Bonne Fete from Togo!
Happy Tabaski! Or Happy Eid al-Adha (for those not in West Africa).
Today is Tabaski, the Muslim holiday which celebrates the festival of the sacrifice. The day honors the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to saciafice his first born son as an act of submission to God until God intervened and allowed him to sacrifice a ram instead.
Last night I joined in the celebration by participating in the neighborhood’s Tabaski soccer tournament. Young adults organized into eight different teams – seven male teams and one female team. The small patch of dirt in front of the mosque was transformed in to a soccer field. The rules went as follows:
1. Three men or four women were allowed to play at one time.
2. No rough play (meaning no contact such as pushing or kicking of other players)
3. If the team tied at the end time period the winner would be determined using penalty kicks into the small but unguarded goal. This served as a test of the players aim.
In the end, the female team was undefeated. This is our victory picture:
The soccer festivities continued well past 1am. Despite the late night, my friend Kamal and I woke up early to join more than 2,000 people for today’s 9am prayer.
I am not Muslim but I previously lived with a Muslim family in Cameroon who taught me how to pray. Despite my basic familiarity, I have never participated in prayer before in a large public space and, as the only white person in the bunch, I didn’t want to stick out even more by doing it wrong. I laid out my borrowed prayer mat next the line of women that had formed 100 feet behind the line of men facing the direction of Mecca. When the Imam began the prayer I watched the women next to me out of the corner of my eye and followed the steps which include standing, bowing, placing your forehead on the ground and sitting. It was amazing to join thousands of people performing these movements in sync.
After the prayer, it was time to get the cows and goats ready for sacrifice.
Each family sacrifices one animal for this holiday. 1/3 of the animal goes towards the family, 1/3 of the animal goes towards friends, and 1/3 of the animal goes to the poor.
Tonight I will join my friends for the feast. We will gather with the rest of the neighborhood around a large, round table to eat together and watch a performance of children dancing and reading from the Quran.