Its festival time again, this time ‘the Feast of the sacrifice,’ commemorating the time when Abraham didn’t sacrifice his son Isaac (Christian)/Ismail (Islamic) but sacrificed a lamb instead. During this festival families traditionally give meat to the married daughters, no matter how long they have been married. Meat is also given to poorer members of the family by those with more money. Those with more money will kill a sheep and share its meat but for those who cannot afford to do that they will buy meat instead, or a chicken, and give it to another family group.
I have always found this time to be a strange one. Even before I came here I could feel this festival’s energy and I usually had to make a sacrifice of my own at this time, but not intentionally. It just kind of happened.
This year has been no exception. For some reason I find this time to be a very emotional one as does my husband. It brings up many painful childhood experiences for him, of lack and struggle. Today, he went to the Souk to get our vegetables. It is the last souk before Eid, which is on Tuesday next ,and as a result the prices go sky-high. The traders take complete advantage of the festival by charging huge prices for their vegetables, to the point where the poorer people cannot actually afford to buy them.
When Omar went to the souk he was shocked, again, at how high the prices were and how the traders were abusing the festival to make more money for themselves. As he stood at one trader’s pitch, the vegetables piled high in front of him, he overheard a woman and her 6 year old daughter trying to buy tomatoes, one of their staple foods. The woman asked the trader how much the kilo of tomatoes were and he replied ‘6 pounds’. Her daughter, already picking through the tomatoes, which were lesser quality and therefore should be really cheap, didn’t realise that they couldn’t actually afford them. Her mother pulled her up and said to her ‘how can we afford these my daughter?’ and together they left. It breaks Omar’s heart when he hears things like this. We could only afford small quantities for the same reason but when he came back he couldn’t stop thinking about he mother and her girl . He remembers well how difficult it was when he was growing up and they nothing to eat. When they were hungry his mother would often tell them to drink tea, as it would fill them up.
These tradesmen are robbing, cheating, soulless people. They don’t care about whether people can afford their wares or not. So long as they make money it doesn’t matter. So much for God and sacrifice!
In our own home we bought meat for two family members, as one of them has just paid a fortune for his daughter to get married and he still has to provide her with meat, even though she fleeced him over her wedding! His income is now half of what it was and he still has to support a wife and two young sons. Two kilos of meat is a lot of money here and the same money will keep a family for a month in vegetables. These festivals are great for the wealthy but they cause immense pain for those will little money. It reminds me so much of western Christmases. Nobody is really in touch with the real reason for Christmas. They go into debt just to get all the things which they think are necessary, but which aren’t! I remember the stress of it all. It worried me sick for months beforehand and seemed such a waste of money. The only good thing about it was the kids on Christmas day, but my resistance to it probably made it less enjoyable for them.
Here it is equally stressful at festival time. It makes people even poorer as they struggle to give kilos of meat to people who usually have enough already! Its absolutely crazy! Obviously the idea of sacrifice only applies to the poor! The rich are really sacrificing nothing! Much like the original sacrifice of Abraham, which was the change of the custom of human sacrifice to animal sacrifice I think we need to change this one too! The poor should be the ones to receive the gift, not the other way around!