Monday, September 22, 2014

Eid is coming ~ and so is commercialisation

Eid al-kabir (also called Eid al-Adha) is one of the two most important Islamic festivals, Eid al-kabir begins on the 10th day of Dhu'l-Hijja, the last month of the Islamic calendar. Lasting for three days, it occurs at the conclusion of the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims all over the world celebrate Eid al-kabir, not simply those undertaking the hajj. Sadly, there are some countries where the character of Eid is changing

The huge sheep souk in Fez

In Morocco Eid is a time for families

Eid in Fez is a festival that brings families together and is centred around the sacrifice of a sheep and the sharing of food. It is a time of joy, celebration and sharing.

However, in some countries, commercial interests have taken Eid as a time to maximise profits and boost local businesses. For years Christians around the world have lamented the commercialisation of festivals such as Christmas and Easter. Now the signs are that Eid may be heading down that path.

In Dubai, the DFRE (Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment), an agency of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, have announced the dates for what they are calling "The Eid in Dubai Festival".

The festival will run for seventeen days and appears to have little to do with the traditional religious festival as we know it.

In Fez and other parts of Morocco the first indications that Eid is coming are the appearance of street sellers offering sheep food and hay and the opening of the large souks selling sheep and goats. Going to the souk and haggling over a sheep is an important moment followed by the struggle to get your sheep home, up the stairs and into your house.

There will be fireworks

It is a different story in Dubai. The Eid in Dubai Festival makes no mention of sheep. It does however promise Eid fireworks on Kite Beach beginning October 2nd and running through until October 11th. In addition they are offering concerts by Australia's Top Ten Tenors and Circo Boom, a comedy circus, who will perform a series of 45 minute shows.

There will be a number of other activities and shows during this period such as the Rotana and Layali concerts, a theatrical performance of Aladdin and a hindi theatrical performance of Ismat Apa Ke Naam.

Children will enjoy the Sesame Street performances and fashion followers can quench their thirst for fashion at the next season of Fashion Forward. The fellows can look forward to the aptly named Big Boys Toys exhibition.

Comedian Wonho Chung and Max Amini bring in the laughs for the season with their very own comedy shows in Dubai.

Laila Suhail, CEO of DFRE, is quite unabashed about the commercialism. "We are delighted to bring to our residents and tourists a distinct agenda of exciting events and activities, in addition to an array of fantastic promotions that are set to further enrich their experiences of Dubai, highlighted by the city's iconic landmarks, leisure and entertainment attractions," she says. She goes on to point out that annual festivals like Eid in Dubai continue to play a pivotal role in strengthening the retail and tourism sectors. It also helps towards remarkable growth in sales at the shopping malls and shopping centres.

Shopping is a big thing in Dubai and during the Eid Festival shoppers can "look forward to a world-class shopping experience with the leading malls and shopping centres extending shopping hours throughout the 17 days of festivities".

Photograph of  sheep on Mt Zalagh by Jearld F Moldenhauer,
courtesy Dar Balmira Gallery, Gzira Fes Medina. 

Meanwhile, back in Morocco, the sheep are getting nervous.

At its heart Eid is a reminder of Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael in obedience to a command from God. The occasion serves as a reminder to all Muslims that they should submit to God and be prepared to sacrifice anything that God wishes. It has little to do with shopping and fireworks.

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