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Jeddah Expatriates celebrate Eid-Ul-Azha with traditional fervor

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By Rohail Khan

According to the latest figures from Saudi authorities, approximately 1.985 million pilgrims performed Hajj this year, 97% coming from abroad. Thanks to rigorous development works in process, the pilgrims experienced substantial improvements this year. Specially constructed two-storey “mutaaf”, around the Holy Ka’ba, provided extra comfort to the handicapped and privileged. The Safa-Marwa passage presented new renovated looks. Two expanded air-conditioned floors, recently completed, now easily allow 200,000 pilgrims per hour to perform “sayee” swiftly.

State-of-the-art Mina-Arafat train and the “walking tracks” have provided discipline, safety, and peace of mind to thousands of pilgrims commuting to and fro Mina. Indeed, the exemplary development works, being carried out under the direction of Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, are being commended world wide.

Like very year, Expatriates living in Jeddah celebrated a festive Eid Al-Azha. Saudi Arabia’s western region inhabitants include one and half million expatriates mostly hailing from India, Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Yemen working and living in Metro Jeddah and neighbourly cities of Rabigh, Yanbu, Taif, Makkah and Medinah.

Each and every aspect of Eid celebrations in Jeddah is traditionally similar to back home.

No need for being home-sick. We have every thing in Jeddah “to cure your nostalgia”.
 This time, half of the expatriates have travelled abroad while the remainder have chosen to spend the week-long Hajj and Eid holidays in Jeddah. Adhering to the Government advice, few expatriates went for Hajj in order to accommodate the incoming pilgrims from abroad.

Except for the Eid day, most malls and commercial centres were jam packed. The long hot summer having recently ended, Jeddawis can now enjoy the tranquilising sea breeze in the evenings.

Since last week, families shopped during the day and spent the evenings by the Corniche – Jeddah’s 40 kilometre sea side. Jeddah proudly boasts the world’s highest fountain at the Corniche (opposite Hotel Inter-continental). Yes, we have the honour. Jeddah fountain is higher then the Geneva lake fountain. The nearby Jeddah Marina is an upcoming venue for open-air exhibitions and fire cracker shows by the sea.
For most expatriates, this year’s favourite places for home shopping were malls like: Al-Andalus, Al-Salam, Haifa, Roshana, Tahlia, and Mall of Arabia. All the Carrefours and Pandas saw more shoppers this year, adamant to do the groceries till late night. Newcomers to Jeddah spent their time at the famous Ikea departmental store - looking around for furniture and fixtures for their new homes.

For Pakistani and Indian expatriates, the famous “desi outlets” in Al-Aziziyah showed extraordinary exuberance during the Eid Al-Adha season. Al-Aziziyah is a modern residential-cum-commercial district in Central Jeddah catering for everything that a Pakistani or Indian can demand.

South Hall in London, Queens in New York, Devon in Chicago, Artesia in Los Angeles, Dundas in Toronto - are “Desi Areas” for South Asians. In Jeddah, we have “AZIZIYAH” where you can find everything you may ever need for the Eid season. Whether you hail from Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad or belong to Dehli, Bombay, or Hyderabad - Jeddah’s Aziziyah district is a good substitute .

This week in Aziziyah, fancy showrooms were found filled with traditional apparels and accessories freshly imported for both genders. Beauty salons worked day and night and minted extra bucks. Mini-markets, grocery shops, confectionary houses, and Mughlai restaurants saw more people this year.

In Jeddah, we have more than fifty Eidgahs (stadiums, grounds, mosques). Expatriates from Pakistan and India normally attend Eid congregations in Aziziyah, Rehab, Safa, Ashrafiyah, Baghdadiyah, Salama, and Rowdah neighbourhoods.

Like every year, the Eid prayer and the khutba was conducted promptly after sunrise.

Afterwards, most families visited each other’s homes. People exchanged Eid greetings and treated their guests with delicious sheer khorma, kachoris, kababs, gulab jamun, and mangoes.

The obligatory duty of sacrificing a goat or lamb was performed round the day. After the zoher prayers, most folks arranged “desi brunch”. Favourite dishes were Sheesh Tau, Nihari, and Biryani. The next best thing for most was Siesta (qelula) in the afternoon.

In Jeddah, just like back home, the Eid season and festivities continue for three days.

Two days before Eid Al-Azha, the elders were duly alerted by children to purchase sacrificial goats to meet the Eid obligation.

After the early morning Eid prayers at Jeddah’s Ahli Stadium, our visit to the livestock market outside Jeddah proved rewarding . As expected, the vendors were demanding sky-high prices. Depending on local or imported animal, the price ranged from SR 400 to SR 1,200 for a goat or a lamb. After careful due diligence, my colleagues and myself bought two good-looking goats each. Instead of bringing them to our homes – we wisely agreed to sacrifice them on the spot.

Like every year, the main social attractions during Eid holidays were families getting together for one dish parties. From spicy Mughlai dishes to juicy BBQs, the housewives were seen competing fiercely for the coveted award of “Chef of the Eid”.

This time, the insatiable youth observed the “holiday charm” by-the-book and were seen stuck to the televisions and play stations. Cricket enthusiasts were lucky this Eid.

Everyone was busy watching the test match between Pakistan and South Africa being telecasted live from Abu Dhabi.

We have green parks and corridors all around Jeddah. Children’s main demand was to be taken to parks and toy towns in the evenings. Here, the ever-famous Shallal, Atallah, and Chucke Cheese are the best spots where you can spend hours enjoying roller coasters and video games.

This weekend, various cultural organizations shall be holding Eid Milan parties at Jeddah’s leading hotels. It’s up on the grapevine, a “Urdu Mushaira” (poetry event) is being organized to commemorate Eid-Al-Adha by the Halqa-e-Danish, a distinguished Jeddah-based literary society.

[Rohail Khan, a Canadian-Pakistani with strong parental roots in India as well, is a Senior Banker and CFO based at Jeddah. He is also Chairman, Urdu Academy International (UAI), Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at rohailkhan00@gmail.com]
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