Eid Al Adha under lockdown

Story: Gautam Viswanathan

Eid in Oman and the rest of the Middle East is a celebration that varies little between one household and the next.

It is that time of the year when your entire family meets, often at the same home in which many of your relatives grew up together. The air is filled with the aroma of delicious food, as your mothers, sisters and aunts chat among themselves in the kitchen.

The sounds of laughter from the menfolk echo outside, as they prepare the traditional pits for the shuwa. Intermingled into this heady experience is the pitter-patter of tiny feet and delighted squeals from children playing with their cousins as they race up and down the house.

This year, though, Eid will be different. To reduce the spread of infection in Oman, the ongoing lockdown which was ordered by the Supreme Committee to deal with COVID-19, stops people from venturing outside their homes after 7pm, and aims to temporarily halt large-scale gatherings.

T Magazine spoke to Omanis and expatriates who will be celebrating Eid this weekend to ask them about the importance of respecting the measures put in place.

Dad Mohammed Al Balushi: ‘Some are taking the virus very lightly’

This Eid Al Adha, how important is it to respect the lockdown?

The message now is clear: for your own safety, and for the safety of others, stay at home now. Why has the government activated a lockdown now? It is to control the spread of the disease, and to bring down the rate of infection. Otherwise, why would they do this? I am sorry to say this, but there are many people from the communities here that have taken the dangers of this virus very lightly. We have to support each other at this time.

We will be celebrating this Eid just like we did Eid Al Fitr and Ramadan: we plan to be with our family at home, because we cannot go out right now.

What advice would you give to others at a time like this?

I would ask my brothers and sisters in Oman to exercise caution before going out. Just a few weeks ago, I went to Seeb, and the situation there was quite concerning. Our family members live in Al Khoudh and Maabela, but at a time like this, it is best that they do not cause any harm to us, and that we do not harm them.

If you want to keep in touch with people during Eid, then it is very easy to do so right now. You have access to social media, WhatsApp, you can make phone calls, you can greet people through video chatting, so there are many ways to say Eid Mubarak to your family at a time like this. We will not be engaging in any social activities this time.

How do you normally celebrate Eid?

Had this not been the case, we would’ve definitely gone for a picnic, or camped with our family. We would’ve gone to the butchers’ to buy the sacrificial goat and celebrated with our relatives. They are spread out all over the place: in Al Khoud, in Azaiba, in Maabela and in Wadi Hatat, so we would’ve celebrated with all of them.

The first day of Eid is normally celebrated at home. On the second day, we go to see our family, and on the third day, family members come to our home. The celebrations normally last for three days.

Yumna Al Sharji: ‘We miss the simple things we did with friends’

This Eid Al Adha, how important is it to respect the lockdown?

Honestly, we are tired of sitting at home and taking all the steps to avoid getting sick, so please respect the lockdown. We really miss going outside and doing simple things like having a coffee or enjoying a meal with our friends.

I think people who do not respect the lockdown do not feel the virus is dangerous. Maybe they feel that someone who has the coronavirus only has a simple flu, perhaps because one of their family members fell ill and had the symptoms of the disease, but it turned out to only be a sore throat so they think they can underestimate it.

What advice would you give to others at a time like this?

Eid is a time to celebrate with family, but my message to everyone this Eid is, if you love your family, please leave them alone, for your safety and their own.

We are just going to stay at home, just like we did for the last Eid. We will wake up early in the morning and pray with our household members. My brothers and sisters will also stay at their homes, no one will go to meet each other.

This time, though, we will schedule a Zoom meeting to see what everyone is doing and what they have planned.

How do you normally celebrate Eid?

We’d usually go to our village in Sharqiyah. My uncles, my brothers, all of my family members go there, stay together for two days, and then come back to Muscat the day before work resumes.

We normally start with prayers and visits to our family and friends, and they visit our homes and we get ready to welcome them. We prepare traditional foods such as arsiyah, and on the next day, we make shuwa, and all the celebration meals. We cannot go this time, however, so we have not even made any plans in this respect.

Syeda Tabinda Bukhari: ‘COVID-19 has caused personal loss for us’

This Eid Al Adha, how important is it to respect the lockdown?

Unfortunately, we have come to a point where we have had losses of a personal nature at present: my dearest friend lost her father, who was visiting when all this happened and so he was stuck here. The family contracted COVID-19, and he passed away because of this. The people whose families have contracted coronavirus are taking it very seriously.

I think this Eid will also be quite similar to the ones I celebrated growing up because this will be a virtual celebration as well. My husband and daughter are feeling quite differently about this, because this is the first time he won’t be able to see his family for Eid.

My husband is quite put off by it because he is a traditional Omani who enjoys all the festivities of Eid. He enjoys visiting his family and eating food with them. No matter how good the food is at home, he will always look forward to the food made by his mothers and his aunts, so he is a bit down. But my daughter is more understanding because we have explained to her the dangers of the virus.

This Eid, we cannot even perform the traditional sacrifice. We tried to see if there was someone who could come home and slaughter the goat, but that will not be possible this time. We will have many traditional foods this time as well.

What advice would you give to others at a time like this?

There are others who are misinformed or unaware of the seriousness of the lockdown. As human beings, we are quite lazy and tend to put off what needs to be done for later. Maybe we think we can get away just this once with not washing or hands or not wearing a mask because our immunity is stronger, but not doing this on just one occasion is enough to contract the virus and pass it on to someone else.

How do you normally celebrate Eid?

I am a Pakistani born and brought up in Oman, and have married into an Omani family. I’ve been married for 14 years now, and have been celebrating Eid in the local style since then. Normally, we’d go to our elders’ homes and visit them in their wilayat.

Growing up in Oman, Eid was pretty quiet because we don’t have much family here. Our Eid used to consist of making international phone calls to our uncles and aunts and grandparents in Pakistan back home. We used to dress up, pray, have lunch at home, and then go to the park in the evening.

My husband is from a Swahili background, so they eat boko-boko in the morning, along with some cake. My mother in law used to previously bake the cakes, but I bake them now, and I then go see my family in the evenings.

The first thing we prepare is a dish from goat liver, which we will eat with oven-baked bread. We will also have sheer-khurma, which is from my Pakistani heritage, many Arabic sweets, and some mandazi, to reflect my husband’s Swahili heritage. [email protected]