Eid al-Adhr (عيد الأضحى)
With the sighting of the new moon, Eid al-Adhr fell at the end of my first week in Damascus, making a three-day weekend. This festival marks the culmination of the hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) and commemorates the sacrifice of Abraham, which is bad news for the local sheep. Here in Damascus alone, thousands were slaughtered. Traditionally, a third of the meat is eaten by the family, a third is given to relatives, friends or neighbours and the remaining third is given to the poor. This giving to the poor now includes sending meat to Africa, a Syrian friend told me.
The butchers’ shops had crowds of people outside, each wanting to buy their sacrificial lamb, the air outside filled with the acrid smell of their blood & innards. On the road-side, too, impromptu abattoirs were created, with sheep losing their life to a knife blade, and their meat being sold, occasionally a little being put-aside onto a little barbecue.
I started chatting to one group of the road-side butchers and as they proudly showed me their knife, the blade was jokingly put to my throat. It wasn’t until later I realised how quickly I had gained confidence and trust in these people since being in their country.
Clean, brushed sheep-skins were dotted throughout the city on ad hoc lines strung between posts on roundabouts & street corners during these three days. Available as covers for motorbike seats, blankets, or just decoration, all for only 350S£, the equivalent of just over 5€. (Although a little perfume is required to mask the smell of the animal, which was still present.)
In the evening, the streets were animated with little concerts being organised, as well as more informal, off-the-cuff little performances, and a general feeling of festivity. This is contrasted by the more solemn practice of visiting graves during the day.
For those who didn’t mind a little gore, there is a photo-set on Flickr here.