A day in Luxor, Egypt experiencing the Islamic traditions of Eid al-Adha, the festival of the Feast of Sacrifice celebrated by Muslims around the world…
I was woken by noise from the street and went out onto the balcony to see what was happening and I was in for a bit of a shock as you can see above. People were gathered outside a shop opposite the hotel with a number of sheep. There was blood on the street and it was soon apparent what was happening.
One of the men took hold of a sheep and with a very big knife cut the animal’s throat. He then proceeded to cut off the head. This was not a sight for the squeamish, and not great just before breakfast.
Amid the bloody mayhem stood a small girl holding a plastic bag. She walked over, said something to the man with the knife and put the sheep’s head in her bag and walked off… I have no idea what that was all about?
Further down the street another headless sheep was hanging in a doorway whilst a man skinned it.
It was Eid al-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice). The festival commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to prove his obedience to God, and the fact that God replaced his son with a ram.
The ‘sacrificing’ was happening all over the city as a symbol to his sacrifice. During the three day festival people sacrifice sheep, sometimes goats, even camels, to symbolise the sacrifice made by Abraham. The meat is distributed amongst the people so that no impoverished person is left without sacrificial food during the festival.
Having shared this I should say that Eid is happy time of sharing and giving… so here is a photograph of a balloon seller to take your mind off the gore you’ve just seen!
That evening, as the sun set over the Nile, I sat with my girlfriend at the time in a restaurant overlooking the park beside Luxor Temple. The place was buzzing as it was packed with families out to celebrate Eid and the roads were busy with families or gangs of kids taking rides on the many horse drawn carriages (Calèche) decorated with silver and gold baubles and brilliantly painted wheels.
We decided to soak up the atmosphere by walking through the crowd. The atmosphere felt electric… families sitting on the grass, kid’s everywhere – playing ball, running, and generally having fun. A number of temporary stalls had appeared selling drinks and sweets, and there were balloon sellers circulating the mass of smiling Nubian and Egyptian faces.
Whilst we sat on a bench a young Egyptian lad came over clutching a packet of tissues. He tried to sell them to us, but we’d become somewhat immune to this by now. He was a bit scruffy, but a friendly lad and he was only trying the make a little money.
I remembered that I had a toy camel in my bag and thought he might like it. The camel was home-made by some children I had met a couple of days before whilst at the Tombs of the Nobles… it was basically cardboard wrapped in cloth and scraps of material to form a rudimentary camel.
I’ll never forget the boys face. His eyes lit up with joy and excitement when I gave him the toy, but the thing that I remember most of all was that as we left the square a little later, I spotted the lad sitting on the grass.
He had stopped selling the tissues and was playing with the camel without a care in the world…