These are views of Alexandria during one of Islam’s most revered and holy festivals. Together with Eid-al-Fitr (a festival at the end of Ramadan), these feasts represent the completion of two of the five pillars of Islam, through which the devout fulfill their duty and renew their commitment to God.
On Eid-al-Adha the offering of an animal symbolizes the prophet Abraham’s obedience to God and readiness to sacrifice his only son. Today, sacrifice is re-enacted not as a blood offering nor as penance, but in remembrance of Abraham’s submission to God’s will.
Those families that can afford to sacrifice an animal retain one third, give another third to relatives, friends and neighbors and donate the remainder to the poor and needy. Giving to others, an expression of generosity, is one of the pillars of Islam.
Beginning on the 10th day of Dhu’l-Hijja, the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar, sheep and cows and camels fill Alexandria.
Soon streets & sidewalks in the Anfushi market pool with blood.
Butchers prepare racks of ram,
or beef or goat or camel.
Heads, for soup, and later, to be used as cups for drinking.
Husband and wife don their finest garb,
and join those bound for the mosque for special Eid prayers.
At Qaitbay citadel—which stands on the ruins of the ancient Alexandrian lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the Ancient world—tourists snap shots with camera or computer,
and snap again.
Meanwhile, Monty bar at the old Hotel Cecil in downtown Alexandria—where Laurence Durrell, Somerset Maugham and EM Forster once drank—stays resolutely dry.
Freed from school, boys ride carts along the seafront in the afternoon,
or sit, talking;.
still others sell cotton candy.
A woman sits in the sun by the Mediterranean,
men play backgammon,
or wait, with their sons, in smoke-filled corners for roasting meat.
This photo essay first appeared in Numéro Cinq Magazine, in November 2011.