Eid and the cold

sheep for sale before Eid

What a difference a month makes in the desert. Not many posts ago I was complaining about sweat dripping off me as I typed. Now I am sitting in a wool sweater and ugg boots as the house is cold, although outside it is a beautiful 27 degrees.

Days are shorter, I get up two hours later and sleep much better and there is now a blanket on the bed instead of the mattress being hot and the sheets wet with sweat. By 5pm the outside air is cool; no more going swimming or just into town after 3pm without taking another layer to keep warm, in case you do not walk home before the sun is gone. Carrying socks is also now essential, not only for the chill but because the mosquitoes are back in force. Last night I counted 8 little monsters trying to bite me as I lay in bed, because Habibi had pulled the mossie net down when she was trying to catch them (they drive her crazy too), so today I have to secure the net as it is impossible to sleep when you are being feasted on.

Siwa had busloads of tourists during the four days of Eid, and the restaurants and cafes were busy for the first time since last winter and before the Revolution. It was a hopeful sight, as so many people here are reliant on income from tourism. People were also happy simply because of Eid.

Eid al Adha is the Feast or Festival of Sacrifice, and sheep are killed by each family to commemorate the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son Ishmael (Isma’il) to show his willingness to obey a command from God. It seems God was in one of his more benevolent moods and stopped the drama at the last moment, and a sheep was sacrificed instead. As with the shorter Eid held at the end of Ramadan, everyone assures they are clean (the barbers do a good trade and even the men normally careful of their appearance suddenly look really dapper), and they wear new clothes or their best clothes, and of course prayers and attending mosque are an essential part of the celebrations.

T. and I were invited to eat Eid lunch with neighbor A and his family. The evening before, A and his daughter called me in to see the (then still alive and kicking) sheep he had brought home on the donkey cart. Mid morning of the first day of Eid, A. brought in to us a plate of stewed lamb with large pancake-like bread to eat it with. For lunch (on the second day) T ate in one room with A, because T is not allowed to see A’s wife (or any of the Siwan women), while I joined A’s wife and the three girls in another room to eat. Delicious food as always, M is a very good cook (and has the beautiful plump figure to prove it – I feel like I am hugging a big pillow when she gives me a hug in greeting). As always it felt special to be included in a family celebration, and this was my first “day off” for a long time.

Days later, I am seeing horns from the many sheep scattered among the rubbish piles. Many people in Egypt rarely eat meat, as it is relatively expensive here, or only eat cheaper meats, so the Eid lamb is a real treat for them, as it was for me because I also don’t eat meat often now.

I have been slack about posting lately, simply because life has been full of work chasing and everyday details, but stay tuned and I promise to update with some more interesting moments soon…

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