Published October 23, 2012 - Muscat Daily.
It’s rather hard to believe another Eid is knocking at our doors. I haven’t quite recovered yet from Eid al Fitr celebrations nine weeks ago!
For many of you, it may sound like just another Eid, but both occasions are quite different for Muslims worldwide. Eid al Fitr that we observed in August was a celebration following the completion of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. The last few days of Ramadan witnessed intense worship and prayer rituals followed by a communal sigh of relief as we all re-discovered the privilege of eating and drinking during daytime for the first time in a month!
On the other hand, Eid al Adha that we will be celebrating this Friday is a commemoration of the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his eldest son to God. It also marks the end of the Haj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims must complete once in their lifetime. It is not uncommon for Muslims to go two or three times, hence the millions of pilgrims each year.
Last week Dhofar bid farewell to this year’s many pilgrims as they embarked on their journey to Mecca to complete the Haj rituals. Going on the pilgrimage is a big deal and the farewells are often filled with emotion. I was approached by several acquaintances of mine who went off to Mecca asking me for forgiveness if they had ever done me wrong. They wanted to go off to the holy city feeling relieved and unburdened. I haven’t been to Mecca yet but I am very much looking forward to my pilgrimage when the time is right.
On Thursday every household in Salalah will turn on the television early in the morning to watch live coverage of the pilgrims as they observe the final day of Haj, otherwise known as Yom Arafa.
At dawn, the pilgrims will head to Mount Arafa, the site where the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave his farewell sermon. Families will gather around the television to try and spot their loved ones among the millions of pilgrims dressed in white. It is a rather extraordinary sight and I recommend that you tune into any Arab television channel on Thursday to watch part of it.
The first day of Eid on Friday morning will involve a lot of animal slaughtering (ie our sacrifice), plenty of meat, excited children, and then endless visiting of relatives and neighbours.
During the weeks leading up to Eid the main topics of conversation in this town are often limited to the following questions; ‘Anyone from your family on the pilgrimage this year? What are you slaughtering? When do you think the holidays will be?’ Naturally, the third question is always the hardest to answer. The powers that be in this little nation of ours aren’t always generous with holiday information. We are often informed of the public holiday a mere four or five days before Eid. It’s rather unfair to people who have travel plans.
Speaking of travels, I have noticed an interesting trend in Salalah these past couple of years. Many families have taken to escaping during Eid to avoid the hassle of having to slaughter and then visit a hundred relatives. This is rather surprising for such a family and tribal-oriented region, but in many ways I don’t blame them. I personally find that two back-to-back Eids can be a little overwhelming.
While the whole population of Salalah heads out into town today to create traffic jams (a favourite pastime) and stock up on last-minute Eid goods, I will be quietly packing my bright red suitcases in preparation for my own Eid escape. Even though I’m not fond of visiting and the thought of large quantities of meat make me feel rather ill, this trip isn’t about escaping. It is more of a social experiment involving a group of rebellious Dhofari girls eager to see the world. Stay tuned….