I went to the Mauritanian Embassy on Friday to collect my passport and get my visa. Some of the same people where there from the day before. We were stood outside, talking in the rain for for half an hour, win a guy came out and told us the Embassy was closed until Wednesday for the Muslim festival of Eid. Personally, I wouldn’t have known if we had been told this or not cos the guy on the counter only spoke French, but some of the people with me said that they were definitely told to come back today, others clearly heard otherwise as they were not there. Anyway, we hung around hoping to get a change of fortune. I even phoned Mamadou, a Maurtianian guy who I met the night before and put him onto one of the embassy workers but he couldn’t help get the visa any sooner. This is now a real ball-ache cos I have to come back to the embassy in 4 days time, I don’t really want to stay in Rabat, but all of the other places I want to see are at least one to two days ride south. I met an Austrian couple who are riding the same route as me. They were staying at an american guy’s ‘fantastic beach house’ that they found through coach surfer. I hinted that I’d like to stay there too, but I didn’t want to impose so I gave them my number and I headed off to find a campsite. I swung by the internet cafe because I had left my sleeping bag liner there. The weather was awful. I turned a corner and saw that the sky was black. I thought about stopping to find some shelter but I was really close to the internet shop so I kept on riding. When the rain and hail (yes hail!) hit us my visibility was reduced to about 3 meters and the roads became completely submerged. Some of the guys at the internet shop had got soaked too and there where a load of people drying off in the bedroom when I got back to get my liner. One of the guys was asking me what I would do for the next few days. I told him that I was going to meet Nourdin in Tata, but I’m unsure that I’ll be able to make it. If i stay around for 4 days I may go to the shop on Monday to join in the Eid festivities.
I rode along the beach road towards Casablanca and arrived at the campsite at dark. The wind was blowing a gale and it was raining too. I considered staying in a bungalow for the night but then decided against it and put up my tent anyway. There was nowhere to buy food on camp and I did not want to go looking for food in the dark. Luckily for me I was invited to dinner by a French guy who I had met earlier. Dennis and his girlfriend Coco had been traveling around Morocco in their van for the last month and they cooked up a nice meal of pasta with lots of Moroccan tea with mint.
I’m really wasn’t sure what to do next. I’d like to go and join Nourdin and family at his village but that would be potentially 3 days drive to get there. I’m still not sure what dates the Mauritanian Embassy will give me for my visa although, through chatting to Mamadou I realise that ten days should be sufficient for what I want to do, but that was when I was heading south today, whereas now I can only properly head south on Wednesday. Inshalla (god willing, as the Moroccans say). I was thinking about just being lazy and staying at the campsite, but the bad weather has resulted in some power cuts and the internet is down so there really isn’t much for me to do here. I’ll see if I can get a coffee and some breakfast and then decide if I should stay or go.
Warning – pictures of animals being butchered coming up. Dont keep reading if you’re squeamish.
I decided to stay and generally did nothing at the campsite for two days except relax. The beach wasn’t that nice. Full of rocks and rubbish. I took the bike onto the sand for some off road practice. Nourdin sent me a message telling me to go and join Zack at the internet cafe for Eid. I rode back to the internet cafe and Zack explained to me that we would go to his family’s house early the next day to slaughter a goat and have a meal. With everyone away for Eid the cafe was quite empty and I was on my own in the bedroom for a change. I had a strange incident with one of Nourdin’s friends who thought I might want a shower (was he trying to tell me something?) I was trying to tell him that I don’t particularly want a shower but I don’t think he understood. It was all resolved when a lad in the cafe who spoke excellent English intervened. I ended up chatting to him for most of the night. In the morning, we got up and walked over to Zack’s parent’s place, meeting his older sister (at least that is who I think she was) and her family on the way. We got to Zack’s house and a goat had already been killed. It lay on the floor with blood pouring from its throat. I don’t know how long it had been there for but I could see it was still moving. Zack’s dad and his brother in law set about butchering the animal, which is a really interesting process to watch and I even got involved myself. They make an incision on the inside of one of the hind legs and blow air (by mouth) into the gap between the hide and the flesh. The animal gets a lot fatter! then they slap it about to help the skin come loose. They started to remove the skin by cutting along the other leg crossing to the other leg and then cutting and peeling the flap down until the whole hide is pulled off over the animals neck. Then all the organs are removed. He cuts into the sternum and pulls out the guts. It was a lesson in animal anatomy at least! The intestines where removed and cleaned to be used for making sausages and the rest of the organs were put in a bowl for Zack’s mother to clean and sort out. They got a sheep out and repeated the process.
Zack’s cousin Souvian was very enthusiastic to get me to film the slaughter. I did film it, but it s not a video I’ll ever be watching again. I certainly wouldn’t say that the animals have a quick death. The sheep was still alive up to 2 minutes after having its throat cut and was trying to run away (check out Mike the headless chicken on wikipedia if you don’t believe its possible). We had loads of Moroccan tea and cakes and then went over to Zack’s sisters house for more of the same. There were lots of people on the street barbecuing animal heads.
It smelt good but not too sure I’d be up for eating it. At this point, constantly being grabbed and guided was doing my head in. Its all done in good nature, but you can sees why it would begin to get on your tits after 2 hours. I was glad for a break from it when Zack and I went for a walk so his dad wouldn’t see him smoking. Souvian’s place had another two animals for slaughter. I was giving food and water to one of them, a goat, when it over-enthusiastically bit my finger. We were not around when it got slaughtered.
We went back to Zack’s for a late lunch of tripe and potatoes. It was really nice. I’ve eaten tripe once before in Rome so I was mentally prepared for the experience. After eating, Zack said we should go back to the cafe and Zack’s dad, Hamed, invited me to come back for an evening meal at 8 pm. We got back to the cafe and I listened to my French lessons. When the time came to return to Zack’s place, Zack told me he couldn’t go because he had to work in the cafe. There was no way I would find my way there and I sat off, mentally psyching myself up to get lost on the streets of Temara. Zack had said that his father would be angry if I didn’t go, or at least thats how I took it anyway. Luckily, Souvian was around and he agreed to take me. However, we ended up outside his house were he invited me in for dinner. I tried to tell him that I had already been invited to dinner at Hamed’s place and that is were he should take me but his lack of English and my lack of French didn’t help. I sat down inside and his brother in law, who must have butchered about 6 or 7 animals that day, passed me a joint, not really what I needed at that time, but I didn’t want to be rude. Even though I was battered, I managed to string together a coherent sentence in French saying “I need to go to Hamed’s for 8 o’clock”. This time it was understood and I promised to go back to Souvian’s place for food the next day. On the way to Zack’s we saw a group of lads with drums playing music in the street.
Souvian knew them all and dragged me over to say hello. Three guys with two drums and some other percussion where playing and singing some amazing rhythms. The others were dancing and I joined in. It was like when Ozomatli get into the crowd at the end of a gig. I wish I’d recorded some of them but here is an example of what it sounded like.
At Zack’s place, Hamed was sat indoors with a little barbecue (shoowa) next to him in the living room and massive plate of offal next to him. From what I could gather, he was grilling liver and then cubing it and wrapping it in strips of fat, putting back onto skewers and barbecuing them again. The smoke off the barbecue was stinging my eyes and I was about to go outside when Hamed took the barbeque outside instead. He offered for me to stay at his places to sleep the night if I wanted., but I politely declined. The food was great, the liver and fat ‘boolfirth’ tastes like fatty cuts of beef that is charcoal grilled on skewers and served with ground cumin.
I could tell that is the traditional dish for Eid because while we were eating, the TV had an program about people celebrating Eid all over Morocco and everyone was eating the same thing. The program showed the king slaughtering a sheep in his palace, then it cut to people at the skiing resort Ifran, were the blood stained snow from the slaughter looked like a scene from 28 days of night! Finally the program showed people celebrating Eid in prison with animal being slaughtered in the prison gymnasium. All of the inmates either had the faces obscured or had their backs to the camera to avoid being recognised. After food and some tea I said thanks to Hamed and family for a lovely meal. I had to learn the word ‘full’ in Arabic to stop them putting food in front of me.