Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Random Observations on the Prophet (his birthday specifically) and Poultry (in general)

Monday was the last day of the 2-day festivities marking the PM's birthday, and Agdal (not surprisingly) was pretty much a ghost town. In fact, it was pretty much a ghost town during the entire Mawlid extravaganza. It would seem that anyone who was anyone was in Marrakech. I was in Rabat.

Yes, in Morocco's fabled Red City, birthday celebrations were in full force. On Saturday the king chaired a ceremony celebrating his ancestor's (M6 is no less a direct descendant of the Prophet than I am of Puss in Boots) birthday during which "Koranic verses and panegyrics of the Prophet Sidna Mohammed were read out. " Fun fun fun. On Sunday, his duties as chairperson of National Mosque Day (which coincided with the Prophet's fête) included distributing "health insurance cards to several Imams and .... royal decorations to 5 benefactors in recognition of their contribution to building, revamping and upgrading mosques in 2006." Will the birthday madness never end?

Apparently not - for this weekend M6 also took the opportunity to pardon 710 convicted felons. It's the custom in Morocco to release scads & scads of criminals into the welcoming & forgiving arms of the general public in order to relieve the overcrowding of Morocco's notoriously overcrowded and shamefully substandard prisons to mark various holy days and special events. One can only hope that lurking among the hundreds of newly released prisoners, there isn't another potential terrorist waiting to go boom. True, the king strongly condemned the actions of Abdelftah Raidi, the suicide bomber who detonated himself and an internet café (killing himself and injuring 4 others) last month in Casa, but he was also the one who pardoned Raidi (convicted of suspected terrorist links) and released him from prison 2 years ago.

I just thought that for the PM's birthday, there would have been more bang for the buck. There were fireworks displays in Algiers - and of course, in the Iraqi city Kirkuk on Monday, a truck bomber killed eight Iraqi schoolgirls ... well never mind. Maybe we can do without the pyrotechnics.

Agdal was eerily quiet. Our neighbourhood muezzin couldn't even be bothered to crank the volume on his sound system - a usual tactic to remind the more lethargic Believers at 4:41 a.m. that there really is no God but Allah, and yes, Mohammed is his prophet. Day 6 into an almost weeklong dry (booze) spell (the sale of alcohol presumably being anathema to the Birthday Boy) and day 1 into an almost 12-hour dry (weather) spell, Mr. Cat in Rabat and I ventured forth to see what, if anything, was open yesterday. And by anything I mean a restaurant that would serve beer to a couple of Westerners. Meandering through Agdal's warren of side streets towards one of our neighbourhood's few licenced restaurants*, our progress suddenly came to an abrupt standstill as we found ourselves in front of a pet store.

A pet store. And it was open.

Now, I'm not suggesting that pet stores don't exist in Rabat but this is the first one that I've ever seen on the streets of Agdal. A craphole side street no less where no one would think of buying their bags of Science Diet Large Breed dog food. Tucked deep within a lightless basement, an employee was mercifully arranging cages of animals out onto the sidewalk lest their eyes grow useless from lack of light. Or more likely to stimulate sales.

And what of the animals that weren't given the opportunity to exercise the rods and cones of their retinas? I don't know - I was more than a little hesitant to descend into the bowels of the pet shop for fear of what might be awaiting me. And what of the animals that the shop's employee did feel disposed to display for the world to see? They were chickens. And not cute little canary yellow fluffy chicks but full-fledged adult chickens.

Now I have to ask myself - who keeps chickens as pets in Agdal? Admittedly, there is a rooster that I hear from time to time (and by time I mean pre-dawn, dawn, and post-dawn), but I suspect that this particular Foghorn Leghorn is a bit of an abberation. Are adult chickens a traditional pet among Agdal's children? Do kids here rush home from school every day to tend to their poultry-husbandry chores - chores that include changing Chicken Little's straw, scattering feed, and checking for eggs? Do pet-chickens wear flea collars? Do toys for pet-chicken exist? According to our friends at the Islamic Invitation Centre, although it is prohibited for Muslims to keep dogs as pets, they can keep any other animal (except pigs). Are chickens thus included? Well, they aren't excluded so it would appear so.

I confess that I am not a little relieved at reading this. For the briefest of moments, as Mr. CinR & I stood on the sidewalk blinking in disbelief at the pairs of chickens crammed into those wire cages, I succumbed to darker thoughts. Darker thoughts that included a casserole dish and a handful of rosemary. But I was wrong - right? Right?

*One of our neighbourhood's few licenced restaurants that, in the end, refused to sell us alcohol.

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