After putting on my bright orange boubou (that looks like a well tailored inmate jumpsuit); saying baal ma aq to everyone in my family, my quartier, and pretty much anyone I came in contact with; buying 8 kilos of bread; and waiting for the men to come back from praying at the mosque, we finally sacrificed two huge rams to start the celebration of Tabaski.
***DO NOT CONTINUE READING IF THE SACRIFICE MIGHT MAKE YOU FEEL UNEASY.
It was about 10AM when the men returned from praying at the mosque, and as soon as they entered the house, they changed out of their boubous, put on shorts and t-shirts, and went to the back porch area to get the rams. At first they wanted me to slit the throat of one of the rams, but I politely refused, saying that they were not my rams to sacrifice. Each ram represents a male head of household, and it is a Senegalese tradition for each male head of household to buy a ram for his wife. We had one ram that was purchased buy Cher for Diouf and one that was from Papa Gaide Seck for Aïssatou (my host father did not purchase one for my host mother because she is in Mecca).
They tie the four legs together, and then they take a sharp knife and slit the ram’s throat. Easy as pie, right? They face the ram in the direction of Mecca, and the respective male head of household slits the throat. After the throat has been slit, the blood is flushed down a drain or put into a hole (in my house it was flushed into a drain) and then the ram is picked up and placed on the floor to be skinned. The worse part, after the throats were slit, was watching the rams twitch and move…this happened for about 5-10 minutes after they were “killed”. After standing and watching for a couple of minutes, I was told to change out of my boubou (I was still wearing it with hope that I would not have to assist). They wanted me to help in the skinning process, so I grabbed the left hind leg and watched them pull the skin off the still warm ram. It was uncomfortable to watch, but I definitely gained and learned something in the process.
In my house after we killed and skinned both the rams, we immediately began to cook the foie. It was really interesting to see where my meat was coming from, and to know that the night before they had eaten watermelon and bread. In the states, it seems that we do not really appreciate all the work that it takes to get our food to our plates. We are so caught up in getting things done quickly, that the middleman and everything before us is essentially obsolete.
***OKAY FOR THE UNEASY TO READ NOW.
So, after the rams had been fully opened, I had the job of cleaning out the intestines with my host sister Mami. It was “enjoyable” to squeeze the intestines clean, so that they could be later filled to make sausages. Talk about eliminating the middleman in sausage making! Anyways, after a while of squeezing, I ate ribs and foie; it was delicious! I then helped in delivering pieces of the xar to non-Muslim families in the Mermoz area (people say that non-Muslims usually have more xar on Muslim holidays than do the actually Muslim families). By the time I had returned, the xars were in pretty manageable pieces and it was time to eat again! We ate and ate and ate!
After eating, I helped the family clean up the house by scrubbing the floors and sweeping up any “parts” that were left. All the left over pieces are thrown into the streets…this includes the horns, skins, and all other unused body parts. In about 4-5 days, Dakar is going to smell wonderful!
My Tabaski activities did not end there…it was about 4PM and I decided to visit all of my friends and their respective host families in the Mermoz area. It was wonderful to see a handful of the group dressed in their boubous and to see at what stage of the xar process each family was in. I met up with Val (pink Giraffe boubou), Anne-Marie (blue/green wax print boubou), Anna (blue pant and top boubou), Amelia (Myra’s pink Korite boubou), Myra (blue wax print boubou), and Sarah (blue boubou)—everyone else was too far or in another town (Kalen-Rufisque; Erin-St. Louis; Alejandra-Kaolack; Stephen, Chelsea, & Thomas-Baobab, Nadia-Sacre Cœur; and Daniel was just MIA). We are all having a “WEAR YOUR TABASKI BOUBOU DAY” this Friday, so we will all be able to see each other in our finest.
Well, now that Tabaski is over, the next “events” that I have to look forward to are the Christmas play I will be starring in on Saturday and Sunday, all the final projects/papers/presentations I have to still do, and the fact I am leaving Senegal in less than 10 days!
See you all SOON! Inchallah! ALEX
P.S. Ask me if you really would like to see my Tabaski photos of the sacrifice…I have about 50 or so!
P.S.S. Ana sa xar? - How’s your ram? (Literally: Where is your ram?)