Sacrificial sheep, seconds before....

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Mealtime in Iran always brings surprises and unlike previous visits I've not had the same meal twice, as yet. The previous year I was pleased to announce that I've had more kebabs than days away, yet, this time I have been exhausting the extensive list of national dishes. These dishes have been quite unlike that with which the average Brit's palette would be familiar. On the whole these are healthy and consciously well balanced. One such meal last week left me with an odd snobbish, wasteful feeling as I openly distinguished myself from the cross-legged family on the floor beside me. As the various dishes entered the room I enquired as to the ingredients within each, "This is pasta and...?", I ignorantly questioned, "No Daveed, this is the sheep's gut with vegetables" they replied with laughter. "And the soup?", "This has been made with the sheep's bones". "Is that barbecued sheep's liver and kidney?", I ask as I start to get the picture, and indeed it was. Following this arrived a plate of brown and white lumpen mess with an arch of what looked suspiciously like a set of teeth - I didn't wish to rest my eyes upon this train-wreck of a dish let alone confirm my belief. I was embarrassed by my behavior; by turning up my nose and had a token spoonful of gut with liver-kebab to redeem myself.

Similarly, I was witness to the erecting of a platform upon a 12m high spiral staircase as part of a set of water-slides within the family sports complex. I assumed the role of chief archivist, filming and photographing as 9-'chiefs' shouted conflicting information to the 3-'Indian' (Afghanis actually) who were hopping around bare-minimal scaffolding without a care for safety. Upon completion of this task my uncle stated that we would sacrifice a sheep to give thanks to Allah for no mishaps. I thought nothing of it and assumed this was said in jest until I saw a pick-up van arrive later with a sheep laying still in the back. My Dad confirmed that this was to be killed and invited me to witness the moment. Feeling slightly nauseous, I went down to photograph - maybe I figured I could somehow spare this life by capturing an image. I aimed up the lens to a shuddering sheep laying quiet in its own shit within 35-degrees heat - legs tied with fluorescent-pink Poundland-string - I then quickly hurried off to make myself busy before the sacrifice. I didn't photograph the bowl I later saw containing various parts of non-descript mammal. My Dad later reassured me by informing me that the meat would make its way to the local undernourished - except for the testicles, which would be saved for the senior engineer.


  • I have to say I was rather surprised at this. How common is this?! My family says not at all... my friends say it happens more than my sheltered mind imagines. Shervin informs me that her parents often call Iran after something good happens and ask for a sheep to be sacrificed in their name. Perhaps my family is the odd one rather than the norm as I had imagined.

    By Anonymous Tahereh, at 1:06 AM  

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