Sunday, December 07, 2008


I heard a story on NPR today about the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha or Festival of Sacrifice. It commemorates the story of Abraham who was commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac to show his faith. At the last minute an angel appears to stop Abraham just as he is about to plunge the knife and commend him for his faith. Instead a ram appears.

In the NPR story the Kabul, Afghanistan bureau chief, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson,
was at the cattle market to buy a calf for her staff. She was discussing how the high price of cattle caused by the war and recent drought has reduced the number of buyers. Most of the cattle sellers will lose their investment on their animals imported from Pakistan.

In West Africa the festival is called Tabaski. It was always a big deal when we lived in Burkina Faso and Senegal. Even the Christians got involved, because in Africa one person's holiday is a good reason to celebrate. I especially remember how an entire family would get new clothes to go to prayers. In many families the mother would be several pagnes (1 meter of cloth) of the same material, so all the children would be dressed the same.

This picture comes from the livestock market in Thies, Senegal. Most of these animals were imported from Mali. Often they would cost as much as a month's salary! Many people joined savings clubs, a lot like the Christmas savings clubs that banks used to offer.

Tabaski is celebrated with the same festive spirit as Christmas. And mouton stuffed with couscous can't be beat.