So in order to talk about this recipe today, we're going to have to talk about sheep butts. I know, not what you were expecting right? But here's the deal, in most parts of the Levant the sheep sort of have this extra butt, almost like a really wide fat tail, that you can see in the pictures. I remember seeing this for the first time near Sayyida Zeinab outside Damascus, and staring at these very weirdly shaped sheep. You see, the sheep are bred this way because that back part is just one big mass of fat. In Arabic this is called 'aliya, and is the traditional cooking fat, sort of like how lard is a traditional cooking fat in the U.S. Nowadays, most people use butter (ghee) or oil in their cooking because it's more cheaply and readily available, but 'aliya is still called for in some dishes.

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