The Absence of Happiness: This Year’s Eid al-Adha

National Yemen

Men feel responsibility to visit their female relatives in Yemen costumes

By NY Staff

Eid al-Adha is one of the two most important Islamic festivals, which begins on the 10th day of Dhu’l-Hijja, the last month of the Islamic calendar. Yemen like all other Arab and Muslim countries worldwide celebrates Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice on November 6th this year. All families in this area will mark the occasion by a sacrificial killing of sheep, goats and cows. In some areas in Yemen, such as Marib, Al Jawf, and Tehama, will sacrifice camels.

In Yemen however, Eid al-Adha  falls on difficult times this year as  the majority families lack the financial means to buy animals that define the festivities of the holiday.

Eid Al-Adha commemorates Prophet Abraham’s willingness to obey God when he was instructed to sacrifice a ram in place of his son. As a result, Muslims observe this day by slaughtering an animal (usually a sheep) and then offering much of its meat in charity to poor people.

The sacrifice symbolizes obedience to Allah and its distribution to others is an expression of generosity, one of the five pillars of Islam and it lasts for three days, which occurs at the conclusion of the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.

Yemenis have begun to grow frustrated at the misunderstanding of the real concept of Eid Al-Adha. Instead of serving as a holiday to celebrate family, friends and happiness, it has been connected to modern consumerism. As a result, families spend much more on what some perceive as unnecessary goods in such a weak economy such as large sacrificial animals, clothes, sweets, and other items.  The increase in demand pushes prices higher, pricing many items out of reach for the unemployed.

According to some supervisors at animal markets in Sana’a, they agree that the animals are available in plenty types, but the buyers do not have finances to buy them due to the political problems and dramatic increases in the price of sacrificial animals.  For example the goat that cost $60 in last year price now costs $140. The price of Ox which was $650 is now over $1110. Because of these prices, many sellers do not expect to sell very well.  The owner of Akal in Souq Nogam, Mohamed Al-Akhram said “the shortage of the local sources has doubled their prices three times.”  Yemen needs over 57 thousand goats, sheep, cows and other animals to fulfill the needs of the population.

Jar Allah Ahmed, a Yemeni citizen and government employee, said that it is the first time in his life that he won’t be able to buy meat for his family this Eid. Nor will he be able to buy new clothes for his kids or even school fees. Ahmed asked, “How can I bear the costs for the Eid expenses that seemingly never end? My salary does not exceed $200 and half of it is for rent and water. Don’t even ask me about electricity because we do not have electricity any more. Ahmed is only one of millions of Yemenis struggling with the same dilemma.

The effect of high prices is also taking the toll on Yemen’s health. The World Food Program says that even before this year’s political unrest, “more than 50 percent of Yemeni children were chronically malnourished and more than 13 percent were acutely malnourished.”

This year’s chaos in Yemen has made it much harder for these children to gain access to needed foods. Lack of nutrition for children stunts physical and mental growth.

Hundreds of charity organizations are working hard in the towns and villages by providing poor families with meat and clothes for some of their children. However, many wonder if this aid will be enough. Nasser Al-Haimi, a charity food recipient is one Yemeni is not able to afford the existing food prices.  This year he wonders how the associations will be able to continue their work as the majority of their funds come from businessmen and mosque donations.

If charities fall short of their needed donations, and if the economy fails to improve, the Eid will be a struggle for many Yemenis throughout the country.