For these UAE expats, Eid is a time to remember homeCulture & Entertainment
- 01 September 2017
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Eid Al Adha, or the Eid of Sacrifice, is often considered the “bigger” Eid, and it begins when haj pilgrims descend from Mount Arafat in Makkah. Four UAE-based expats reveal what Eid is like in their home country.
For 30-year-old Mohammed Ziyaad bin Syed Yusuf Abdul Salam, one of his favourite things about Eid is decorating his home.
“In Singapore, it is almost like a competition to see who has the best decorated house,” he said. “My wife and I try to recreate this tradition for our kids here. We use a lot of Eid decorations around the house and keep them up all through the month. On the day of Eid, we attend the prayers with the Singaporean–Malaysian community at the Malaysia Trade Centre in Dubai and then proceed to a traditional Malay breakfast.”
Reminiscing about how Eid is celebrated in his hometown, he said, “Back in Singapore, Eid is also known as Hari Raya, and it is celebrated for a whole month! We would visit the families of friends or host them at our home.”
“During the visits, the most important thing was the Kuehs. These are special savory snacks that we serve during Eid. Each household has an array of Kuehs which we are proud to serve our guests. Meals on Eid day would put the best of buffets to shame. Dinner is a grand feast, with around 50 to 60 dishes to choose from.”
Maheen Hussainy is a 35-year-old German of Pakistani origin, and for her, celebrations of Eid Al Adha in Germany were quite subdued as compared to Eid Al Fitr.
“Sometimes we would apply for a day off, but many times we would just incorporate the celebration into our work day. We would set something new aside from the few traditional clothes we had and flaunt it happily,” she said. “The men would choose between two timings for the Eid prayers, and then we would feast on a heavy breakfast before proceeding to work. If it was a day off, then we would pay short visits to our family members.”
She says that the occasion of Eid al-Adha often brought with it several debates among her social circles in Germany.
“Animal rights activists would be busy claiming that the Islamic way of slaughtering was very painful to animals. So often there would be long debates in schools, the media and among my own circle of friends. The discussions were not always judgmental, but after a few years they became annoying and repetitive. I still remember the one occasion when we did our animal slaughter in Germany. I was a small child, and we drove miles to a farm that had permission to offer goats to slaughter for Muslims on Eid. We joined a large queue of people who stood waiting for their turn with the Muslim butcher.”
Maheen lives in Dubai with her husband and two children, and this has given her a chance to celebrate Eid with much more gusto.
“As it is a public holiday, the entire family is together, and we maintain the custom of having a heavy breakfast. Apart from that, I also use Eid as an opportunity to teach my children about the history of Eid Al Adha, Prophet Ibrahim, haj and, of course, the central concept of sacrifice.”
It is during Eid that 34-year-old Syrian expat Mohammed misses his home the most. “Eid in Syria is a great occasion. It is like a never-ending festival during which either we visit family or our family visits us. There is a lot of eating, drinking coffee and bingeing on dessert. Eid is when we set aside all our busy lives and come together to gather at homes and socialise. It is a time of great bonding.”
“Here in Dubai, I miss that a lot. I don’t have many family members here. Luckily, I live with my sister, and we do the best as we can to recreate the memories of our home. We usually invite and host a huge breakfast for our friends at home. In the evening we usually visit shopping malls or the beaches and relax.”
Sarah Khan, 33, is quick to say that Eid celebrations at her home in Cape Town, South Africa, are the best.
“The night before Eid, the women of the house spend most of their time preparing delicious food. In our household we were three sisters, my grandmother, and her sister. Each of us just knew what we had to do. My grandmother, who I call Mama, would make freshly baked bread. The most amazing smell would arise from the kitchen, and you could almost taste it. Basically, it would not be Eid if there was none of Mama’s baked bread! Equally important was the sliced corned beef [commonly called sout vleis or salt meat in Cape Town] that she also makes herself.
“This is the main breakfast item on our table when the men and boys return from the mosque, along with fried samosas, buttery pies and sweet tarts made of coconut and jam. We would also have Eid milk, also called boeber, which is a little milk treat made with a mixture of spices. Everything was homemade, including the jam inside the tarts. After Eid prayers, the men would go to the graveyard to offer dua for those who are no longer with us, like my Mom and my grandmother’s sister.”
Sarah recalled her first Eid in Dubai with her husband and son. “I didn’t have many friends here, and Eid was just a small affair as compared to the celebration in Cape Town. I missed home so terribly that I was almost in tears. But as the years passed by and I started making more friends, Eid became a lot happier. Now we host potluck parties and socialise with fellow South Africans here. Now my husband and I have made it a practice to not only give our son Khalid gifts but also exchange Eid gifts ourselves. What I love the most about Eid in Dubai is the fact that it is a public holiday. It makes such a world of difference to not be rushing to work and to spend time with the family.”
The many different cultures and customs colour Eid in very distinctive ways for people of various nationalities. But the underlying intention is the same: to remember the sacrifice that Ibrahim made and to use it as a lesson to promote virtues of piety in Muslims.