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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 17:34 GMT
Row over Morocco's 'commercial' Eid
By Pascale Harter
BBC, Morocco

Middlemen in Morocco are cashing in sheep sales ahead of Eid al-Adha festivals marking the end of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

Billboard advert
Billboards advertising sheep raffles have been condemned
The Eid season is considered to be a time when Morocco's impoverished farmers earn extra income to see them through hard economic times.

But increasingly, it is the middle men who make the profit.

There are sometimes three middlemen in the sheep's journey from a rural farm to the city, who inflate prices leaving farmers with very little profits.

A sheep can cost anything between $160 to $450 in the capital, Rabat.

'Sheep tombola'

But there have been complaints in newspapers and from politicians, that the Eid festival has become too commercialised.

In Islam, you don't have to buy material goods like some people do, only to have the opportunity to get sheep
Mati Maqdad

There are many billboard adverts with pictures of the perfect sheep.

The adverts read: "Buy a fridge and you could win a sheep, or take a loan and you can be in our sheep tombola."

Abdelkader Amara of the Islamist Justice and Development Party says the adverts are corrupting the idea of the Eid al-Adha.

"This is influencing people to go to the bank, to get money for something which is not an obligation," said Mr Amara.


He says according to Islam, you cannot be condemned if you cannot afford to sacrifice a sheep.

Man carrying a sheep
Sheep sales have gone up ahead of the festival
The Eid festival also presents a challenge in Morocco's cities.

Often those who buy a sheep do not have anywhere to keep it, before it is slaughtered.

Many families keep the animals waiting to be sacrificed on the balcony or in their bathrooms.

As a result, the bleating of sheep has become a common sound within apartment blocks in Rabat.

"I thought about getting a sheep for the children, but keeping it here in the city is too much work," said Miriam, who will be spending the Eid with her parents in the countryside.

Sheep loads

She says sheep are messy and one ends up with straw all over the apartment.

At the sheep market just outside Rabat, there is about two inches of sheep droppings on the floor and men can be seen staggering under the weight of sheep, loaded across their shoulders.

Boys transporting sheep in Rabat
Boys enjoy most during this festival

Mati Maqdad is a sheep seller with a stall in Rabat.

He says the best sheep are similar to those slaughtered by the Prophets Mohammed and Abraham - with long horns, a white and black face, and in good health.

At Mati's street side sheep market in Rabat, children have gathered at the sheep pens.

They can spend the whole day without eating in their excitement and as they try to feed the sheep.

Mr Maqdad also dislikes adverts urging people to buy goods, luring them with the chance of winning a sheep.

"In Islam, you don't have to buy material goods like some people do, only to have the opportunity to get sheep," he said.

Country profile: Morocco
11 Sep 03  |  Country profiles

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