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Enjoy it like an Egyptian
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 18 - 11 - 2010

CAIRO - For four days each year, Egyptians " the majority of whom are Muslims " enjoy the unique atmosphere of Eid el-Adha (the Greater Bairam). The Egyptian touch makes the celebration of this feast different from other Muslim countries. This year, the Mail takes you through what Egyptians do during the feast and what you can see and do, as well as shedding light on its economic and religious significance.,t's around 7am.
That's the time to go. Adam opens the door of his apartment and goes out to find his neighbours leaving too. They move on together after warm greetings, merging with tens, even hundreds of other people.
The Egyptian touch makes the celebration of this feast different from other Muslim countries. This year, the Mail takes you through what Egyptians do during the feast and what you can see and do, as well as shedding light on its economic and religious significance .
It's around 7am. That's the time to go.
Adam opens the door of his apartment and goes out to find his neighbours leaving too. They move on together after warm greetings, merging with tens, even hundreds of other people.
What has swiftly become a huge crowd finally reaches its destination, a big mosque in Cairo, where the comforting voice of the muezzin announces that it's time for the Eidel-Adha prayers.
"That's how the day starts in the Eid," Adam Mahmoud, a 28-year-old salesman,
told the Mail, while holding a big bag of groceries and meat, which he'd just bought for the feast.
"The Eid prayers are quite different from any other prayers. For me, the open-air experience with thousands of people around me is more than breathtaking."
Eid el-Adha, (the Feast of the Sacrifice), is a four-day festival that is celebrated after the Hajj -" the annual Major Pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca that every Muslim with enough money and in good health is required to perform at least once in his or her lifetime.
One of the two most important Islamic festivals, Eid el-Adha recalls Ibrahim's
willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to Allah.
To mark this, Muslims all over the world sacrifice an animal on the first day of
the feast.
If you haven't been around before in Egypt during Eid el-Adha, then there's a lot you ought to see. Still, the early morning prayers are absolutely unmistakable, especially when you see the huge crowds of people praying in the street outside the mosques.
"After the prayers, my father and I have our goat slaughtered and we distribute the meat to the poor in bags each containing 1.5kg of meat," says Alaa Abu Zaher, 24, as he describes the first day of the feast.
"Helping the poor like this is something really wonderful." Abu Zaher and his father, who live in Nasr City, give a third of their sacrifice to the poor in Kaha, a city in the northeast of the country, and another third to their relatives.
They keep the remaining third of the meat for their own consumption.
Eid means festival, but Eid al-Adha in particular also has a symbolic meaning
attached to it.
Giving and sharing are equally important, while the sacrifice is only validated if the meat of the slaughtered animal is distributed to the needy and the poor.
"My friends and I have launched a campaign on Facebook for donations to buy
meat for poor people outside Cairo," Zahra Abul Ella, a young Faculty of Commerce graduate, said proudly, while she and a group of her friends were loading bags of meat into a car a few days before the Eid.
"We've reached our target, raising enough money to buy 100kg of meat, as well as getting a lot of volunteers to help us distribute this meat."
This year, prices of meat have skyrocketed and many Egyptians can no longer afford it.
In the days leading up to the feast, the prices shot up yet again. “I can no longer afford to give my family meat every day during the feast,” Wagdi Eliwa, a civil servant, told this newspaper.
This year, he's had to be a little cunning, buying a very small quantity of beef and supplementing it with chicken, “whose price has actually fallen”.
In Egypt, Eid el-Adha has a greater significance than Eid el-Fitr, which follows
the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Referred to here as el-Eid el-Kabir (the big Eid), the festival is annually observed during the auspicious Islamic month of Zu Al-Hijja.
On this occasion, scores of Egyptians head to the nation's gardens and parks, where they spend the whole day outdoors picnicking.
Many families visit Giza Zoo, which the children love. Others rush to their
hometowns for family re-unions.
Young Egyptians are also found of hanging out in shopping centres, where they might watch a movie, have a bite to eat or just stroll around. But beware: sometimes they get out of control and start harassing young women.
For another social class of Egyptians, Cairo " despite all its attractions " isn't the place to stay on such an occasion.
“We go to the North Coast or Red Sea for the feast,” says Donia Hendawi, 23, who's been given six days' holiday, starting yesterday; she goes back to work next Sunday.
“In a seaside resort, my family can relax and we barbecue lots of meat,” adds this attractive girl, before driving home from a crowded shopping centre in her expensive car, which is bursting at the seams with bags full of delicious food for her family's trip.
On a special occasion like this, there are many ways to live the experience and enjoy it to the max. It's an opportunity to see Egyptians doing something else for a change, other than working hard for their living; you can see people of every social class simply trying to enjoy their time.


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