All over the world, followers of Islam are preparing to celebrate Eid Al Adha, the feast of the sacrifice. It is celebrated for 3 days commencing from the 10th day of the month Dua Al Hija, the 12th (last) month in the Islamic calendar. This year it lands on 23rd-25th September in the Gregorian calendar – since the Hijra calendar is lunar based a year typically comprises 354 days which means that key dates advance by 11 days each year.
Dua Al Hija literally means the “month of the pilgrimage” whereupon those followers who can, make their way to Mecca in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj, on the 8th, 9th and 10th days of the month. A local friend once told me that people of her grandparent’s generation would take a whole year to travel by camel from Al Ain to Mecca and back and a family gathering was held before they left to give their prayers and good wishes. The journey was very dangerous and sadly not all the pilgrims returned safely; these days it is easier to do the pilgrimage but flights and accommodation will be quite costly.
Traditionally on the first day of Eid Al Adha an animal is slaughered and shared between the family, friends and those in need. Driving around Al Ain just now you will see innumerable goats and sheep being driven around in pick-up trucks (last year I even saw a sheep being transported in the back of a Land Cruiser) as they are being taken home from market. In Al Ain, it is illegal to slaughter animals at home so tomorrow they will all be taken to municipality slaughterhouses.
The day before Eid Al Ahda is “Arafat Day” and in previous years UAE workers have had this day as a public holiday. A number of months back everyone was keenly anticipating 5 days off including the weekend, but now only 23rd and 24th September are being given, the 25th falling on a Friday which is the first day of the weekend here. One of the best things about being an expat in the UAE is its close proximity to places like Turkey, India, Sri Lanka and the like, and whenever a short holiday you will find many expats set on making the most of their time off – so many people will be heading to AUH and DXB tonight!
Another popular destination is Oman, and judging by the number of hits these last days on my blog post “UAE and Oman border crossings: the lowdown,” there are going to be a great many people crossing the borders tonight and tomorrow morning! Be prepared – when you enter the office take a book and a bottle of water and prepare for a long wait – I normally avoid the borders at Eid but my friends tell me you can expect up to 2-3 hours wait. Hopefully it will be much shorter than that for you! Help yourself by remaining calm and very polite to the officers staffing the borders – while they are processing your visas, they will be missing out on celebrations with their families at home. Make their life a little easier by using paperclips to mark the page where your last Oman visa was as well as the page with your UAE residency and your exit stamp, it will save a little time for you too. Remember to wish them “Eid Mubarak.”
Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim friends and safe journey to all who are travelling!