Kircha: from live animal to ribs and tibs, kitfo, and doulet.


The guys came at about 4:20, and by 4:29 (the time stamp on my first photo) it was done. I was hiding, but needlessly so–Bruce said they did it Matador style, with a clean cut through the spinal cord, and the bull dropped without a sound. I’ve watched cattle being killed in Africa before, where the animal’s feet were tied and they were pushed over, immobilized with ropes, and then slaughtered. Our bull, still half asleep, was led to the middle of the yard by the rope tied around his horns, and killed with a double-edged sticking knife at the base of his skull. He wasn’t afraid or struggling, and he didn’t feel much.

Then the process of kircha began. It took three hours. Kircha is the traditional, economic sharing of a bull or ox with a community of people for a feast or celebration. Our kircha was with our office staff of four, support staff of five, and our family, so a group of 10.

IMG_3232When the bull was dead, they bled him. Very simple tools were used–no gun, no bone saw, no cooling room to hang the carcass. In fact, most of the meat would be consumed the same day in the Fasika feast. Thus the early killing. Orthodox Christians (we have two on our staff) have been on a vegan diet for the period of Lent, and break that fast with a protein-laden meal. The  most observant won’t eat anything killed during Lent. So the butchers in the Orthodox community are extremely busy on Easter morning. Our guys had another 9 am appointment.

IMG_3246The butchers parceled out the meat on a six-meter piece of plastic tarp, dividing the carcass into two halves, and further dividing each half into five equal piles.

IMG_3283In two hours time, the bull was laid out in sections. Even the organ meat, the fatty hump, and the stomach–cleaned and rinsed–was divided equally. Thadewos, one of our guards, cleaned out the stomach. The stomach lining was deeply pitted, which was an indication of a diet high in sand–typical of livestock from arid Haraar.

We declined to share the organ meat, so that was divided into nine.

IMG_3296Except for the liver, which was eaten raw–dipped into bere bere red pepper powder–along with some of the prime marbled meat from the hump.

IMG_3301Tadiwos was appointed the judge of the distribution process. If anyone had questions about the fairness of the meat piles, they consulted him.

IMG_3298The parcels were assigned by lot. Jacob and Bereket brought a basket of names written down on rolls of paper. They picked a name at random and put it on the first pile, and so on down the line.

IMG_3304Each parcel weighed in at about 15 kilos. There were 10 participants in the kircha, so the bull yielded roughly 150 kg of meat, ribs, and leg bone.


Now, what to do with 30 pounds of fresh, unaged beef? We were going to our office manager Yerus’s house for the Fasika meal, so didn’t need to cook a big feast right away. We turned most of ours into cubed stew meat. Bruce roasted the bones and they simmered for the day to make delicious broth. I rendered the organ fat to make tallow.

The bull’s hump, shanya, is like a camel’s–packed with fat to help it survive during droughts and lean times. Under a layer of fat is marbled meat, which is usually eaten raw along with the tenderloin. I marinaded our pieces and we’ll try steak and eggs tomorrow. Beef stew for supper.

IMG_3331For the noon meal, we walked to Yerus’s house and celebrated Fasika with her family. Tibs (beef), doro wat (chicken stew), gomen ba siga (greens with beef), doulet (beef stomach), eib (cottage cheese), shiro (chickpea stew), njera, ambesha bread and spaghetti casserole. Coffee ceremony after.

Christians all over Ethiopia (Orthodox and pente) as well as the diaspora celebrated Easter together. There is reason to celebrate. Many Ethiopians are hopeful that the appointment of a new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, will bring about much-needed reform and a reduction in the political and ethnic tensions and violence that have been rocking Ethiopia for the last three years. Easter is, after all, a time of hope, renewal, and the promise of change.

In this video, listen for the Orthodox priests singing on Easter morning, as well as the chickens starting their day of laying.

In this video, one of our staff, Mulunah Adamu, explains the tradition of kircha in his own words, and Wondwesen Woldgeorgis translates.


6 thoughts on “Kircha: from live animal to ribs and tibs, kitfo, and doulet.

  1. That’s the slickest butchering I’ve ever seen; a very sharp knife handled by experts almost makes it look easy!
    TRADITION … so very important for holding faith communities and cultures together. Thanks for sharing this with us.


  2. Hi Rose,

    Tried to access the video but was taken to “Terrifying!!! Amazing Smart Brave Boys Catch Extremely King Cobra While Go Fishing: (sic)….



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s