Friday, November 11, 2011

The Silence of the Moutons (sort of) - Part 1

 (** this post contains some graphic photos - which you will see when you scroll further down **)

The day after Tabaski I have two things to report - one, we still hear some bleating  in the Senegalese family compound next door but we're certain the decibel level has decreased and two, we had a truly remarkable and  ever lasting Tabaski experience that was bestowed upon us on Monday, November 7th. Click here to read the pre post - Counting Sheep...

To put some context to the invitation we received - when we first arrived in Dakar, we met a French family at the hotel where we were staying whose girls were going to attend the same school as Parker and Addison. It's common here to hire a personal driver if you do own your own car to help logistically in getting around. It just so happens that our French family has a driver who is responsible for picking up their girls from school. At the point which school had started back in mid September we would continually see "Diop"  waiting for school to let out to pick the girls up like we waited for Parker and Addison and before long we found ourselves striking up conversations with him on a regular basis.  And as they say one thing leads to another and in this case an invitation to celebrate Tabaski with his family in the neighborhood of "Liberte 4" about 30 minutes away from Plateau.

The morning started by trying to catch a taxi at about 9:30 a.m. and for the first time *ever*  there was literally *none* to be found on our street. The taxi cab stand associated with the hotel next to us had been deserted (of course everyone was at their homes ready for the day) nor were there any random taxis coming down our street. In fact there was no traffic at all. It felt like a ghost town. It was weird. We walked up to one avenue called Avenue de President L. Sedar Senghor (after the first president of Senegal) and in our attempt to cross the street we were stopped surprisingly for a brief moment by non other than the current President of Senegal (Wade) himself apparently heading off to the Mosque for morning prayer. His car is the one surrounded by the motorcycles.

We finally flag down the one cab that came by and this trip to Liberte 4 cost us 2,500 CFA - when it should have been 1,800CFA  but truthfully we had no bargaining power on this day.

We arrive at Diops house in Liberte 4 which happens to be a working class suburb - and from what we've seen in Dakar and surroundings - between people living on the street, in shacks and shanties, expat and embassy housing, and apartments of Parker and Addision's school friends near by - Diop is doing okay here. A comfortable, extremely simple yet clean 3 story house  that supports him, his wife, his mother-in-law, father-in-law, and his wife's two sisters. The first floor contained 2 rooms that were treated as a living/eating area on the floor and a refrigerator plus the kitchen which if I recall did not have a stove. Then each floor (3 above the main) contained a mini sitting room and bedroom (+ bathroom) housing this multi-generational Senegalese family.  Even in this home you could see they had little, which I suppose is all relative (however there is something to be said about a minimalist lifestyle) yet what they have seemed sufficient for them.

We were welcomed with full gusto of  "Teranga" in his home, and we brought our own with a gift of fruit and soda (that's what was suggested we bring).  When we arrived he was excited for us to meet all his family members and his wife (and sisters) who were already working away in the kitchen cooking up the french fries and cutting up onions.

Diop's wife

Diop, Manning and Diop's niece
Soon after the introductions - it was time to get down to business. Shortly after 10:30, Diop changed out of his boubou  and into clothes appropriate for the task at hand - shorts and a t-shirt. He walked his moutons down this alley way to the main street. It was kind of an interesting urban design which actually offered up much 'neighborliness'  because the front doors of the houses/apartments faced each other down this passageway that no car could fit through so you had to walk your moutons through these alleys to get to a main street.  On the main street perpendicular to his alley a hole had been dug and this was where the families close to his alleyway would bring their mouton to be slaughtered. Later in the day we walked around town and I can only say there were a lot of holes! 

Neighor Moutons waiting...

Diop and moutons in the queue

The hole I speak of is intended for the blood to drain into during the slaughtering process.  So we all line up and Diop being so polite continues to let others take care of business.  You'll notice too- his sheep has a green mark and a blue mark. We asked him about that. For the purpose of transport when there are many sheep a top of a bus or car rapide - you don't want your sheep to get mixed up with someone else's so the markings are assigned and then it's clear whose sheep is whose.  

The slaughter/sacrifice is performed by males and it seemed to take from 3 - 4 of them to accomplish the task.

Some families chose to either skin the hide and cutting up the mouton from the tree.

Or carry them back to their respective homes

In Diop's case the mouton's were carried back to his house for preperation. Needless to say there were a lot of blood droplets showing you the way to people's homes. You might be now thinking - what were we thinking - well we first were thinking how unbelievable this experience was we were witnessing. Was it difficult to watch? - not really. In the context of it all - we understood the purpose and meaning behind the act. We noticed no cruelty to the animal in terms of beating, hitting, whipping or kicking. There was some tussling to get the sheep down on the ground and to tie their feet but it was as dignified and quick as could be. Did the sheep have any feelings about this - I presume there was - and I'm making an assumption based on some incredible interviews I've heard in the past on NPR with  Temple Grandin .

After the men completed the slaughter, the rest of the family seemed to play a role in skinning and caring for the hide; gutting the sheep and cutting it down to size to fit the small grill located in this passage way that opens to the sky between the living/eating room and the kitchen. One thing we noticed  later in the day all the skins that were getting collected and piling up on horse drawn wagons to eventually get cleaned and turned into garments, shoes, clothes, etc.  I forgot to mention as well, the day before and morning of - the only vendors who seemed to be out  peddling their wears where those selling knives and axes of every shape and size!

It was apparent to us that any and all parts that could be eaten were. And other parts not appropriate were handled accordingly - which I think involved it being placed in "the hole" or maybe a new hole. Truth is I never saw what actually happened.  What we do know is very little is wasted. 

Diop's father-in-law

Let the grilling begin and some of the clean up too!

Grilling was taking place on rooftops or inner courtyards and in the front of peoples homes.I recall the first thing to be grilled in Diop's house was the liver. At one point I saw one of the sisters preparing an eating area in this 2nd living room area they have and before I knew it Diop was inviting us to eat lunch but it was just me, Manning and the boys.  

And guess what lunch consisted of - yep - the liver!! (with a side of fries and coke or tampico to wash it down and plenty of mustard).  I can't say I'm a liver person but Manning and I apparently rose to the occasion for the occasion! The twins made do with fries, bread and coke. They did try a tiny tiny tiny piece not to their liking.  After lunch it was time to visit friends and other family members of Diop and it is tradition to present some 'edible' portion of the sheep as a present. As though the family receiving doesn't already have enough ;+} - but it's all in the name of giving.  So we hop in the car and head to the first home. And after a lovely visit and introduction - guess what? We are offered something to eat!  In this case I think we were offered the option of eating it "American" style as everyone was given a fork and knife and usually the Senegalese are eating from a communal bowl with only their hands (I'm foreshadowing here!)

So we did the polite thing and ate a bit.  Parker and Addison gave it a go again - thinking this is a different part of the sheep. Suffice it to say it was painful for Addison. To the point where we 'tried' to get him to wash it all down with some Coke but it wasn't going to happen. So like a baseball player with a bit of chewing tobacco in his cheek,  he held on tight until the host left the room. From there we went to yet another house. And at one point I think the host asked me if I was hungry but I didn't quite catch it all and I realized then she was about to prepare a plate and I quickly told Diop what I had done so he negotiated us out of the situation and we politely went on our way back to his house. Upon arriving back - it was tea time. And not just any tea - a nice tea called "Ataya" - made in a very special way and drunk only in tiny glasses. As we hopped out of the car a group of men were making it and were generously handing us 2 glasses. This tea is awesome and it deserves a separate post!!

After the tea and more conversation with the various folks outside - it's time for what is actually going to be round 3, 4 and 5 of eating and non-alcoholic drinking. The party continues in the next post...


  1. Great story, but I think I might have to eat falafel for a week after that...

  2. Mike - Yep, it was kind of like that! In fact we were given some sheep ribs as a parting gift. We put it in the fridge and a few days later we had it grilled up by our "bonne" - final round until next year?

  3. Wow, sounds great! I have not eaten goat. Yves has eaten goat at Pizzaiolo and he enjoyed the taste very much. I think it's a good experience for the boys and you all to see the process of the goat. I have childhood memories of my father buying a live chicken for our dinner. The chicken did not suffer, my father hit the chicken's head on the concrete and done. Then he boiled the chicken, removed the feathers, cut it up and cooked a delicious dish.