By Rachel Woolf
RABAT, Morocco – A line of cow legs hangs on hooks above a counter containing a bleeding brain and an assortment of meat. Behind the counter, Abdlmola Rochdi wipes his forehead with his sleeve before slicing into a raw lamb’s leg late one evening in January. Abdlmola is the co-owner of a butcher shop along Rue Mohammed the 5th in the ancient medina of Rabat, the capital.
Two brothers own this butcher shop: Abdlmola, the elder brother, and Noureedine Rochdi, the younger brother. Each day, the brothers work for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. They sell an assortment of cow and lamb parts.
The brothers have competition from another butcher selling cow legs a few doors down, but there seems to be enough demand for cow and lamb legs in the medina to support multiple shops selling what Americans might consider rather exotic meats.
It’s early in the evening and Abdlmola is wearing a bright red jacket dusted with dirt. He moves around his store, serving a line of customers. Noureedine takes over after Abdlmola has been selling meat for a few hours. Decked out in a blue New York Yankees baseball cap to match his pristine blue sweater. Noureedine slams each leg against his knife, drawing little attention from passersby and clients for what is, to them, a routine activity. These medina butchers cut each leg at the joint and they leave most of the hoof – customers want that part too.
Moroccans typically cook the legs in a pressure cooker on medium heat for one hour. One popular dish using cow, lamb, or goat legs is called kouraine. “Kouraine is prepared often, but during the days of Eid Al Adha, Moroccan families have to prepare it with the legs of their slaughtered lamb as a very special meal,” reported Layla Dahamou in an article published by the on-line outlet, “Morocco World News.”
On special occasions, such as Eid Al Adha, Moroccans buy a live animal and slaughter it themselves – often at home. But for the rest, the Rochdi brothers are there to sell their meat. Noureedine sweeps up the lamb legs with one fluid motion of his hands and hangs them in a plastic bag on a hook adjacent to the other cow legs. He wipes down the counter with a bright pink sponge and smiles at the man in the shop neighboring his own.
“I am really active in my work with my brother”, he says. But in the medina, he adds, “we are all brothers.”