It’s the Eid al-Adha holiday here in the UAE, which means – for public sector workers and our children at least – a nine-day holiday, if you count the weekends too.
At Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), Muslims make a special effort to pray and visit the mosque. They also wear new clothes, visit family members and friends, and may sacrifice an animal (a goat or sheep), to commemorate the biblical story of Abraham, who was on the verge of sacrificing his son when God intervened and substituted a ram in the child’s place.
It’s a huge Islamic festival – with days off for the private sector too (three days mid-week) and all the schools out for the whole week. The city has swelled in size, with visitors flocking to Dubai from all over the Gulf and lots of special activities laid on to cater to the crowds. There are fireworks each night down on the beach, the Metro is running until 3am, and, today, the emirate geared up for the start of another 48-hour shopping bonanza.
Coupled with the weather beginning to cool after the long, hot summer, it all makes for an upbeat atmosphere, with a real holiday feel.
Except I haven’t actually felt it yet, because I’ve had to work. My field is publishing, a weekly magazine, that still has to come out, so the editorial staff get days off in lieu (it could be worse, we could be working round-the-clock in retail).
The week began well – no crack-of dawn school start, the easiest drive into work in a long time, and a text message from the RTA promising me free parking all week (sometimes it’s the small things).
By day 2, it was beginning to pall. Leaving the children behind at home was harder than I thought (my DH, who has this movie-star schedule on his airplane, was looking after them); the coffee-stand where I buy my treats for the day had shut; the sandwich lady stopped coming, and then the toilet paper ran out.
The dress code for Eid at work was jeans, so it has felt quite Mufti-style, but with the air-con on arctic, and snow predicted in the office, it’s felt rather odd sitting at my desk feeling cold, while the rest of Dubai heads to the beach.
So, I am grateful to my friend S, for cheering me up today (my last day in the office) and to whom I give my best Eid Facebook post award.
S is an American who I totally respect for the way she’s embracing all the different cultural experiences available to us in this part of the world. Her photo was of a goat hot-hoofing it down the street, having escaped the yard of the family she was lunching with, just as they were getting ready to sacrifice him.
“Two men are running barefoot through the neighbourhood trying to catch our lunch*,” she posted – conjuring up, for me, images of the ‘Tamworth Two’ – the pair of pigs that escaped while being unloaded from a lorry at a British abattoir and were on the run for more than a week. I did wonder, as I looked at the photo, willing the goat to LEG IT.
* To finish the story, the goat was caught, but not eaten for lunch. The family had apparently purchased a truck-full of goats, which were sacrificed to Allah, and the meat was then given to the poor.