For the first time since venturing into Lahore three months ago, I’ve now ventured out. We have had the last three days off work for Eid al-Adha, also known as the “Festival of Sacrifice” or “Greater Eid”. Please forgive my cultural insensitivity, but I can’t help but compare this festival to the North American Thanksgiving, despite the list of commonalities between the two being quite short. I suppose they’re both about giving, they happen when the summer breaks into the cool of autumn and in both cases it’s a family celebration based on consuming large amounts of meat. In North America this meat is turkey (mmm…how I miss you turkey!), in Pakistan it’s mostly freshly slaughtered goat and cow.
Eid al-Adha finds it’s roots in the biblical story of Ibrahim, who (in my short and sweet version) was asked to sacrifice his son to show total obedience and submission to god. As a reward, he was given a sheep to kill instead of his son. Phew eh? Families now kill animals on these three days of sacrifice, keeping 1/3 of the meat for themselves, giving 1/3 to other family members and graciously giving 1/3 away to those in need. In Pakistan alone, nearly 10 million animals are sacrificed in this 3 day period! I don’t doubt that number in the slightest because the expression, “The streets will run red with blood” was observed and duly noted! With the mention of Eid al-Adha, I will now forever visualize…families sorting the entrails of animals on the sunlight flat rooftops, children dragging skins tied below their chins and trailing behind their feet like capes and collection trucks of goat heads.
I had conversations with my students today about their Eid al-Adha holiday. Some of them helped with the slitting of throats and skinning of hides and others hid their eyes behind their cousins hands. Most of them sacrificed 1 or 2 goats but a couple boasted numbers up to 20 with several cows thrown in. It’s a blood bath truly but it all gets eaten. And in a country where too many bellies are empty at the end of each day this act of generosity does go a long way.
For my Eid al-Adha, I took a 4 day tour of the areas North of Lahore. This included Taxila with it’s Buddhist ruins, Abbottabad with it’s reputation of Osama bin Laden’s hiding place, and Murree with it’s scenic hills. I have to say that Pakistan is stunningly beautiful and I feel lucky to be experiencing it in all it’s ‘travel advisory’ glory. Political instability definitely discourages tourists and what’s left behind feels truly authentic. The hill country finally gave me the season change I’ve been craving. Who makes pumpkin soup when their kitchen is over 30 degrees? This one does! Obviously autumn has been calling my name. So to bundle up in layers, breath in crisp mountain air and watch blazing red sunsets kiss the horizon was satisfying and peaceful. See for yourself!