SIDON, Lebanon: With Eid al-Adha just days away, residents from across south Lebanon have flocked to the port city of Sidon to buy sweets, meat and clothes to make the celebration extra special. Dozens of mothers gathered in a shop for kids’ clothes Wednesday to buy special Eid outfits for their children. But one young boy, Ghassan, not content with just one outfit, tugged on his mother’s dress, begging her to buy him some more.
Ali Ghaddar, the shop’s owner, had put up a sign offering a 50 percent discount on all clothes to encourage shoppers.
“Normally I slash prices after the holiday season,” he told The Daily Star, “but the economic situation forced me to do it early this year ... I’ve got to pay salaries.”
Mother of four Rima said she came to Ghaddar’s shop because “the prices here suit my husband’s income as a cleaner.”
“We have four children and we’ve got to make sure they’re happy on Eid.”
Dar al-Fatwa, Lebanon’s highest Sunni authority, has announced the first day of the four-day Eid holiday as Sunday, Aug. 11, while the Higher Islamic Shiite Council said it begins Monday, Aug. 12.
On Eid al-Adha, which translates to the Festival of the Sacrifice and marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims traditionally slaughter an animal as a sacrifice, representing the sacrifice Abraham made for his son. The meat is then traditionally divided into three parts: one for the family, one for friends and relatives, and a third as a donation to the poor.
Sidon municipality is inviting the city’s residents to head to the local abattoir to sacrifice their animals for Eid without charge. A vet will even be present to check the animals before they are slain.
Trucks carrying thousands of sheep and cows have been arriving in Sidon in recent days to be sold in the market for Eid, with children flocking to take photos with them, thrilled by the sound of their bleating.
One farmer, Mohammad al-Ahmad, is hoping to sell his mutton for LL7,000 ($4.66) per kilogram, setting up shop on a small plot of land in the south of the Sidon city center.
“I came all the way from the Bekaa Valley to sell my sheep,” he said.
Every year for 32 years, the Islamic Reaaya Association in Sidon has been distributing lamb and mutton to the poorest residents of the city, including Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians and orphans, Ghassan Hanqir, a representative of the organization, told The Daily Star.
“We will collect donations from Sidonians to purchase the sheep, and scouts will stand in the souks to let people know about our Adha project,” he said.
Yasmine, who is originally from Bangladesh but married a Lebanese man, pushed her three kids in a stroller through Sidon’s old souks.
“I came here to buy clothes for my children, because Eid al-Adha is the festival for Muslims and the festival of joy,” she said.
However, despite the hustle and bustle of customers in Sidon, it hasn’t been easy for all the traders.
Ali Salim stood outside his shops calling out to advertise the Lebanese-made sweets and chocolates he has for sale.
“Not many people are buying my sweets at the moment,” he lamented, adding that he hoped “it will improve on the night before Eid,” he added.
Arzeh Yehya, who lives in the village Kfar Kila on the Lebanese-Palestinian border, expressed her dismay at the current political crisis paralyzing the government.
“I hope that the joy of Eid will help the ministers agree with each other and return to Cabinet soon,” she said.
Cabinet has failed to meet for more than five weeks due to a split among ministers over how to handle the fallout from a deadly shootout in Aley that took place on June 30.
Mazen, who sells perfumes in Sidon’s old souks, was more optimistic, despite “the general economic situation in Lebanon that is weak.”
“We’re not dying of hunger, and the smell of perfume always cheers you up,” he added.