Monday, October 10, 2005

Blood on the walls

Blood on the walls

Warning. Subject might be distressing to some readers as it involves blood and a level of cruelty to animals.

In Eid El Fitr which follows Ramadan and Eid el Adha which follows the time of the Haj – the pilgrimage to Mecca – Moslems slaughter sheep as a sacrifice.

All over the city at the moment there are odd little pockets of sheep as people try to dodge the huge price hikes at the approach of the feast by buying earlier. Because the sheep are supposed to be well fed on tender green grass there are also laden trucks with enormous overhanging loads of lovely long swinging green grass which shimmies in the movement of the trucks or behind little stalwart donkeys coming into the city – for there is no grass in the city to feed these sheep. Bob’s executive PA, goddess, and all round marvel, has started muttering “Run, little sheep, run, it is Ramadan.”

I used to worry about sheep seeing other sheep killed and being frightened, but then came around a corner in Kerak in Jordan once to see an animal being slaughtered and six others happily eating green grass from a trough. They were not at all disturbed.

We arrived this year just after Eid El Adha and all over the city were pools of drying blood and hand shaped blotches on the walls, often child sized. I put some photos in the last blog of handprints from last year, still clear on the walls around the back of the Khan. Just scroll down to see them and click on the image called ‘blood on the walls’. More will appear.

I eat meat happily enough, but prefer it to be nicely separate from the realities of killing, plastic wrapped and packed in nice white polystyrene in a supermarket. Here soft and floppy and recently killed carcasses come into the shops with testicles swinging to demonstrate the virility and sex of the animal killed. This is all a bit much for me, but not as bad as killing the animal myself. All over the city there are shops selling chickens, ducks and rabbits, and the animals are all alive in crates made from palm fronds. They will despatch them for you or you can take them as they are, upside down and tied by the feet, and cope with them at home.

For Moslems, with strict laws about the appropriate ways to kill animals for food, it is an important alternative.

Sometimes I wonder if this way is better, with no pretence and an unavoidable knowledge of just what eating meat means. Perhaps it is good for children to grow up aware of death as a part of an on-going cycle? Certainly Bob grew up on a farm, and would never have dreamt of giving an animal a name as they were just steak on the hoof. Sometimes I think we ascribe human emotion to animals that do not necessarily feel emotion as we know it.

Then I see some small evidence of cruelty like the man who walked with a child yesterday. He was well dressed, in a spotless long white thobe, and held a large duck under his arm. As he walked he was chatting to the child and absentmindedly pulling feathers from the duck, who seemed to be patiently tolerant under his arm. As he walked he left a drifting trail of feathers in his wake, and an occasional wind lifted them softly and slewed them sideways and into swirling eddies in the dust and dirt of the street.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite remarkably, the photos on your blog have been blocked in Saudi Arabia. They are such a wonderful guide when planning trips! Surely there is a book in the making in the blog -- the combination of the vivid writing, the photos, an artist's eye, the official entre -- recording the varied 'wonders' of the Middle East.

10:44 pm  

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