Published December 7, 2009 - Muscat Daily
My alarm clock went off at 6:00 a.m on Saturday morning. I cursed and begged for another day of holiday. Just another day! But no such luck. It just kept on ringing until I was forced to get up and go to work. Don't get me wrong. I love my job, but I really enjoyed Eid and those precious nine days of holiday. I'm figuring you all cursed your alarm clocks too.
Basic Eid rituals are similar throughout the Muslim world, but each society also has its own unique traditions to celebrate this religious event. Also known as the 'Festival of the Sacrifice', Eid Al-Adha is a holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. It is also about spending time with family and enjoying the simple blessings that life has to offer. The first day of Eid occurs the day after the pilgrims conducting Hajj descend from Mount Arafa in Saudi Arabia.
This Eid is a major social event in Dhofar. The build-up alone is an event! During the week before Eid, it is nearly impossible to move in town. The streets are filled with frantic shoppers trying to do last-minute Eid shopping. Old men bargain with carpet sellers by the side of the road, children beg their parents for new toys, and women carefully select the colours and patterns on the traditional Dhofari 'thobes' that they wear for Eid. Meanwhile, cows and camels are transported around town in old pick-up trucks, on unsteady legs, unknowingly headed for sacrifice.
On the day before Eid, also known as 'Yom Arafa', most adults fast and prepare their houses for visitors while keeping an eye on their television sets which broadcast the live descent of the pilgrims from Mount Arafa in Saudi Arabia. Some are even lucky enough to spot someone they know waving at the camera through the crowd.
At dawn on the first day of Eid, mothers prepare food and burn frankincense while fathers and sons dress in their finest for Eid prayers at the mosque. After prayers, the males head off with their relatives to slaughter. In Dhofar, brothers often get together to buy a cow or camel. They then distribute the meat among their families and the poor.
By mid morning, the men are back from slaughter, and the women begin to cut up and cook the meat. Dhofar's favourite Eid dish is 'ma'ajeen', small pieces of boneless beef cooked in beef fat. It remains tasty (and sterile!) for months if kept in a sealed container. Many families also make ‘makadot’, or camel meat dried in strips.
Children put on their new clothes, meet up with friends and visit houses in the neighbourhood to eat sweets, giggle and collect ‘Eidia’ (small change). Usually men do their visiting in the afternoon and women in the evening. When I say 'visiting' I basically mean making an effort to visit every relative in the immediate and extended family as well as all the neighbours. This can take days.
Every visit is almost identical. Guests are greeted in the family majlis with the usual 'Eid Mubarak! How are you? And your family? Your health? Come and eat meat!' Every majlis offers exactly the same things; Omani halwa, Arabic coffee, nuts, sweets, orange flavoured Tang, fruit, and the required bowl of ma'ajeen. It can become a little overwhelming once you've reached house number ten! Some large families choose to have a tribal picnic on the third or fourth day of Eid to avoid visiting houses individually.
Eid is all about being social and 'doing your duty' by visiting family and neighbours. Most people in Dhofar would never be seen in shops or at tourist spots during Eid. They're too busy visiting the 1,000 relatives on their Eid list! Looking back, I know I ate enough dried camel meat to last me a lifetime, and I probably discovered at least 10 new relatives whom I never knew existed, but it was a great holiday and a time to touch base with people I don't see very often. Until next year!