Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy Tabaski! Or Happy Eid al-Adha for those not in West Africa!

FAIR WARNING!: these pictures get kind of gross.

Yesterday was Tabaski, the “festival of sacrifice”.  It celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God, but God stepped in and Abraham only had to sacrifice a sheep instead.  This is the holiday of holidays for people in my village.  I would say it is the closest thing to Christmas (not in a religious context, but more for the intense amount of celebration).  Everyone puts on their finest clothes, spends insane amounts of money on a family animal to sacrifice, and parties it up with sodas and treats. 

Looking REALLY good.

In the morning, Justin and I got all dressed up in our Togolese-finest to go to prayer.   Men and women must separate for prayer; the women have to pray behind the men.  Because of this, Justin went off with my neighbor Salim and I went off with my two friends Nahid and Whitney to go pray with two women we work with at the hospital.  We headed off to our colleague’s house to learn how to properly wash ourselves before prayer. 

Learning the steps to washing.
Justin and Salim

People from Tchamba (pop. around 13,000) went to the central elementary school to all pray together.  Hoards of people packed in the courtyard and laid out their prayer mats to stake a place to pray.  There were people riding horses, beating on drums, and selling popcorn and treats everywhere.  Tabaski is also the time to give to the poor, so people were shelling out coins left and right to give to those asking.  

Cute girls at prayer

At 9am the Imam started off with the prayer.  I have never prayed before so it was a lot of me watching out of the corner of my eye to see what others were doing.  It was an amazing experience to see a sea of women in veils praying all at the same time.  In muslim prayer there are several steps that start with one standing, then one bends down, then one sits with forehead to the ground.  Imagine hundreds of people doing that all in sync!
So many people! This is only a tiny tiny portion.

Nahid, Wembe, Whitney, and Cherifa

After the prayer, which only lasted maximum 4 minutes, we all filed out and headed back to our colleague’s house.  They had made a delicious meal for us of foufou, rice, and cous cous with a ton of beef in it.  We ate as much as we could but knew that there would be more meals for us to go to later on that day. 

Rice, foufou and couscous

On my way home, I certainly saw the essence of a “festival of sacrifice” as goats, sheeps, and cows were being slaughtered in the streets.  I headed straight to Salim’s house where I found Justin, scarred from the mass-slaughter he had witnessed.  Apparently, he had gone around with all the men to kill the various animals in my neighborhood.  (By that, I mean Justin took his camera around and followed everyone blindly into one situation after another).

Sweet little Manaf ignoring whats happening behind him

Salim's impressive cow.  He's so proud!
Each family sacrifices one animal for this holiday.  1/3 of the animal goes towards the family, 1/3 of the animal goes towards friends, and 1/3 of the animal goes to the poor. (I now have a freezer full of beef that I’m currently googling marinades for).  Animals are CRAZY expensive with cows going for $600! Needless to say, this is a huge deal and families are super proud of their haul.

The family across the street and their lamb.  (You can't tell in this picture, but they were going pretty nuts).
The rest of the day was spent at my friend Moctar’s house.  His family cooked up another meal of foufou with sesame sauce (yum) and a yummy salad.  After that we headed to his brother’s dege (ice-creamish stuff with couscous inside) shop to indulge in their Tabaski gift to us, free dege!

There were a ton more celebrations happening throughout the night but I decided to turn in early and rest up.  I just got over having pink eye in both eyes and my eyeballs are still pretty dry and get tired quickly.  Plus this party lasts for 3 days!