Kurbam Bayram – we had heard that name before in Çanakkale and we knew that something was going on during the weekend we were arriving in Izmir, but we could only dream in our wildest dreams to be actually part of this important Muslim celebration up close.
Before I tell you all about how we ended up staying with a local family for a weekend and sacrificing a sheep for the sake of good deed, I will explain briefly what is the holiday all about.
Kurban Bayram or the Feast of the Sacrifice
is a 4,5 day religious Muslim holiday, that takes place about 70 days after Ramadan. The story behind the holiday, describes Abrahams willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to show his faithfulness to Allah. God stops him and provides him a lamb to sacrifice instead.
On the first morning of the holiday a sheep, goat, bull or a camel is killed and its meat is given to the poor, relatives and neighbors,some part is left for the family. Throughout the holiday, families get together, feast and have a good time. Kids run around the street giving out kisses and receiving candy or money from the elderly. Overall this is very popular holiday even amongst the Muslims who do not go to the mosque daily and it is seen more as a community holiday to strengthen the family ties between older and younger generations.
Meeting our host
As said in the beginning, we hoped to be part of something like it, but since Couch Surfing had not given us positive feedback, we accepted the fact to spend the time in hostel and sacrifice a banana for breakfast.
While we were entering the massive highway system outskirts of Izmir, our truck driver left us on the resting area, as he had to pass on. There was no possibility to walk on that road so we had to ask from the solo driver, parked there with his truck, to give us a lift to down town.
Since he did not speak English and neither did we got the Turkish, mobile phone translators became the main way of communication.Within few minutes he agreed to give us a lift wherever needed after meeting up with his friend. Then the communication got strange and we did not get what he was actually talking about. He pointed his thumb on the throat and made a cutting motion with it. “It had to be the sheep”, we agreed with Andre and continued our ride on the back of his truck.
It could not get weirder when we looked our GPS and understood that we were not going to the city center, but were soon finding ourselves in a slum/country type of area. Hearts were beating, mouth was drying- whats next? We did not feel like being sacrificed yet.
Car stopped, bunch of men gathered around the truck, all grinning and talking emotionally. We felt very out of the place, even though we tried to look as this was a very normal procedure for us on daily bases. Soon we saw our companions being lifted to the truck – two sheep who were gathered for the festive from that place and we were on our way back to the city. Huh..
Guests for the holiday
On our way back to the city center Osman, the driver, asked us to join his family for the weekend in upper part of Izmir. And how could we say no to him? To see something that special so close and experience it with a local family was the reason we went on this trip in the first place. So yes,yes yes, and soon enough we were sitting in their house and watching two cute daughters of his and the wife to be puzzled out by us. A dinner consisting only local cuisine was shared.
When we were full of food Osman insisted us to go and see the town with him. We were taken to the very center of the city where we strolled around and ended up having having a glass of Turkish wine and rakia with some melon to go with it in a very nice restaurant with view over Aegean Sea. We felt very pampered as he took us from one place to another, not letting us to pay for anything, and on the top of it all, giving us small gifts – a head scarf for Kadri and bracelet for Andre. We ended up smoking Shisha with Osman, his cousin and the cousins wife in yet another busy part of the city.
When we got back home it was already long past midnight and we fell asleep.
Next morning we were up bright and early. Delicious breakfast was already cooked and was now spreaded on a large tin plate on the floor over a green checked linen. We all sat around, had linen covering our feet, and munched on fresh bread, Turkish omelette, olives, cheese and sipped the infamous black tea.
During our breakfast, Osman got a call. As he was the one who knew how to sacrifice animals, his neighbors had grown impatient and wanted to start the feast. One by one he visited the houses down the road and with another man they said the last prayer to the animals and killed them by slitting the throat. Women gathered on groups to watch and kids run around excited about the ritual. Osmans hands were shaking and he said it always happens to him as it is not easy to take life of an animal. But that is the tradition and he is the butcher so it has to be done.
Our dear and very rebellious sheep that got free and almost ran away had its end in front of our house, with blood spilled into a hole in the ground. The other part of the day was used to drain blood, skin, butcher the animal and cook first delicious meals from it. As the day went by, friends and family members came in and out their house and more food was served throughout the day.
With some other friends and relatives we were taken for another round in town to see some viewpoints and enjoy some Turkish coffee. They also offered us to ride some horses and we also ended up drinking some cocktail from a hollowed out pineapple. After a few more viewpoints as we thought the night was about to end, we were going to see yet another family, where eventually 16 relatives gathered. All of us were prepared to have a chat in mediation of Android and Windows Phone translators. It was a truly entertaining evening and the laughter continued to the night. Surely more food, more tea, more homemade baklava and more Turkish coffee was served the whole time.
Breakfast with Gülperi and Mustafa
As we were highly valued guests Gülperi and Mustafa, our hosts for the second night, insisted us to sleep at their place so she could cook breakfast for us and we could talk some more. In the morning, again some delicious morning snack was served for all. There is no way that food will end before you are stuffed with it.
As we took the last pictures with all the people, it was time to get back on the road and find our way to Istanbul. Before we could even argue with Osman he had, once more, proved the endless Turkish hospitality and bought us expensive bus tickets to Istanbul, as he wanted their guests to get there safely.
To look back, this was a weekend full of cultural enlightenment, delicious home cooked meals and hospitality that we had a lot to learn from. For us having a little knowledge about the Muslim culture, family ties and synergy, we felt very humbled and I think there is a lot that Western countries can take on. For over all this has definitely been the highlight of hour trip, living in our memories for long.
Teşekkür ederim Osman!