Blood Sacrifices

Scene one

A pair of wide eyes, filled with intense fear. Force, then pain, then intense pain. The pain increases, and so the eyes widen. The blade is sharp, and then sometimes blunt. Violently it plunges into sensuality. There is a scream from the tortured body, and with it blood pours out. Screaming at the colour of the blood; joy, trilling cries, rejoicing at the colour of the blood. And he, the subjected one, has become pure as the oppressors have decreed. And she, the subjected one, has become pure as the oppressors have decreed, the purity registered upon the body with the tattoo of custom and tradition.

Scene two

Four principal eyes, and other, secondary ones, either knowing or inquisitive. One pair of wide eyes filled with intense fear and one pair filled with bewilderment. The bewilderment is exchanged for boldness and virility and the fear remains a female, surrendering fear. Direction and encouragement are forestalled by threats and intimidation. And violently the fingers plunge into sensuality. There is a scream from the tortured body, and with it blood pours out. Screaming at the colour of the blood; joy, trilling cries, rejoicing at the colour of the blood. And she, the subjected one, is proved pure as the oppressors have decreed. Shots of celebration fire out into the void to drown the rising screams that beseech the skies.

Scene three

Four feet hold fast to the road, the road to the end. There are very few steps left to the end. The feet dig into the ground like tent-pegs. Hands and men push violently. One foot is moved and the hoofs of the other three scrabble among the stones. Then a rope collars the head and drags it to the final point. Rejoicing, and with a command the blade is pulled out, sharp. It seizes the neck in death's vice. Blood pours out, and with it a snort at the colour of the blood. The body convulses in a final prostration that is performed only once. The two eyes bow in supplication, their blackness lost in their whiteness, and so joy and trilling cries and rejoicing burst forth, and hands smear the walls with talisman hand prints from the corpse of the votive offering. Purity's offering; the purity of blood, and death, and life.


Assa'ad is a small boy. He is small size-wise with a big head and eyes. With his two small eyes he sees his small world heedfully, and his big head weighs heavy on him. He clings onto the edges of his mother's galabiyya, so that she trips-up in her stride. She scolds him, so he speeds-up his pace, crossing from one side to the other to avoid the places where street dogs lie in wait. When it happens that two lurk, one across the road from the other, he hides his big head in his mother's tail end and clings both hands every whichway to her galabiyya, fear filling him. Thinking that he is playing the fool she scolds him, and busies herself in trying to silence a baby that weighs on the crook of her arm, looking for the nipple to fill his small mouth with.

The mother passes through the vegetable market and cuts through the narrow way at the end leading to the slaughter house. The vapour of blood fills Assa'ad's nostrils. He rubs at his nose as though the matter is there, and his feet slacken. A quick glance from his mother, and he rushes to keep pace with her.

It is hot and the road at the end of the passage is bare; the sun hurls the full force of its blaze down onto this spot. The sand is hot and blazes against Assa'ad's feet. He goes faster, then hops, and then dashes for his feet to reach a damp patch, and as he does so a strong smell catches his nose.

In the slaughterhouse yard blood is everywhere; some of it dry and black, some of it swept along by water in clots of varying colours and sizes. Assa'ad stops, frightened.
"Let's go back," he says to his mother.
"Are you mad? We've only just got here," she replies unsympathetically. " We'll buy some meat and then we'll go."
"I want to go back," he says, standing in front of her. His wide eyes implore and his head looks right up at her, nearly wobbling him over backwards.
Without concern his mother replies, "Go back on your own if you want to."
Little Assa'ad shudders and his heavy head shakes. He closes his eyes, holds her by some bit or other and goes in in his bare feet. The vapour of the blood turns into a sticky liquid in his nose, and he rubs his nose in fear. By mistake, he opens his eyes. It is blood, blood pouring from his nose. He screams and looks at his mother whom he is clutching, to find his hand attached to the tail of a headless cow. Her blood is gushing out in a long arrow-like stream heading goodness knows where, blood of a strange colour like that of the setting sun on clear winter nights.

The cow is dragging him inside without his mother. He screams, and his scream becomes the first note of the rejoicing, clamouring voices and the splattering of the spilt blood on the ground, which pulls itself out from under his bare feet.

Translated by Rebecca Porteous from Al-Gamal La Yaqif Khalfa Ishara Hamra
(A Camel Does Not Stop In Red). Short stories, Al-Hadara Publishing House, Cairo 1993.