Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Eid al Adha (Jan. 10th)

Today was the Eid el Adha, or the feast of sacrifice. Apparently it’s the “greater” feast but actually less celebrated than the Eid el Fitr, which is at the end of Ramadan. The Eid el Adha remembers Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice is son to Allah, and it is celebrated on the last days of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. (There are about 2 million Muslims on pilgrimage right now.) Before the feast is the prayer at Mt. Arafat, then the symbolic stoning of Satan by throwing pebbles at a certain monument. The next act is the sacrifice. In a sense, those participating in the sacrifice are participating in the pilgrimage of those in Mecca. “As you are able,” each family is expected to sacrifice a sheep. However, at roughly Le 900 for each sheep, most individual families cannot afford the sheep. With whatever is purchased, 1/3 of the meat should be given to the poor, 1/3 given to friends, and 1/3 is left for one’s family to enjoy. It is common that on such festival days Muslims take great concern that the poor are taken care of, as it is one of the five pillars of Islam. (See end of entry for a quick review of Islam.)

The Eid lasts all week, so all eight of us volunteers are on holiday from work. While some of our group is traveling around Egypt, taking cruises down the Nile, or going to Beirut, a few of us are still here to participate in the once-in-a-lifetime (for me, anyhow) witnessing of the sheep sacrifice. Jennifer, Stephen, John (Stephen’s friend), Andrew, Erin (Jen’s visitor), and I woke up at 4:00am this morning to walk through the dark streets towards the seminary to meet with a group of students and professors from Luther Seminary. Even though Cairo is the city that never sleeps, I was a bit surprised at how many people were awake at 4:30am. I saw a number of convenience-type stores, juices stands, and automobile stores open. A 24-hour internet café was half full of Egyptian men playing video games. For the next three hours we wandered around Abbasayya, watching Muslim families stream out of Mosques before sunrise (the men in front, followed by women and children 10 paces back). A bit later we were invited into a side street where we could sit and drink tea before the slaughtering began.

By 8:00am we had witnessed the sacrifice of three large sheep. It was a family event, especially for the males. The young boys would drag the sheep by their front legs to a back alley where they helped the older brothers slit the sheep’s throat. The sheep would thrash around, squirting blood all over the ground, until their eyes rolled back into their head and they were pronounced dead. The older boys would cut a hole into a leg of each animal and start blowing into the carcass until the animal was poofy like a big balloon. This was to separate the skin from the rest of the animal, making it easier to remove. Meanwhile the young boys and girls place their tiny hands into the pool of blood forming on the street and make hand print marks on the doors and walls of the closest buildings. (Think Passover.) We stayed long enough to see the men starting to cut the animals open and separate the body parts. As Stephen and John stayed behind to watch, we later found out there was a room were useless pieces of carcass were tossed for the time being (such as the head), while the rest of the meat was continually divided out and would later be given to friends and the needy.

A quick review of Islam: The Koran, the Muslim Holy book, contains 114 Suras (chapters). The year 622AD is the Hajira, or the year of the beginning of the Muslim calendar. There are three main parts to the religion. 1. Islam (submission to God). “The things Muslims do.” This includes the 5 pillars of Islam: the profession of faith in Allah [God], praying five times a day, the paying of alms [usually 2.5% of your income to the poor], fasting from eating, drinking, and satisfying sexual needs from dawn until dusk during month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and the pilgrimage to Mecca during the month of Zul Hijjah.
2. Iman (faith). “The things Muslims believe” (Gods, angels, decree of good and evil, books, messengers/apostles, last day) 3. Ihsan (best behavior). “Doing what is beautiful to God.”


  • At 1/11/2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's Luther Seminary, not Lutheran. Mafish mushkayla. I can let it slide, since it is the bastion of Lutheran learning...

    Yum, lamb...

  • At 1/11/2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I enjoyed the pic of Megan. :) Great post--it's great to hear what she's doing. Adam

  • At 1/12/2006, Blogger Sarah said…

    Thanks anonymous, I changed it to Luther! Nice catch. Is this Laura?

    Adam, yeah, Megan is beautiful!


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