Tabaski

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One of my host sisters (pictured left) and one of the maids (pictured right) cleaning the sheep.
One of my host sisters (pictured left) and one of the maids (pictured right) cleaning the sheep.

In my last blog post (and the one before that), I mentioned Tabaski and promised to devote an entire blog post to that topic. This is the post devoted to Tabaski.

Background Info
Tabaski is the Wolof word for the holiday, Eid al-Adha, which is the second largest Muslim holiday. It is also known as the “Sacrifice Feast” and commemorates the “willingness of Ibrahim (also known as Abraham) to follow Allah’s (God’s) command to sacrifice his son Ishmael.” * Tabaski (Eid al-Adha) is a four day holiday and the days that it is celebrated changes each year. This year, Tabaski occurred on Monday, September 12th and will end on September 17th.

My Tabaski experience
Tabaski is really, really big. I’ve heard about Tabaski since I arrived in Dakar. There were many commercials promoting items for Tabaski, special promotions, and chances to win money and gifts for Tabaski. However, the biggest focus of Tabaski (in my opinion) was on the sheep or mouton. Each family kills at least one sheep but some families kill more than one. My professor spoke of one man who bought 37 sheep for his family for Tabaski this year.

The way that people buy sheep is interesting because you could pretty much buy them anywhere. As in, one day I woke up and there were sheep everywhere. I would walk to school and there would be tons of sheep eating, sleeping, standing, etc. on the sidewalk or near grass patches. I did not take any pictures of the sheep because I was so tired of seeing them but trust me, they were everywhere.

Another interesting aspect that I learned about Tabaski was that families that are non-Muslim still celebrate this holiday as well. Some of my friends who live with catholic families also had sheep and sacrificed their sheep as well. Tabaski is treated as a general Senegalese holiday as well as a Muslim holiday.

On the day of Tabaski, my two host brothers woke up early to go to the Mosque to pray then returned home to sacrifice the sheep. By the time I woke up, they had already killed the sheep but I watched the butchering proces. It was bloody but not sickening to me. The liver was cooked for breakfast but after a few pieces, I couldn’t eat more. Afterward, I watched one of the maids and one of my host sisters clean the meat and preserve the remainders that would not be cooked in freezer bags.

I ate my big Tabaski dinner around 4/5pm (very early for dinner) and I have to say that I had a big revelation: I do not like sheep. I don’t like the taste or the texture or anything about sheep. I ate the smallest amount of sheep that I could and called it a day. I was a bit disappointed because one of my host brothers was telling me about the food and how it was delicious and that he was super excited for me. Tabaski was my first time having sheep so I was as excited as him, but in the end, the mouton (and my taste buds) failed me.

Later that night, I went to another neighborhood, called Ouakam, to see some of my friends. Everyone was dressed up. Fashion during Tabaski is very important and in the weeks building up to the holiday, tailors are pretty much overworked with orders from everyone. Women wear extremely fancy and beautiful dresses and the men sport breezy ensembles. I met some of my friends host family members and drank attaya (Senegalese music) as we all talked, laughed, and listened to music.

Now that the first day of Tabaski is over, everything is calmer. I don’t see as many street vendors, there are NO mouton, and the streets seem less busy. There are many other aspects of Tabaski that I know I have not covered, but being able to experience Tabaski was eye-opening.

Next week, I am going to the island of Niodior for my rural visit. I will be there for one week with another student from my program. I won’t have internet access there but after my return, I will provide full details with more pictures (hopefully).

Ba beneen yoon,
Su