So many sheep

Today is the day when flocks of sheep are a common sighting on the streets of Khartoum. Because tomorrow is Eid al-Adha, when these docile rather stupid animals get slaughtered to commemorate the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim in the Qur’an) to sacrifice his son to God.

I must confess to having formed a rather disturbing affiliation with these sheep in recent days – which might not be a bad thing, given that I will in fact be spending Christmas in Wales.

Two sheep are “living with us” for a couple of days. I was told this by the two children of the family with whom I am staying. I found the gleeful way the children said this a little macabre, to be honest. I found myself fearfully wondering whether they treat all their “guests” this way.

Of course, the slaughtering of the sheep is perfectly fine in my views – after all, I eat lots of meat and like the occasional roast lamb (mutton, to be fair, I am less partial to). But it seems a little odd to grow too close to the sheep before they are slaughtered.

Thankfully, I am travelling back to England tomorrow and so will miss the Eid al-Adha festivities. I missed them last year, too, since I was in Italy – but I experienced them once, when I lived for a time in Ghana.

In the mean time, I am doing my best to avoid all contact with sheep and certainly steer clear of looking in their eyes. Killing sheep is all good and fine, but forming a personal attachment to such animals before slaughtering them is not a good thing to do. Perhaps that explains why the shepherds around town randomly hit these beasts with a stick, often for no good reason that I can see.

But maybe all of this is the point. Abraham grew close and attached to his son, and was still prepared to kill him in the name of God. Perhaps one should be able to do the same with a sheep that one has grown to love.

I’m glad I never had to face the decision that Abraham did. I would probably have failed.


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