twas the night before Tabaski…

T’was the night before Tabaski and all the through the house, not a creature was stirring… except for a sheep!

Last night we tossed and turned as the mournful wails of sheep danced in our heads.  We tried not to count of the number of head that traversed our dreams – we are, after all, trying to get accustomed to our new surroundings.

No, we do not live next to a livestock market.  But yes, we do have sheep next door!  Actually, it would be more accurate to say that baahhs are coming from every “next door”.

You see, today is the holy day of Tabaski or Eid al-Adha.  Here it’s known as fête des moutons and all our Muslim neighbours have bought themselves a sheep or two to slaughter and share with their friends and family.  This marks the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son to show his commitment to God.

Our day dawned at 6:30 and we began a pilgrimage, following the sounds of the flock to their source – Maroua’s special Tabaski sheep market.  As we approached, the bleating intensified and flowed towards us as motorcycle-riding sheep appeared out of the haze that hovered over the early-morning streets.

Motorcycle-riding sheep?  Wait a second…  Is that legal?  I’ll have to ask my friend the region’s transportation delegate about that one…

But first, back to our moutons.

With so few cars on the roads of Maroua, motos carry all sorts of cargo – live sheep include.  How, you ask?  It’s easy!

First position the driver and then the passenger.  Next, a third person lifts the bellyaching bleater – belly up – onto the passenger’s lap.  Stop there?  Nah.  Because fête des moutons lasts three days, one sheep is rarely enough.  Therefore, a second animal joins the musical ride – this time belly down and facing the opposite direction.

Voila!  Packed and ready to go!

Having witnessed this for ourselves, the pandemonium of the market made a bit more sense.  The panicked calls of sheep blended into a hum of human voices all heading towards the city’s largest mosque.  Once again, we trusted our sense of hearing and followed the din through Maroua’s unpaved backroads.

Human rivulets merged into streams and streams became rivers.  Presumably the flow eventually reached the mosque. For us it remained hidden beyond a wall of trees far ahead.  Instead, we stopped amidst a sea of the faithful who diligently laid out their prayer mats facing towards Mecca.

Calmly, quietly and with serene beauty, all 50,000 of Maroua’s Muslims completed their religious devotions.  Not so calmly – nor so quietly – they all boarded their motos and belched their way home amidst less-than-beauteous clouds of exhaust.

Time to cook the moutons!

Following our noses this time, we gradually made our way to gorge on the sacrificial flesh.  Boubakari, the coordinateur of the organization we both work at – RESAEC – graciously invited us to share the feast with him and his family.

Indeed, the honour was all ours – and many tender morsels of mouton passed our lips.

~ by Greg Spira on November 27, 2009.

5 Responses to “twas the night before Tabaski…”

  1. Great pics Greg! I’m still a bit confused about the difference between sheeps and goats in your part of the world, but hey, I’m not a vet…

    • Join the club! There is a difference though and we’re starting to be able to see it. Basically while the goats here are scrawny and pint-sized, the sheep are generally bigger. Neither have any wool that you’d want to weave with though!

  2. You’ve whetted my appetite ! Time to get our lamb shoulder roast out of the freezer. I’d like to hear about what your friend and his family’s feast was like. And about the photos, how did the praying muslims feel about your taking photos ? Were they unaware ?
    Ambivalent ? Did they welcome your snapping ? Or, did some show annoyance?

  3. Thanks for these. Some real winner photos here and on Flickr. Glad to see you’ve unsheathed the good camera. Can you post date and/or time of day of some photos, to set the stage?

  4. I’m enjoying your postings! I think it must be easier to carry 2 sheep than just one using the method you describe.

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