Egyptian Culture, Part 7: Eid al Adha Celebration

Butchering a Cow for Eid al Adha in Egypt by Aisha Abdelhamid

In Egypt, Eid celebrations mark the start of national week-long vacations. Most work grinds to a halt, many stores are shuttered, streets have far less traffic, and fireworks sporadically light up the night skies. More weddings are scheduled for the festive time of eid than any other time of the year, as well.

Every year during Eid al Adha in Egypt and all over the world, Muslims practice “Qurbani.” This is the ritual sacrifice of animals, in commemoration of Prophet Abraham’s willingness to obey God’s command. To non-muslims, it may seem strange to learn that this ritual is a rich and beautiful expression of God’s mercy. Can the ritual sacrifice of animals in the streets generate an environment of peace? Yet, this is exactly the case during the Muslim Eid al Adha. Whole communities become visibly enveloped in a unified outpouring of celebration and generosity.

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In something of a mystical paradox, the ritual of Eid al Adha encompasses both sacrifice and generosity. Although God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his firstborn son, immediately He provided Abraham with an animal substitute, after confirming Abraham’s dutiful submission. Abraham and his son, God’s blessings be upon them, sacrificed the animal together and returned home to celebrate God’s mercy with a delicious feast for their community.

Abraham's sacrifice by Caravaggio (Image source: wiki commons)

In the Muslim’s annual celebration of this sacrifice and feast, they are likewise obeying God’s command. The sacrificial animal is carefully butchered, and the meat is divided into three portions. One third is for the immediate family of the person(s) who purchased the animal. Another third is distributed to the purchaser’s extended family, and the last third is distributed to non-family members from among the poor and needy in the community.

Then pronounce the name of Allah over them as they line up (for sacrifice);
when they are down on their sides (after slaughter), eat ye thereof,
and feed such as live in contentment, and such as beg with due humility.
Thus have We made animals subject to you, that ye may be grateful.
It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah,
it is your piety that reaches Him. [Quran 22:36-37]

Eid al Adha occurs at the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, a journey Muslims are required to make at least once in their lives. The Quran specifies the ritual sacrifice performed by those on Hajj, and it is observed by those at home on this same day, as well.

Millions praying at the Masjid al Haram in Mekkah for Hajj by AP

If not on Hajj, most Muslims gather in the first morning of the eid at mosques for a special congregational prayer and sermon. Afterwards, many Muslims in western countries seek out a farm where an animal sacrifice can be performed, or meat is sacrificed at the farm and delivered to the mosques.

Slaughtering a Cow for Eid al Adha in a street of Egypt by Aisha Abdelhamid

Here in Egypt, though, blood flows freely in the streets. It’s exciting for the whole neighborhood to watch the spectacle, and people crowd the narrow city streets trying to get a good view. Although the sight of a neighborhood butcher slaughtering an animal is very commonplace all over the country, the Eid al Adha celebration has a more intimate feel to it. Everyone knows that they will get to eat some of that meat, and most will recieve it for free!

Eid Spectators in Egyptian Street by Aisha Abdelhamid

After the streets are hosed down, feasts are prepared and everyone wears new clothes. Children are presented with gifts, and families spend most of their time visiting one another and presenting meat to everyone. In Egypt, as in many muslim countries, Eid al Adha is a time of great appreciation for God’s mercy. Muslim, Christian and all other members of the community share equally in the festivities that overtake the neighborhood. Carnival rides are set up, decorations enliven the whole environment, and everyone shares together in the lively atmosphere of fun and pleasure.

Instilling such a happy environment of selfless generosity within communities where poverty and hunger often ordinarily abides is truly a mystical mercy. What a great opportunity to both celebrate and give thanks to God!

Prayers During Eid Celebration in Egypt
(Image source: http://www.theholidayspot.com/eid_ul_fitr/images/eid-egypt.jpg)

Click Here to return to Egyptian Culture, Part 6: Water, Water Everywhere

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30 thoughts on “Egyptian Culture, Part 7: Eid al Adha Celebration

  1. Reblogged this on I'm a Writer, Yes I Am and commented:
    The year I was in China, my Moslem students invited me to their “Khorban” festival (Eid). It was a very sweet a moving moment. Because at that time religion was suppressed in the People’s Republic of China, ALL of the students who claimed a religion other than Communism shared a dining hall. The two main religions, of course, are Buddhism and Islam. The dining hall was a 12 x 12 concrete structure with two separate cooking areas and two cooks; a Buddhist cook and a Moslem cook. Because charcoal was the fuel, the kitchen/dining hall was blackened with smoke and ash. There was a trestle table down the middle of the building. The windows were the usual openings in the walls beside the doors.

    Our students (one from Sinkiang and the other a Hui Chinese Moslem) had painted a banner that said in Arabic and Chinese and English “Welcome to our Khorban Festival!” The party was those two Moslem boys, three Buddhist girls, my ex-husband and myself.

    We ate lamb; the Buddhists ate vegetables. My students explained the meaning of the festival to us. We had a lovely time. Then, at a certain point, Aili (Ali) said, “Teacher Martha, what do you think? Here we are sharing the Khorban festival together. These two Mongolian girls, this Tibetan girl, Bao-ze Hai here, a Chinese, and me a Uygur. You and Teacher Jim are Christian. We are Moslem and the girls are Buddha and we are all sharing this Moslem festival. I wonder, don’t you think that people who believe in religion are kind?”

    Meanwhile, in Israel and Lebanon and Palestine the usual 1980s horror persisted and all the people in that room with us, save me and my ex, had suffered persecution for their beliefs at the hands of the Red Army.

    • Thank you so much for visiting me here, Martha so good to see you! Thanks for the re-blog, too! You know, I think sometimes God test us to prove something to ourselves that He already knows, isn’t that mysterious?!!!

      I really enjoyed your interesting story of your eid celebration in China, how fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing that beautiful history. I can only hope and pray for more unity among the nations, faiths and peoples!

      ♥♥♥ ;^)

  2. I always enjoy your posts upon the various cultures and traditions Aisha.. And learn a great deal from your posts… I hope one day we will not play upon the differences within various cultures.. But gravitate towards embracing the common themes among them.. Let us pray for Peace and tolerance and Share our faiths in love … At the end of the day.. We are ALL ONE…
    Wishing you a Wonderful Time in celebration .. Love Sue

  3. Most informative and detailed post dear Aisha ! Some parts of the ritualistic preparations and celebrations remind me of our Greek Easter.Interesting photos included and compelling cultural details are vividly narrated.Though, I find the sacred sacrifices unbearably cruel 😦
    Enjoy the Eid al Adha celebrations ! All the best to you and yours !!!
    Love ~♥~♥~♥~ and hugs my sweet friend 🙂 xxx

    • Thank you, Dear Doda! I understand how you feel, it is very understandable! Yes, I think the Greek easter lamb must be very similar to the jewish passover lamb, too, and both are similar to the eid al adha celebration. It is wonderful that so many people are still able to touch the ancient history of our faiths through these rituals. More hugs and more love back to you! ♥♥♥ ;^)

  4. a very interesting and informative post as always Aisha, though like the Greek writer ( and as a student of Buddhism) I am not fond of any blood sacrifice, could never witness one, and admire those who are vegetarian!! :D. Of course in Christianity ( in which I was raised) – the Christ, though a man of peace was a blood sacrifice too and compared to the lamb. I remember in Greece, waking up to the sound of the little lambs coming down the hillside at Easter to be slaughtered. I remember feeling very sad and sick about it- but then walking down the road and smelling them roasting on the spit – and so I ate!! Delicious!! So much for my tender sensibilities!! 😀

    • Lol, that’s the way it is with emotions, isn’t it! They’re not well tied to our stomachs, especially when the food smells good and tastes delicious! Anyway, of course I appreciate your sensitivities, Cybele, and certainly no one is forced to do what they can’t handle… much better that way, right? Thanks so much for sharing that memory and for visiting me here! ♥♥♥;^)

      • It’s all what we are used to sometimes isn’t it!!. We ate meat very cleanly and neatly packaged up on market shelves!! None of it actually looked like an animal except one time when mom tried to make us eat tongue!! ewwww!! no way lol !!

        • Lol, good one! Yes, to be serious, this is my main problem with this issue – we don’t have enough understanding of where our food comes from, many of us, when we see it all nice and clean in the store. The process of getting it there isn’t pretty, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong! There’s a certain degree of honesty missing in our childen’s education that I hope future generations of parents and teachers will address. I think it will make all of us more compassionate about the lives and realities of others who are different from us. Thank you so much, Cybele, for your wonderful ability to see the world through honest eyes, and then to photograph it so amazingly as you do, this is a great blessing to me – thank you for your lovely friendship! ♥♥♥;^)

          P.s. lol, I love tongue, it’s so delicious! ✌🌹❤❤❤;^)

          • Do you know what strikes me most – is that powerful symbolism and ancient ritual. God’s mercy is at the core. And what a powerful photo of the hajj- The mystery and wonder of faith!!

            • Oh, that photo of so many millions, prostrating in unison, in perfect rings extending from the ka’aba out in ripples, covering every square inch of the entire Grand Mosque complex – even the roofs! It is amazing to the depths of my soul! How I long for my turn to participate! The ancient concept of human pilgrimage is totally fascinating to me, too. I can tell you share this feeling! I feel, when I think about this concept, that maybe humans have a shred of ancestral memory that we recognize in the misty depths, when we really take time to imagine what it means to make a pilgrimage to a sacred place. I think the root of my longing is buried in that misty deep place!

              So cool to share this with you, Cybele, thanks!! ♥♥♥;^)

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