Hide your kids, the Boujloud are coming!

What’s that holiday called where kids dress up in scary costumes, knock on your door and ask for treats, threatening mischief should you refuse them?

Holloween?

Nope.

Gotcha, you were thinking locally weren’t you.  Think globally.. . and let your thoughts take you to a tiny Amazigh village in Morocco.  A few days ago, each family has slaughtered a sheep or a goat….now you have a whole load of smelly skins and nothing fun to do with them.  Unless…

boujloud, goat boy, Marrakesh Morocco blog

The boujloud are coming!  If you are a kid, you hear the drums beating and run out to meet them.  Or alternately you find a place to hide.  After all, you have spent the last day in terrified anticipation of them, exchanging horror stories with other kids about what might happen to you if you don’t give the Boujloud some money. They take all your food and break  your furniture…they pick up little kids by their feet and hit them…if the boujloud man goes to a graveyard at night, the goat skins will stick to his body!

I remember this from my own childhood, mapping out hiding spots with my friends.  In my mind the Boujloud were a fierce and fearsome band of boogeymen.  This Eid, I saw the same delighted fear on my children’s faces.  And I could see now that the Boujloud are just a bunch of local youth, out having fun.

You can’t buy costumes like this in any store.  I love the creative re-using of these getups.  The Goat Boy is the star of the bunch.  It is actually quite an impressive (read scary) experience to see him up close.

boujloud, berber dressup, Marrakesh Morocco blog

No children were harmed in the making of this blog post:

boujloud, berber Eid tradition, Marrakesh Morocco blog.

It was all (fairly) harmless fun and exaggerated posturing.

boujloud, berber tradition, Eid, Marrakesh Morocco blog

Interesting note: the money raised by the Boujloud is donated to the local mosque.  Not your typical fundraiser, but it works.

Eid: thoughts, teachings, snapshots

“These are days for eating, drinking and remembering God”.  That is a description of Eid, which we celebrated this past week.  And that sums it up pretty well.

Eid comes as the celebration marking the end of each year’s pilgrimage season.

Some of my favorite things about Eid are…

…thinking about those who have made the pilgrimage, their stories, their light filled faces as they return.  Thinking about the year that my husband made that journey, as I stayed home 7 months pregnant with Karima.  That is a story worth its own blog post.

…Eid prayer, a special communal prayer held outdoors.  Normally we go to the one on the road to Ourika, with tens of thousands of people.  This year we had the good fortune to be out in the countryside, where a gathering of the entire community means a couple hundred people.  As we arrived and settled onto the straw mats, we were greeted by the most peaceful singing “dear Lord, make us among the thankful”.

…the beautiful teachings related to the slaughter of the Eid sheep.  As part of the celebration, it’s traditional to slaughter a sheep (or goat, cow or camel), feeding family, friends and giving away a third to charity .  It’s a very real experience, that puts you face to face with your own meat-eating.  Certainly for me there is a heaviness associated with it.  I’d much rather just grab some meat at the store, but as Barbara Kingsolver put it, you can’t run away on harvest day.  The Islamic teaching is to accompany the animal through the door of death in the best possible way.   That is, to speak softly and soothingly to it, to not show it the knife, to not slaughter it in the same place as another animal so that it won’t smell or see blood, to use a well sharpened knife and to make the slaughter itself as quick as possible, and finally to utter a prayer a the moment of death.  One of two things will happen if you witness or participate in this event, either you will become a vegetarian, or you will come away with more gravitas, a much deeper awareness of the responsibility we have as meat eaters.  Where does our meat come from?  How was the animal raised?  How was it killed?  The answers to these questions are so directly relevant to our own humanity.

…family time, food time.  See pictures below.  What I love about this set of pictures is the light, notice the light.

1-On the way to Eid prayer.  My son and my father.

Walking to Eid prayer, Marrakesh Morocco

2-Planting feathers.  An ambitious endeavor.planting feathers

3-Let the feasting begin.  Moroccan tektouka salad, made with roasted red bell peppers and tomato.
Moroccan tektouka salad

4-My plate.  Spinach artichoke dip, the famous liver brochettes of the first day (meat needs to wait till day 2 to taste better), guacamole, broccoli (a treat in Morocco, trust me on this), and tektouka.  I didn’t actually eat the liver brochettes, sorry, not a fan.  But my kids love them, and broccoli too, contrary to the common kid stereotypes.  Moroccan food on Eid

5-This is my identity expressed via the medium of cookies.  One one hand, the all American fave, chocolate chip (chip here is singular).  On the other hand, Moroccan “slipper” cookies (shaped like a belgha), which are, incidentally, filled with peanut butter.  I had an “I am baker, hear me roar” moment when I baked these and they actually came out looking and tasting as good as store bought.  I always thought Moroccan cookies were well beyond my scope.  chocolate chip cookies and Moroccan slipper cookies

6-Last food pic I promise.  Indian carrot pudding (much, much more heavenly than the name connotes).  And Moroccan tea.

gujarella and Moroccan mint tea

7-My daughter is wearing a dress that my sister, and later I, both wore as girls.  I think it was used to begin with.

sunlight

8-Just the light.  It almost made me cry, all day, it made the simplest things so beautiful.

Olive orchard, Ourika valley, Morocco

9-That night we stayed in one of the few houses in the area still without electricity.  Candle light is also so peaceful and lovely.candle in moroccan lamp

Pomegranates, food for the heart

It’s definitely pomegranate season in Marrakesh.  Every city block has its own cart.  And at 6 dirhams a kilo (40 cents a pound) there is no reason to hold back.

pomegranate arils

Do you like pomegranates?  My kids love them, they scream with delight when I serve up a plate of the crimson jewels.  And I scream with delight internally knowing that my kids are crazy about one of the healthiest foods in the world.  Indeed, pomegranates have one of the highest levels of antioxidants of any food, three times the amount found in green tea.  Studies have linked pomegranate consumption to reduced blood pressure and bad cholesterol.  The flavenoids (a type of antioxidant) in pomegranates are effective in fighting both breast cancer and skin cancer, and a study has shown that pomegranate juice may slow the growth of prostate cancer.  The pomegranate also has anti-inflammatory properties, a high level of vitamin C and pantothenic acid.  The seeds present in each aril contain unsaturated oils (the good kind), and if you manage to chew them, you’ll be getting more than enough fiber.

Unfortunately, science has still not developed a protocol for picking out a good pomegranate.  It’s one of those obscure skills, like picking out a good watermelon, where many factors are in play.  The color, the amount of give when pressed with your thumb, the smell even.  It takes practice and a refinement of the senses to become a connoisseur.  There is always that moment of anticipation when we open up a pomegranate.    Will it be over-ripe and starting to ferment?  Under-ripe and still a little too tart?  Or will it just glorious; dark, sweet and juicy?

My advice is to just buy loads, you are bound to get some good ones.  Like human beings, a beautiful outside is no indication of what’s on the inside.  It’s usually the most undramatic and unassuming ones (fruits and people) that hide the most precious treasures.

pomegranates in Marrakech In Morocco, pomegranates are a beloved fruit because they are mentioned in the Quran as being one of the fruits of paradise.  In the chapter called “Ar Rahman” or “The Merciful”, the gardens of paradise are described thus, “in them are fruit trees, dates palms and pomegranate trees”.

The commentary on this verse addresses the fact that dates and pomegranates are mentioned distinctly, even though they are both fruits.  This is because dates are distinguished as being a source of nourishment, something a person could live on, while pomegranates are a cure for ailment.  Why would there be a cure for ailment in paradise?  The Sufi commentary points to the fact that some of the people entering paradise have spiritual imperfections, ailments of the hearts, and that the pomegranate tree is a symbol for the cure that they will find.

The Arabic word for pomegranate is rummaan, which in turn comes from a Persian word meaning “to illuminate”.  Indeed the translucent fruit catches and reflects light like a thousand dazzling rubies.  This celebration of light and perfection, each aril fitted to other with the precision of the world’s most delicate puzzle, encased in a dull, thick, leathery and bitter skin, is a perfect analogy for the infinitely complex microcosm that is encased in the human form.  It would only make sense that the pomegranate is a cure for the heart, both through its physical properties, and its spiritual ones.  There is a saying attributed to the prophet Muhammad that says “Whoever eats a pomegranate, God will illuminate his or her heart for forty days”.

So my dear ones, if you live in Morocco or on the Mediterranean basin, make pomegranates a daily delight, and eat to your heart’s content.  If not, then add this to list of reasons to visit.