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Tabaski in Senegal

2012 October 30

by Grace Veker
CIEE Dakar: Language and Culture Program, Fall 2012

This past weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to celebrate Tabaski (otherwise known as Eid al-Adha, in Arabic) with my host family in Senegal. Tabaski is the second largest Muslim holiday behind Ramadan, and it celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his eldest son to prove his faithfulness to Allah. Right before Abraham was about to make the kill, an angel appeared and stopped him and sent a sheep for sacrifice instead. Therefore, now once a year, every good Muslim family has to kill a sheep in remembrance of Abraham’s faith.

My host family, being good observing practicing Muslims, slaughtered not one, but two sheep this past Friday. The morning began with the men of the house attending Friday morning prayers at the mosque. Then, around 10, the local imam began walking around the neighborhood slitting throats. I walked outside to find a gathering of people all huddled around a hole filled with blood, watching the imam kill the last of the sheep in that particular spot. I couldn’t watch. All the blood, the baaa-ing, and the occasional post-death kick was freaking me out. But thankfully, that didn’t last too long.

I started walking around the neighborhood, met up with some friends, and went to watch several more mouttons meet their death. By the time I wandered back to my family’s slaughter fest, one of our sheep had already been skinned and was about to get all of its guts cut out. Good – just in time! My host mother instructed me to go get a plate to bring the liver back inside so Marie, my host sister, could start cooking it.

Then, I walked over to my friend Gina’s to retrieve her, only to get caught in one more sheep kill. This one was my least favorite – her host father did the honors as three of her host brothers held the animal down. There was an explosion of blood that went anywhere but the hole in the floor designed as its recipient. The worst part was after a solid 5 minutes, the sheep came back from the dead for a miraculous split-second, and violently kicked Gina’s 12-year-old host brother. I think it’s safe to say he’s scarred.

The rest of the day was pretty tranquil. Marie tried to feed me some sheep liver that I immediately regurgitated. I don’t know… something about having seen that same liver performing it’s living function less than an hour ago made me very reluctant to put it in my body. I was hoping I’d get over the feeling by lunch, but unfortunately all I could put down was the bread and onion sauce.

That night, I put on my Senegalese attire and spent some time at New Africa, a bar in my neighborhood, with friends. I rounded out the night by hitting up a casino in the Almadies with a couple guy friends. Successful Tabaski to say the least.

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