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Friday, December 29, 2006

Eid Al-Adha

In the back of a pick-up truck

At the moment it seems that every pickup truck in Doha has a sheep or goat (sometimes several) bleating plaintively in its back. This is Eid Al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, which both celebrates the end of the Haj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) and remembers the time Abraham almost sacrificed his son Ismael (as opposed to the Old Testament's Isaac), only to be told in the nick of time that a goat would do instead. It’s also a time when Islam demands a blood sacrifice or Udhiya.

Arriving at the live animal market, Carrying sheepyou could smell blood in the air from the nearby abattoir. These, however, are not the sacrifices, but additional meat taken for feasting. An friend I ran into told me that he would sacrifice his sheep after the morning prayers the next day. “This is from God,” he added. I asked him if he would be sacrificing the sheep himself. “I can’t do that,” he said, a little guiltily – it is considered quite manly by some people to kill your animals yourself. “I have a Somali to do that.”

Some of the sheep and goats struggled as they were dragged away, or hauled onto shoulders, while others slumped as if they knew their fate was unavoidable. According to Islam, when an animal is killed its throat is cut and it is held until all the blood has drained out of it. It is also of utmost importance that the animal is blessed in the name of Allah before it is killed.

Cows, sheep and goats are all acceptable sacrifices. (I also saw a camel being trucked away from the market). If you are poor, it is not necessary to sacrifice a whole animal – instead, groups of people band together to buy a single animal. The meat is not wasted – instead, a third is distributed to the poor, a third to the extended family and a third to the person who makes the sacrifice.

There's tonnes of information on the net about Eid Al-Adha. There's just one question that is still bugging us, and we'd be very grateful if someone could leave the answer on a comment.

What do vegetarian Muslims sacrifice?

A busy day at the animal marketAlso see: Ramadan

Qatar Visitor Bookstore

Image of sheep sacrifice in Iran