Thursday, January 12, 2006


This morning we woke up to the loud bleating of agitated sheep next door. Later we learned why.

Today is Tabaski, the most important Islamic event of the year and a public holiday in Togo. It commemorates Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son Isaac on God’s command and the last minute substitution of a ram when God relents. It also coincides with the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca and is marked with a great feast of roast sheep.

Nationwide 12% of Togolese are Muslim, 29% Christian and 59% animist, the traditional religion which has many deities. (West Africa is the home of voodoo, but I digress.) It turns out that we live in a neighborhood where maybe half of the residents are Muslim. We watched a group of our neighbors 20 feet up the hill behind us slaughter about 10 sheep this morning. There is at least one sheep slaughtered per family. They will have their feast this afternoon after mid-day prayers.

We also learned that since the Islamic calendar is based on a 12 month lunar calendar of about 355 days, this holiday will be about 11 days earlier next time, around Dec 30. And the other major Islamic holiday, Ramadan (a month of daylight fasting) also rolls through the year shifting 11 days earlier each time.

Maybe you already knew this but we are still learning about our diverse world. It seems we should all know something about the major religion of Iraq, where we Americans have 160,000 troops.

Regarding the photos: Viewer discretion may be advised.



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