Millions of Muslims around the world – including countries like Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Kenya and Yemen – celebrate Eid al-Adha, one of the biggest holidays in the Islamic calendar. .
Known as the “Feast of Sacrifice”, the revered observance coincides with the final rites of the annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
Eid al-Adha commemorates the Quranic account of Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice Ismail as an act of obedience to God.
Before he could perform the sacrifice, God provided a ram as an offering. In the Christian and Jewish account, Ibrahim is ordered to kill another son, Isaac.
Many Muslims celebrate the four-day festival by ritually slaughtering cattle and distributing the meat to family, friends and the poor.
Much of Asia, including Indonesia, Pakistan and India – the three countries with the largest Muslim populations in the world – will observe the holiday on Sunday.
In Saudi Arabia, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims got up at dawn to go to Mina, a wide valley surrounded by arid mountains where the Prophet Muhammad stopped on his way around 1,400 years ago.
One million Muslims from around the world have flocked to the holy city of Mecca this week, the biggest pilgrimage since the pandemic upended the annual event.
At the multi-storey Jamarat complex, pilgrims performed the symbolic stoning of the devil, recalling Ibrahim’s victory over temptation. It is part of the set of rituals associated with the Prophet Muhammad and the Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, or Abraham and Ishmael in the Bible, performed each year during these intense five days.
Pilgrims threw pebbles at three large pillars that mark the places where the devil tried to interrupt Ibrahim’s sacrifice.
This is the most dangerous point of the hajj, with masses coming and going.
In 2015, thousands of pilgrims were crushed to death by surging mobs. The Saudi government has never given a definitive assessment. In the years that followed, authorities improved access with wider streets, electronic gates and a high-speed rail link.
All Muslims who are physically and financially able to complete the spiritual journey are expected to do so at least once in their lifetime.
Saudi Arabia has maintained limits on crowds this year to curb the spread of the virus, with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate and attendance at less than half of pre-pandemic quotas.
Still, the scenes were a significant step closer to normal. Famous crowds invaded holy sites, abandoning masks and safety measures.
At the end of the pilgrimage, one of the essential pillars of Islam, the men must shave their heads and the women must cut a lock of hair as a sign of renewal.
They will return to Makkah to circle the cube-shaped Kaaba, which represents the metaphorical house of God, as a farewell before returning home and continuing to celebrate the rest of Eid al-Adha in family.
“We are very proud,” said Indian pilgrim Izhar Anjoom, who was stoning the devil in Mina. ” We appreciate [ourselves] so much because today is Eid.
“The prices are crazy”
It is a joyful occasion of which food is a feature. But amid soaring food prices that have caused widespread hardship across the Middle East, many say they cannot afford cattle for ritual sacrifice.
Desperation over the cost of living undermined the typically flourishing trade in goats, cows and sheep.
In cash-strapped Afghanistan, there is usually a rush to buy prime animals ahead of the holidays.
But this year, runaway global inflation and economic devastation after the Taliban takeover have put a purchase of great religious significance beyond the reach of many.
“Everybody wants to sacrifice an animal in the name of Allah, but they can’t because they are poor,” said Mohammad Nadir from a cattle market in Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, where a few men haggled over bleating sheep.
“Last year on this day I sold 40 to 50 cattle,” said Mohammad Qassim, an Afghan cattle dealer. “This year, I only managed to sell two.”
At al-Shati refugee camp in the besieged Gaza Strip, excited children lined up for entrails and trotters – a cherished offering for those who otherwise could not afford meat.
In a cattle market in Gaza, there were hardly any buyers. Vendors said the price of sheep feed had quadrupled in recent weeks.
“Our life is full of losses,” lamented Abu Mustafa, a sheep seller in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, who has long suffered from widespread unemployment and poverty.
On the streets of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian families pared down other components of the holiday – usually an abundance of food, from offal to kaak and maamoul holiday cookies.
“On days like these there was a demand for fruit, sweets and nuts as well, but as you can see… no one is standing ready to buy now,” the fruit seller complained. Baligh Hamdi.
Wheat and meat prices have soared and hunger has spread as Russia’s war on Ukraine disrupts agriculture and limits energy supplies.
Skyrocketing feed and fertilizer prices have forced livestock sellers to raise prices.
In Tripoli, war-torn Libya, families have been eagerly awaiting the holidays after the last two years of the pandemic and more than a decade of violent chaos.
But the price tags – up to $2,100 per sheep – had buyers scouring a dusty market worried about the costs of holiday shopping.
“Honestly, the prices are crazy,” Sabri al-Hadi said, looking exasperated.
But lavish feast or not, there were communal prayers – a welcome sight in much of the world after years of coronavirus restrictions. Worshipers crammed into mosques across the Middle East and North Africa on Saturday.
From Kenya to Russia to Egypt, crowds of worshipers prayed shoulder to shoulder, feet to feet.
“I am very happy that all these people came to pray,” said Sahar Mohamed in Cairo, smiling broadly.
“There is love and acceptance between people.”