Eid Al-Adha’s Sheep Fest in Egypt

Muslims across Egypt began celebrating the first day of Eid Al Adha this morning. Right after dawn men and women gathered to pray the Eid prayer in the mosque, where the Eid ‘song’ filled the morning air through microphones. After the special Eid prayer, Eid Al-Adha’s Sheep Fest in Egypt began, and people who could afford to began to slaughter their sacrifices to God; usually sheep or bull. Oblivious to their fate, these animals will be on a dinner plate before the day ends.

For the past few weeks herds of sheep have been arriving on the streets of Cairo, where butchers or shepherds set up camp on a pavement or on the side of the road. Butchers usually put a wooden fence around the sheep in front of their shop to prevent them from running off, but shepherds arriving from the country usually keep them on a pavement without a border and the sheep don’t try to escape.

Although Cairo is eerily quiet on Eid, butchers around the city are busy with queues of people waiting for their sheep to be slaughtered. The city is also very busy with beggars arriving from different parts of Egypt, waiting for their portion of meat and money. Luckily for these sheep, the land in front of the butcher’s was spacious enough for them to walk around.

To be honest, it’s hard for me to see animals being slaughtered, however humane it is carried out. But I guess this is the test we must endure, hoping to be obedient to God like Prophet Abraham.

What surprises me is that every part of the bull or sheep is eaten, almost nothing is left to spare! Speaking of bulls and sheep, these two had a bit of a brawl. I will testify that the smaller fellow started the fight first, ramming his horns into the bull. The bull provoked him for several consecutive rounds, however, but because he was tied up, it didn’t get very far.

Most of these sheep liked posing for the camera!

Although many people slaughter their sheep at the butcher’s, many others prefer to slaughter their sacrifice in either their apartment building’s garage or outside their house, hiring a butcher that comes right to the premises. They weigh the animal, and the price is set accordingly.

They’ll either rent a truck to carry their sheep or bull to wherever they’ll slaughter it. I have also seen many people put their sheep in the boot of their car!

After the butcher has completed his work, a portion of the meat is usually given to the poor and needy, while the rest is cooked for the traditional Eid dish Fattah. Those who weren’t able to slaughter a sheep on the first day of Eid do so on the second day. Because most of us have been up since dawn, a little nap is usually in order before gathering with the family in the evening for the Eid dinner, where most people overdose on meat. It’s that kind of day.

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Protests in Cairo: a Daily Occurrence

It has been a week of loud celebrations, thunderous displays of solidarity from military jet planes soaring overhead, and more recently, the angry chants of pro-Morsi protesters not only demanding his return to power but to bring justice to the 51 killed on Monday.

Egyptians are tense. And afraid. The recent split in society is the relatively new territory. Families are divided in their differences of political opinions– a father will make his way to anti-Morsi protests in Tahrir Square while his son will make his way to pro-Morsi protests in Rabaa. It’s now normal to overhear political conversations on the streets, in supermarkets, and in waiting rooms. From being active viewers of the tens of talk shows discussing and dissecting political events, people want to take their turn at talking– and they’ll gladly talk to anyone. From being a politically repressed society for so long, Egyptians are talking politics at every opportunity because of the turmoil the country scene since the 2011 revolution.

This afternoon saw pro-Morsi supporters walk away from the Rabaa intersection where they have been staging their sit-in and demonstrations since before 30 June. The men on the front line held honorary coffins symbolizing those who had been killed in Monday’s deadly clashes between Morsi supporters and the army. Each coffin is labeled with the name of the deceased, with the Egyptian flag resting above the coffin.

While accounts are shady on how the deadly clashes started, or by whom, at the end of the day 51 human lives were taken. In the battle to demonize each side, some are missing that point – that life is sacred, no matter whose side an unarmed person is on. Seeing these coffins pass the street brought a somber mood to bystanders.

Following the coffins, men held their funeral attires in a dramatic display to show they weren’t afraid of dying. These protesters want the sympathy of a public that is glad to see the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi go.

Women and children were also part of today’s protests. These women adamantly believe the president they elected should be returned to power. They chanted, “We are staying for 3 more years!”

Streets across Cairo have had their walls, signposts, and billboards defaced with anti-military graffiti. These pro-Morsi protesters write “Hasbi-Allahu wa Ni’ma Al-Wakil” in Arabic, which translates to Allah is Sufficient for Me, and He is the Best Trustee. Mentioned in the Qur’an, Egyptians like to use this expression when they are in difficulty or under a threat, to seek Divine help and support.

It’s still unclear how things will turn out for Egypt. But for these Morsi supporters, it looks like they’re staying, much to the dismay of residents around the Rabaa intersection.

“I haven’t left my house in 10 days because we’re frightened and it’s impossible to,” complained one elderly woman at a local supermarket as she rushed to stock up on food for the start of the holy month of fasting for Muslims.

“Today is the first day my husband and I left the house because of dwindling food supplies,” she told a group of Egyptians waiting for their turn at the butchers. “No supermarket will dare deliver in our area. They have literally trapped us in our own homes and we are afraid,” she added before using the very same words the pro-Morsi supporters had spray-painted earlier on the walls: “Hasbi Allahu wa ni’ma al-wakil.”

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How Egyptians Celebrate

The mood at the Presidential Palace before the military announcement was festive. Vendors sold tea and even rented out plastic chairs to those who wanted to protest whilst sitting. Those who didn’t want to sit on chairs sat on the sidewalk whilst waving the Egyptian flag. People sipped tea that was sold every few yards while behind them loomed the Presidential Palace where young people pointed their green lasers. Every sort of Egyptian was present; Christians, Muslims, women who wore the hijab, women who wore the niqab — they didn’t necessarily support the president because they practiced these religious symbols — they were at the Presidential Palace demanding his ouster.

During the announcement, the crowds hushed, and then it started. An explosion of cheers, cries, and chants. Although many are skeptical over the military’s position over what Egyptians are calling the second revolution, Egyptians don’t really care about these opinions. Right now they are celebrating 1) the fact that they faced their fears and defied intimidation tactics, especially after 30+ years of submission, 2) in turn millions turned out to protest against the regime 3) which led to the will of the people changing politics in Egypt yet again.

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