Top ten most festive cities for the traveller celebrating this Eid
- 07 May 2019
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Though many people will be heading home for the Eid celebration at the end of Ramadan, an increasing number of Muslim travellers prefer to make their Eid a little more special by heading abroad for the festivities. If you are one of them, here are ten cities where you can enjoy an Eid holiday in glorious festive style.
A proper Eid Bayram (national festival) in the former Ottoman capital has to begin with prayers at the Blue Mosque. Follow this with a visit to the Topkapi Palace to marvel at the opulence of the Ottoman sultans and the historic religious relics they amassed, including the staff of Moses and the tooth of the Prophet Muhammad. Then cool off with a walk along the Bosphorus, where you can board a cruise boat or just take in the bracing sea air. Finally, head for the Grand Bazaar to wander the narrow alleyways of one of the world’s largest covered markets (look for an Eid bargain and the imperial sweet, baklava).
Home to a huge North African Muslim community and one of the finest modern mosques in the western hemisphere, the capital of France is an excellent place to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Join the throngs of Muslims first thing in the morning at the Grand Mosque de Paree in the Latin Quarter, then take a walk through its serene gardens that, like the mosque’s architecture, evoke the spirit of Al Andalus. Later, as you head towards the picturesque banks of the Seine, pop into the Institute du Monde Arabe and take in one of its fine exhibitions on the Muslim world. End the day in one of the city’s quintessentially Parisian cafes with a steaming cup of coffee and watch the world go by.
Your Eid will have an East–West feel at this popular Muslim destination. After Eid salah in the city’s Fatimid-style Jumeirah Mosque, head down to the old town near Dubai Creek for a more traditional Eid vibe. Start by cooling off with a cruise on one of the traditional wooden dhows before wandering the narrow streets of the recreated historic quarter and checking out its delightful cafes and boutique restaurants. Before heading back to Dubai’s glitzier neighbourhood for the evening, be sure to check out one of the world’s great Islamic relics at the Crossroads of Civilisations Museum: the world’s oldest surviving kiswa, commissioned by none other than Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
Begin with a prayer alongside hundreds of Londoners out in the open at one of the many “Eid in the Park” salahs that take place across England’s capital. Then head to one of the Muslim neighbourhoods, like Brick Lane, to enjoy delicious festive food and a carnival atmosphere as the men and women around you embrace each other in elaborate and colourful outfits. After having your fill of ethnic Eid treats, make your way to central London for the mayoral Eid festival at Trafalgar Square, where musicians and live performers will keep you entertained late into the night while you indulge in even more halal flavours from around the world.
There’s only one place to start your Hari Raya Adilfitri in Kuala Lumpur: the Moghul-style Masjid Jamek. The mosque sits on the city’s most historic spot, at the confluence of two rivers, where the very first settlers landed. The recent discovery of its ancient steps leading down to the water have now been integrated into the city’s stunning “River of Life”, a feature where fountains dance to a playlist of classical and contemporary music, and classy restaurants line the waterfront. This area really comes alive during the Eid festivities, and there is every chance you could be invited to a Malaysian Eid “open house”, where anyone is welcome to join the celebrations and eat delicious Eid treats like kuih raya (Eid cookies), ketupat (rice cakes) or a mouth-watering rendang (coconut beef curry).
Eid in the former capital of the Fatimid Empire leaves you spoilt for choice for where to pray. Do you go for the revered and prestigious mosque at the famous Al Azhar Institute or do you head for the hallowed grounds of Africa’s first mosque, the Mosque of Amr Ibn al-As? Either way, after the prayer, for atmosphere and history head down to Sha’re El Mo’ez, one of the country’s oldest streets, lined with beautiful buildings and popular with the Eid crowds, or if you fancy a bargain, visit Egypt’s biggest bazaar, Khan al Khalili. Whatever you do, end the day along the Nile corniche, where on an Eid night the whole of Cairo seems to descend for one great big party.
After praying at one of the city’s mosques, like the impressive Islamic Cultural Centre of New York, head down to Washington Heights, Brooklyn, for a bit of history at the Brooklyn Moslem Mosque, the country’s oldest functioning mosque founded by European Muslims in the early 1900s. Then join the city’s huge Muslim community in one of its most colourful neighbourhoods, the South Asian quarter of Jackson Heights, to enjoy delicious fare like sweet jalebis (crispy syrup swirls) or freshly cooked savoury samosas (spiced mincemeat pastries) and to soak up the area’s unique atmosphere.
Dhaka might be the “City of Mosques”, but during Eid, the best place to pray in one of the world’s most densely populated Muslim cities is the open-air National Eidgah. After this, hop on a rickshaw and ask your driver to take you somewhere you can get the best sweets; they always know. After gorging on dark golab jamun (sweet, syrupy balls) and light ras malai (milky sweets with pistachio nuts), visit one of Dhaka’s popular historic sites, like the photogenic colourful Pink Palace, and check out the flamboyant outfits of the Bangladeshis as they pose for their selfies. For late night lighting, atmosphere and street food, make your way to any one of the numerous fairs specially laid on for Eid festivities.
Eid in the “Jerusalem of the West” these days is announced with a cannon blast the night before, just like it was during the Ottoman period. Eid salah just has to be at Sarajevo’s historic Gazi Huzrev Beg mosque. This should be followed up with a wander through the city’s delightful historical quarter, enjoying the local speciality, cebapi (kofte kebab in soft pitta), finished off with baklava and Bosnian coffee. On the second day of Eid, take the time to reflect on those who gave their lives to preserve the Muslim community in this region by joining the remembrance services at one of the martyrs’ cemeteries overlooking the city.
Celebrate the “little Eid” in the narrow streets of the artistic and cultural capital of Morocco, renowned for its mosques and the world’s oldest university at al-Qarawiyyin, where the likes of Ibn Khaldun and the great Jewish scholar Maimonides studied. The attached mosque, deep in the historic medina, is where you want to start your day with the Eid salah. After this, wander the delightful narrow alleys of the medina, grabbing yourself a bargain or two, before heading towards one of the many final resting places of historic saints around town. End the day at a roadside cafe, sipping on mint tea and, maybe, bubbling away on a waterpipe.
Tharik Hussain is a freelance travel writer, journalist and award-winning broadcaster who specialises in Muslim heritage and Muslim travel.
(Writing by Tharik Hussain; Editing by Seban Scaria firstname.lastname@example.org)
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