For the past few days, Dhaka has been buzzing with energy in preparation for Eid al Adha, the second-most important religious festival on the Muslim calendar. I’ve observed a festive air of anticipation that I haven’t witnessed before…and I like it! Businesses are decked out with flashing, multicolored lights, locals are smiling, markets are bustling with folks buying Eid-like groceries and Bengali music is blasting from cars even louder than normal. Local mosques have been decorated and I have been the recipient of oodles of cheerful “Eid Mubarak’s” from random strangers on the street.
Then there are the cows. And goats. Lots and lots of cows. And goats. (By the way, in case you didn’t catch my drift, there are cows. Many, many, many cows.)
Eid al Adha is designed to celebrate Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his firstborn son Ishmael (The Quran and Old Testament give very different accounts of this event). According to Islamic tradition, Allah commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice his thirteen-year old son Ishmael and, after Ishmael agreed to the sacrifice, when Ibrahim slashed his son’s throat, Allah miraculously substituted a ram for Ishmael. An astonished Ibrahim opened his eyes to see that he had slaughtered a ram instead of his son. He had passed Allah’s test and had proved his willingness to sacrifice that which was most important to him, his firstborn son, in submission to Allah’s will. To commemorate Ibrahim’s obedience and to symbolically indicate their own submission to Allah, Muslims around the world slaughter animals (cows, camels, goats, sheep etc.) on Eid al Adha. And so ends our Islamic theology lesson.
In Bangladesh, they slaughter cows. Lots and lots of cows. Cows have been pouring into Dhaka by the thousands and they are hanging out, tied up in front of houses, hotels and businesses. They block traffic (I was almost pushed into a bull while riding my bike the other day), “moo” sadly and incessantly through the night (and I must confess, last night, my true depravity came to light when I found myself taking comfort in the fact that these sleep-disrupting bovines would soon have their throats slit!) and poop everywhere. On the whole, adding millions of cattle to an already overcrowded, overpopulated and over-polluted city is probably not a good idea!
Tomorrow all of the cows that have flooded the city will be sacrificed. It will be a massacre of epic proportions and I must admit I am somewhat excited to witness it! (I’m unsure if this is healthy or not. Danielle thinks it‘s not. I feel like a bit of healthy curiosity won’t hurt me…but curiosity has historically killed more than a few cats!) My plan is to bike around our neighborhood, observe and document the sacrificial process tomorrow. I’ll report back after that experience tomorrow and relay some photos and thoughts!