This time of year marks one of Islam’s most sacred holidays, Eid al-Adha. The four-day holiday corresponds with the height of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which draws two million Muslim pilgrims a year.
Eid began Friday and will end Monday, the last day of the Hajj. When traveling in Palestinian cities, I have always marveled at the street art communities make to welcome pilgrims home.
Eid al-Adha is also known as the Holiday of Sacrifice, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the Major Festival, the Greater Eid and Bakrid.
Fires, ritual animal slaughter (and sharing that meat with the poor), and feasts are among the cherished celebratory customs.
There is a growing awareness that customs in some areas of the Middle East, such as making bonfires by burning trash and tires, can harm the environment. Dr. Hammoud al-Awdi, a sociologist at Sanaa University in Yemen, recently told Al-Shorfa:
“This custom [burning trash] might harm the environment. But it comes from the countryside, where children would collect firewood and place it in piles to burn on the eve of Eid.”
Many Muslims around the world are proactively engaging the ancient traditions in new ways, seeking to revive more sustainable, traditional practices and create new environmentally conscious ways to celebrate.
For many families in the Middle East, this year’s holiday has been marked by fear and bloodshed. In Syria, innocent civilians were killed near a children’s playground in Daf al-Shok, a Sunni residential neighborhood in southern Damascus. And al-Awdi said that public fear is also tangible in Yemen’s capital.
To celebrate, he said people stroll in the city’s gardens, or take quick trips, but are careful to return home before dark.
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Image of pilgrims in Mecca via AHMAD FAIZAL YAHYA, Shutterstock