For the next 6 months, I’m living in an Islamic country, where over 90% of the population in Muslim. Although some population of the country is Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist, the large majority of Muslim people means that most holidays, food, etc. caters to the Muslim religion.
All gates in the city have been decorated with these pointed shapes in a variety of colours (the city is filled with gates, one at the entrance to each community or neighbourhood), and “Eid Mubarak” is the common greeting during the week (as seen in the sign at a local store).
According to Wikipedia, Eid al-Adha (although it is known by different names in different languages/regions) is the second of two major Muslim festivals, and is observed on different dates each year according to the lunar calendar. The holiday is also known as “Feast of the Sacrifice”, and involves large gatherings of family and neighbours; giving to charity (especially feeding the impoverished); religious ceremonies and prayer; giving gifts; large meals or feast; wearing new clothes; and sacrificing animals. The animals are sacrificed in “commemoration of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his young first-born and only son in obedience of a command from God”, as told in the Quran. “Eid Mubarak” is the greeting that you use to communicate well wishes during the Eid period, and small gifts are given out to children.
Later this week is Eid, which is a large festival in Bangladesh. Many people leave the large cities and travel to their home towns and villages. Apparently Dhaka feels deserted, with empty, quiet streets. This seems like a strange idea to me. Apparently, all of the buses and trains out of Dhaka were fully booked weeks ago. There must be some way to still get tickets though, as I saw footage on the news this morning of hundreds of people lined up at the bus station hoping to get a ticket to visit their relatives during Eid.
Depending on where you work, and where your home town is, you might not have time to live the city. Many people I talked to who make less money only get a day or 2 off and won’t be able to travel during that period (which makes me a bit sad).
Another part of Eid is the sacrifices… animal sacrifices. For weeks I’ve seen holes being dug in the streets of every neighbourhood. I figured they were for sewage, or power lines… but I was wrong. These holes in the street, I’ve been told, are for cows blood… so the blood doesn’t just fill up in the streets. Wow! Since I arrived I’ve seen more and more cows (along with goats and sheep) making their way into the city. Some are being led down the side of the road, while most arrive on the back of giant trucks. Once the cows are sacrificed, they are divided into 3 pieces. One piece stays with the family, the second piece goes to friends and neighbours, and the third piece goes to feed the hungry (donated to charity).
The cows here look different (with a big hump on their back), but they’re just as large as those you would picture in North America. Now I’ve seen hundreds of cows… and that’s only in the 2 hours on my way to/from work, and only in Dhaka, and only in one small area of the city. Based on extrapolations, I’m guessing millions of cows are going to be killed this week in Bangladesh! Over 100 million animals are killed worldwide during this festival every year.
Some cows are adorned with “necklaces” and decorations on their horns for the occasion.
This is why I’m happy to say that I will not be in Dhaka during the festivals (although I’m sure it would be quite an eye-opening experience). I have about 5 days off work (when the office will be closed). Sharna will be going to visit her relatives, and my Bangla is still very poor (her relatives don’t speak English). Therefore, I decided to take the opportunity to see another part of the country. I’ll be going to the Sundarbans, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a large mangrove forest with lots of animals, and I’ll be travelling around by boat. Since I didn’t want to go on my own, I looked up a tour company and will be travelling with about 20 other people. I’m really excited. So I might not be in contact for the next 5 days or so…
Stay tuned next week for stories and pictures from my trip!
P.S. Sharna and I have been on the look-out for cows for the last 2 days, so we could get some great photos (very difficult in a moving vehicle!). Our coworkers now point out cows for us and they probably think we’re ridiculous… Let me know if you want to see 100 blurry pictures of cows one day. 😉