Tales of the Lecrin Valley

A personal view of life in an andalusian village.

At last I have nothing looming on the horizon and can get back to work and make some plans for the immediate, if not long-term future.  We spent the week before last in Morocco, commuting between Rabat and Casablanca, seeing friends and taking part in Eid el Adha, or the Feast of the Lamb.  It took seventeen hours to get there vice the usual seven, thanks to the large number of people travelling home for the feast, delays in loading and unloading the ferry, the inefficiency of Moroccan Customs and awful weather for the drive.  But when we rolled up at our hotel, the El Pietri in Rabat, at one in the morning we were greeted like old friends, which we are having stayed there numerous times during the last year.  Eid el Adha celebrates Ibrahim’s sacrifice of a lamb in lieu of his son Ismael and is the biggest festival in the Muslim calender.  The whole country resounds to the sound of lambs bleating in the days preceding the feast, vans scurry around the towns carrying lambs to and from the various lock-ups to which they have been brought from the farms surrounding the cities.  From there they are sold to those wealthy enough to afford one, or to those with a good reason to make a sacrifice, such as the birth of a child during the previous year.  It is not unusual to see sheep’s heads  peering over the tiny balconies of a block of luxury flats, wondering what on earth is going on.  On the day itself it is traditional to offer a prayer and then cut the throat of the sheep with its throat pointing towards Mecca.  It is then skinned and butchered on site, be that a garden or the roof terrace of a block of flats.  If there are a number of wealthy and devout residents in the block, the terrace soon becomes a veritable charnel house with blood and guts everywhere.  The animals waiting to be dispatched, having seen what is to be their fate, nervously stamp, bleat and relieve themselves, adding to the overall chaos present at any Moroccan gathering.  After the slaughter it is traditional to wrap bite-size pieces of the liver in caul fat and barbecue them.  I love both caul and liver so this is a delight for me but Carmen, being a doctor and knowing the functions of every part of the body, doesn’t eat any kind of offal and shies away from the offered kebabs.  From midday on Eid el Adha and for the next few days there is a wonderful smell of charcoal fires and barbecuing meat wherever you go and lamb tagines, lamb couscous and anything else to do with lamb greet you whenever you visit friends.  The skins are taken to specialists who quickly clean and cure them and the resulting rugs are then kept in houses to remind people of the sacrifice they made and why they made it.  After a few years and a lot of kids it is almost impossible to get through the door for sheepskin rugs.  Somehow, the parents and each of the children know which rug belongs to which child, but this knack has eluded me with any family with more than five kids.  An interesting if exhausting week but I hope that helps to explain why I haven’t written for a while.