I woke to the acrid, unpleasant scent of burning hair. I’d been warned. Yesterday, everywhere we went we saw or heard sheep–crammed into the backs of pick-up trucks with humans wedged in as well, or bawling desperately in backyards. Today is the Feast of Sacrifice, the biggest feast of the Muslim year. The kids have two days off school; kids in Moroccan schools have the entire week. If you’re Muslim, you should slaughter a nice fat ram, if at all possible. Outside the kids’ school, beggars scurried in between cars, approaching windows with their hands out.


Note: this is a two-way street

One thing I’m noticing is that the feasts and fasts that make up the Muslim year are celebrated differently between neighbouring Morocco and Mauritania. For example, in Mauritania, restaurants are still open during Ramadan; here, they are not. So I was interested to see how this feast would be different.

In Mauritania the feast was celebrated yesterday. I know that had I been there, I would have walked out the front door and been greeted by the sight of mostly dead sheep, perhaps still bleating softly and moving their legs, their heads resting in a puddle of blood.

Here, in the modern city that is my new home, there was nothing that dramatic. But on every street corner, the kids had made a fire and were singing the hair off the rams’ heads. Horns were lying in untidy heaps on the ground, and there were plastic buckets full of heads waiting their turn. Apparently, all other parts can be cooked in the oven, but indoors it is difficult to singe the hair off the heads so that the head can then be cooked to get at the really tasty bits–the brain, the eyes, the tongue.

It was a showery day, so they had rigged up plastic awnings, and underneath they were grilling away.


I’ve been served goat’s head before, in Mauritania. It was our first meal in a local home, and boy was it a shock when they proudly brought in the platter of couscous with the goat’s head in the center, the tongue artfully draped just so over the jaw. But I don’t know that many Moroccans yet, and today we spent at home. The kids went to friends’ houses; I listened to Christmas music and did laundry.  A quiet, if smelly, day.