So in November there’s a big sacrifice festival, where people buy sheep or goats or sometimes even cows or bulls to sacrifice as a family, and give the meat to the poor. It’s a nice holiday, in a slaughter-in-the-streets kind of way. So where, you might be asking, in a very urban, sprawling, modern city surrounded by suburbs, where do 17 million people get their animals? Well, there are these places in Istanbul where livestock is shipped in from the countryside before the event, and held in pens, and then you can buy your beast and- I’m a little fuzzy on the next details, actually, having been out of town for the past two Kurbans. I wonder if they deliver your bull, or if you have to pick it up?
At any rate, there are three such businesses on my route to work, and they’re advertised year round with a live sheep, like the one above, and this guy.
I went out last Wednesday to take pictures of my three sheep buddies. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, and I wanted to get some exercise, so I took a long, meandering route. It was the first truly nice day after a week of cold gray chill, and there were lots of people out even though it was mid-morning on a Wednesday. In the park, dogs were basking in the grassy verges and kids were swarming over the playground equipment. Old men sat on benches and smoked. People were drinking tea at the tables outside the tea shops for the first time in a long time. Bundled up and gloved and hatted, but still. Outside. So I guess I should have expected when I got to the area the sign-sheeps are sharing with a massive, several acre construction project, that their old-man minders would be sitting outside with them, but somehow I was thrown.
The first old man was sitting on a stool next to his sheep. He was wearing an old sweater and jacket and cap, and had a luxuriously Turkish moustache and I thought you could take a picture of him and his sheep with the Instagram app on your i-phone and pass the photo off as having been taken any time between now and, say, 1915. I also thought he was glaring at me as I approached, like he knew I wanted to take a photo of him and resented dumb blonde Americans thinking of him as a tourist attraction.
I walked meekly by. Both he and the sheep turned their heads and watched me go.
The next sheep and his minder were more or less the same, but when I walked up the street, this guy was alone. His minder was sitting around the corner drinking tea with a his buds at a table outside one of those little tea shops where you just know a woman has never set foot. So I snapped this picture as quickly as my little point and shoot would let me
A second later a woman in a headscarf and the kind of long, flowered skirt the gypsies wear came out and put her hands on her hips and screamed something in my direction. It’s entirely possible that she was hollering at someone behind me, but I took no chances. I fled.