Millions of Muslims mark Eid al-Adha amid high prices

MINA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Millions of Muslims around the world, including in countries like Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Kenya and Yemen, celebrated Eid al-Adha, one of the most important holidays in the Islamic calendar, on Saturday.

Known as the “Feast of the Sacrifice,” the revered celebration coincides with the final rites of the annual haj in Saudi Arabia. It is a joyful occasion, for which food is a hallmark. Much of Asia, including Indonesia, India and Pakistan, will observe the holiday on Sunday.

But as Russia’s war in Ukraine sends food prices soaring and causes widespread hardship across the Middle East, many say they can’t afford cattle for ritual slaughter. Desperation over the cost of living has undermined the normally booming Christmas trade in goats, cattle and sheep.

“Everyone wants to sacrifice an animal in the name of Allah, but they can’t because they are poor,” Mohammad Nadir said from a cattle market in Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, where some men were haggling. about bleating sheep.

Eid al-Adha commemorates the Qur’anic story of 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, Abraham is commanded 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. In the al-Shati refugee camp in western Gaza City on Saturday, excited children lined up to receive entrails and trotters, a prized offering for those otherwise unable to buy meat.

In cash-strapped Afghanistan, there is often a rush to buy premium animals before the holidays. But this year, runaway global inflation and the economic devastation following the Taliban takeover have put a purchase of great religious importance beyond the reach of many.

“Last year on this day I sold 40 to 50 head of cattle,” said Mohammad Qassim, an Afghan cattle dealer. “This year, I have only managed to sell two.”

The prices of wheat and meat have multiplied and famine has spread as Russia’s war against Ukraine disrupts agriculture and restricts energy supplies. Soaring costs of animal feed and fertilizer have forced livestock sellers to raise prices.

From Tripoli in war-torn Libya, families are looking forward to the holidays after the last two years of the pandemic and more than a decade of violent chaos. But price tags, up to $2,100 a sheep, had shoppers milling around the dusty market near the palm-lined highway, worried about the big buy.

“Honestly, the prices are crazy,” Sabri al-Hadi said, apparently exasperated.

At a cattle market in the blockaded Gaza Strip, there were hardly any buyers. Vendors said the price of sheep feed has quadrupled in recent weeks.

“Our life is full of loss,” said Abu Mustafa, a sheep seller in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, who has long suffered from widespread unemployment and poverty.

On the streets of Ramallah in the West Bank, Palestinian families were cutting out other components of the party, usually a large number of dishes, from offal to kaak to festive maamoul cookies.

“On days like these, there was a demand for fruit, sweets and nuts too, but as you can see… no one is willing to buy now,” complained fruit seller Baligh Hamdi.

But lavish feast or not, there were communal prayers, a welcome sight in much of the world after years of coronavirus-related restrictions. Worshipers thronged mosques across the Middle East and North Africa on Saturday.

From Kenya to Russia to Egypt, throngs of worshipers prayed shoulder to shoulder, foot to foot.

“I feel very happy that all these people have come to pray,” Sahar Mohamed said in Cairo, smiling broadly. “There is love and acceptance between people.”

In Saudi Arabia, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims got up at dawn to trek to Mina, a wide valley surrounded by arid mountains where the Prophet Mohammed stopped en route some 1,400 years ago. One million Muslims from around the world flocked this week to the holy city of Mecca, the largest pilgrimage from the the pandemic altered the event.

In the multi-storey Jamarat Complex, pilgrims carried out the symbolic stoning of the devil, remembering 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, which take place every year during these five intense days.

Pilgrims threw pebbles at three large pillars that mark the places where the devil tried to interrupt Ibrahim’s sacrifice.

It is the most dangerous point of the hajj, with crowds coming and going. In 2015, thousands of pilgrims were crushed to death by growing crowds. The Saudi government never gave a final death toll. In the years since then, authorities have improved access with wider streets, electronic gates and a high-speed rail link.

All Muslims who are physically and financially capable of completing the spiritual journey are supposed to do so at least once in their lifetime. Saudi Arabia kept limits to curb the spread of the virus this year, with a COVID-19 vaccination mandate and assistance less than half pre-pandemic quotas.

Still, the scenes were a significant step closer to normal. The famous crowds packed the holy places, abandoning masks and security measures.

At the end of the pilgrimage, one of the key pillars of Islam, men are expected to shave their heads and women to cut off a lock of hair as a sign of renewal.

They will return to Mecca 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 with family.

“We feel very proud,” said Indian pilgrim Izhar Anjoom, who was stoning the devil in Mina. “We are having a lot of fun because today is Eid.”


DeBre reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press journalists Jelal Hassan in Ramallah, West Bank; Akram fares in Gaza City, Gaza Strip; Kawa Besharat in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan and Mohamed Wagdy in Cairo contributed to this report.


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