts of the sheep. And when I say all I mean ALL. They also eat a TON of sweets at every meal- cookies, cakes, candies, the works. I am refraining from posting some of the more graphic pictures and descriptions of the week but I’m happy to share upon request! In addition, families buy new clothing to wear for the holiday, usually get haircuts, and women use henna as cosmetic and as a means of protection against evil influences. For us, the week was overwhelming but a really interesting experience and allowed us to spend a lot of time with our family, which we really appreciated. 

Our friend the sheep who is no longer...
A sample of our typical non-meat spreads last week

So we’ve said goodbye to the beautiful Moulay Yacoub with its mountains, hammams, donkeys, steps and steps and steps, and the amazingly welcoming people who took us in and allowed us to be part of the community for our short time. We are now in Fes where we will spend 4 days, then 1 day in Rabat in which we will be sworn in as official Peace Corps volunteers. My host sister sewed me a beautiful purple jllaba for 3id which I will be wearing again at our official swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, so you will be seeing it soon. Then, on Friday we head off to our new community (Tiflet) to begin our 2-year adventure. More to come over our next few days the next door opens!

* Clarification on 16-Nov: I realized that one piece of my description of Abraham's sacrifice may have been unclear. While Ibrahim is of course the Arabic version of the name Abraham, I did not mean to suggest that Isma'il is just the Arabic equivalent of Isaac. As you may know, Abraham had 2 sons by different women: Isma'il (or Ishmael) and Isaac. In the Torah and Christian Bible, Isaac is the son that Abraham was about to sacrifice, whereas in the Qur'an, Abraham was about to sacrifice his first son, Isma'il, when Allah sent the ram. The theological importance of the distinction is that Jews trace their descent from Isaac and Christians believe that Jesus was a descendant of Isaac, whereas Muslims believe that the Prophet Mohamed was a descendant of Isma'il.


  1. Lauren - so great and informative! In thinking about the sheep thing, my gut response is "save the sheep". That experience might have turned me vegetarian.

  2. Thanks Kirstin! Definitely was a memorable experience :)