Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Eid Al Adha

Eid is Arabic for 'holiday' or 'festival.' Christian Arabs have the Christmas Eid. Muslims, however, are only allowed two Eids every (Islamic) year, one, called Eid Al Fitr, marks the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan, and this Eid, Eid Al Adha, marks the climax of the Hajj. (The Western year 2006 will have three Eids, because the Islamic year is slightly shorter than the Western year, so we'll have two Islamic year-ends in 2006.)

It is traditional for Arabs to greet each other on Eid by saying 'Eid Mubarak.'

This is Dubai, so, while many small shops close so the owners and staff can spend the day in prayer and with their families, the Malls are all open for people to shop. What better way to celebrate Eid? As a reminder, the Malls have signs up saying 'Eid Mubarak.'

Eid Al Adha commemorates the day when the Prophet Abraham (or Ibrahim, as he is called by Muslims) took his son out for a sacrifice (Christians and Jews will be familiar with this story.) The son had to carry all the equipment for the sacrifice, not knowing what (or, in this case who) was to be sacrificed. At the very last minute, God provided a Ram who took the place of Abraham's son.

So, today, Muslim fathers are supposed to go out early in the morning, after the 7:00 a.m. Eid prayers, with their children. The oldest son is supposed to carry the equipment for a sacrifice. At the last minute, someone (a younger son?) is supposed to show up with a kid goat.

In the village of Al Ain, on the night before Eid, anyone taking a constitutional walk around the neighbourhood will hear kids bleating inside all the villas. Tonight, the same walk will be conducted in the Silence of the Lambs. In Abu Dhabi, most people live in high-rise apartment buildings, so, last night, outside the buildings, tied to trees or lampposts, one would have seen a herd of kid goats. By now, they are all gone.

Every Muslim father with any money must buy a kid and, after the early morning sacrifice, give 2/3 of the meat to the poor, taking the remaining 1/3 home for Eid lunch and supper. (I saw one truck proceeding from the livestock market with a calf in the bed, for one family who prefer veal to lamb.)

But in Dubai, killing animals at home (or anywhere else) has been declared illegal. Good Muslims should have gone yesterday to select their kid (or calf) from the livestock market. Today, they should proceed, after the Eid prayers, to the meat processing plant, where the kid (or calf) will already be dressed, the 2/3 already distributed to the poor, and the 1/3 ready to take home. Not quite traditional.

A Saudi friend was planning to drive over to the processing plant this morning and pick up his 1/3 of a kid, but his boys insisted on doing things the traditional way. He had found, in his villa, a strange room, the purpose of which had previously eluded him. In this room was a large, oval marble container with water taps and a drain. This marble fixture was large enough for a person to lie down in it, and there was a plug for the drain hole, so it could be filled with water, but he wasn't sure what any of this was for. Then he realized that this room was for Eid, so he purchased a kid yesterday, brought it home in his new Jaguar, and confined it in this strange room, which is, apparently, only used twice a year.

Before he came to Dubai, he never drove. There are two kinds of people who don't drive, the poor who can't afford a car, and the rich who have chauffeurs. This particular Saudi was not poor. But his chauffeur is having trouble getting a visa to come to Dubai, so now he drives.

He does not, however, sacrifice a kid for Eid: A professional will come over to make sure the job is done correctly. Muslims have a concept called halal, which is kind of like kosher-lite, but the basic principle applies: if the kid is not dispatched correctly, a good Muslim can neither eat the meat, nor get credit for giving 2/3 to the poor. So my friend will leave the gruesome deed to the pro. All in this strange little room which, I believe, Westerners would call a 'bathroom'.

Then they will have a very nice Eid lunch and supper, and the pro will take care of seeing that the 2/3 donation reaches the poor. Probably the poor pros family, but that's OK.

So I hope everyone, both Muslim and infidel, has a great Eid.

Eid Mubarak.

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