Celebrating Eid al-Fitr, even if worries abound
Beirut - As the holy month of Ramadan drew to a close, Muslims around the world celebrated Eid al-Fitr, a festival marking the end of the month-long fast. In the Middle East, where a 3-day holiday was observed, people looked forward to enjoying the Eid, despite the crises, conflicts and economic strains facing the region.
Attending early morning prayers at the mosque on the first day of Eid, gathering with family for the Eid meal, enjoying food and sweets, exchanging visits and well wishes and visiting the graves of deceased relatives are common traditions in the Arab world.
In Iraq, the prospect of the Islamic State’s defeat is a source of content, though apprehension of terror attacks during Eid festivities remains.
“We are used to welcoming Eid with joy and hope, despite the gloom in which we have been living for years. My siblings and I have been preparing for Eid for the past ten days, buying new clothes and preparing sweets, especially the Kulleija, which is a deep-rooted tradition in Iraq,” said university student Meiss Ahmad.
Sami Abdallah, the father of three, is more cautious.
“I believe most Iraqi families will be vigilant. Terrorists make no difference between children, families or adults. We are all targets for them especially in such occasions but this will not stop me from meeting my kids’ wishes for Eid,” Abdallah said, hoping that the Islamic State and terror would be part of Iraq’s “painful past” come Eid next year.
For Egyptians, Eid is synonymous with new clothes, good food, outings, travel and even marriage. Nonetheless, inflation and hikes in commodity prices stopped millions from indulging in many traditions.
Some defied discouragement by resorting to second-hand clothing markets, sticking to the basics or reducing amounts, especially when it came to food and special Eid cookies.
“Clothes prices are very expensive,” said housewife Fayza Salem. “They are almost double last year’s prices. The problem is that as commodity prices keep increasing, salaries remain the same.”
Nonetheless, the feast was special in Egypt, which is more politically stable this year despite economic hardships.
The Nile River is a magnet for hundreds of thousands of people nationwide. Felucca rides out into the serene waters of the Nile and dancing to the tune of Arabic and pop music are among people’s favourite activities.
Street decorations and ornaments adorning shops and houses propagate a sense of joy and optimism heralding the upcoming festivities in Amman. But for many Jordanians, the meaning of Eid entails much more than having fun and indulging in sweets and special food.
“Eid al-Fitr has always been a wonderful time to enjoy but we should not forget that there are thousands of Muslim refugees who are missing out on Eid in their own countries and I believe that we, as Jordanians, have a responsibility towards them,” said businessman Tareq Absi.
“As a family, we have been doing our part in helping Syrian families who have become our friends now and we thank God that we are able to bring some joy and smiles to their kids,” he added.
Visiting cemeteries to pray for deceased family members is a tradition on the first day of Eid in Jordan. Absi said: “Eid should be for the living and for remembering the good memories of those who passed away.”
Emirati banker Nabila Abdulla said Eid is “the time to be grateful to God for the strength given for fasting with patience and discipline, a time for forgiveness.”
“It is also a time for all families to get close and children to dress up. In the UAE and Gulf in particular, children visit their grandparents after the morning prayer to get their blessings and line up together in front of all parents, uncles and aunts for their ‘Eidia’ (a token sum of money as well as gifts),” Abdulla added.
Special entertainment programmes are organised for Eid, including traditional dances and music concerts by famous Arab artists and activities for children in malls and amusement parks.
Beirut’s normally traffic-jammed streets were almost deserted during Eid, as many flocked to their native villages to celebrate with family and friends. Others sought the freshness of mountain retreats or beach resorts.
Many concerts and festivals in Lebanon kicked off on the second day of the Eid holiday to celebrate the end of the fast and the beginning of summer.