Religion

Middle East marks Eid al-Adha with masks, without prayers

Cairo, Jul 31 (efe-epa).- Muslims across the Middle East on Friday were celebrating Eid al-Adha amid heavy restrictions and bans on gatherings due to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Feast of the Sacrifice”, the holiest Islamic holiday, honors the prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his first born son, Ismael, at the command of God. Animals, often sheep, are sacrificed to pay tribute to the event.

As was the case a month ago during Eid al-Fitr, the festival which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, group prayer sessions and gatherings at mosques have been banned to contain the spread of Covid-19, depriving the faithful across the region of the most significant religious rite of the four-day holiday.

In Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and in the Gulf, Muslims were barred from mosques at dawn on Friday to perform the traditional Eid al-Adha prayer, which normally brings together large numbers of people in temples, squares and streets.

In Jordan, which imposed some of the world’s most severe anti-Covid measures in March, authorities have allowed men to pray together in mosques or in the open air, as long as they maintain social distancing and take the appropriate preventive measures.

Iraq is the only country in the Middle East that will celebrate Eid al-Adha in confinement, as the country has been under curfew since Thursday due to the increase in infections and deaths in recent weeks.

Despite the restrictions and the warnings from national authorities across the region as well as the World Health Organization to take extreme hygiene measures during the sacrificial slaughter of animals, those who have been able to afford it have not wanted to give up sacrificing a head of cattle

In the Egyptian capital, sacrifices of lambs, goats and even cows have gone ahead as normal, without many preventive measures in place, although crowds were noticeably smaller due to generally tighter purse strings and fears of infection.

Authorities tried to discourage Egyptians from carrying out the slaughter on public streets, as is traditional, and instead use butchers.

Those appeals fell on deaf ears in Cairo’s working class neighborhoods, where the streets were red with blood, just like in previous years.

In Dubai, however, the slaughter went online and were more organized this year: through a variety of apps, the faithful were able to reserve visits to butchers or ask for the meat to be delivered to their homes, without having to get their hands dirty.

The spokesperson for Dubai city council, Mona al Zahi, told Efe that there were long lines at the butcher and that more than 200 volunteers were helping out: “Normally we can sacrifice some 500 animals per hour but due to the restrictions it takes longer” this year.

In Lebanon, the severe economic crisis gripping the country, with the local currency in free fall in recent months, only a few can afford to buy a lamb, at the exorbitant cost of 300 US dollars due to the rampant inflation.

“We cannot buy meat or much fruit like we used to; we buy two or three bananas, for example, and share them,” a 47-year-old mother of three named Fatima, told Efe. EFE-EPA

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