Bangladesh takes Eid break from COVID lockdown
Tens of millions of Bangladeshis defied a COVID-19 surge on Wednesday to join prayers in packed mosques and outdoor locations, as Muslims slaughtered record numbers of animals for the festival Eid ul-Adha.
The government has lifted a strict lockdown for a week to allow millions to head back to their villages for the second-largest religious festival in the Muslim-majority country.
This is despite a tough lockdown in place since 1 July shutting down transport, offices and deploying the military to stop people leaving for their homes except for emergencies and essential supplies.
More than a million Bangladeshis have now been infected and over 18,000 have died – figures seen as a gross undercount. The surge has been blamed largely on the Delta variant first detected in neighbouring India.
On Wednesday, the streets of Dhaka took on a festive look, with people in traditional clothing hugging each other and watching butchers as they slaughtered cows and goats for the three-day celebration.
The festival of Eid-ul-Adha - a time of prayer and celebration
Around the world some 1.5 billion Muslims are currently celebrating Islam's principal annual festival: Eid-ul-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice. The festival lasts for four days, during which time Muslims traditionally greet each other with the words "Eid Mubarak" or "Blessed holidays!"
United in prayer: the Festival of Sacrifice marks the highpoint of the Muslim hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca. All Muslims are expected to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lifetime, but not everyone can afford to. That′s why celebrations are held around the globe, such as here in Nairobi, and prayers are said everywhere
Animal sacrifices: every year, as here in India, millions of sheep, lambs, cattle and - in some regions - camels are slaughtered. This is in memory of the prophet Abraham (Ibrahim), who was prepared to sacrifice his son to God (Allah). But Allah was merciful – so the story goes – and Abraham was allowed to sacrifice a sheep instead
Holy ritual: the slaughter of cloven-hoofed animals is another aspect of the festival for which people gather together. In Egypt’s capital, Cairo, Muslims take part in the holy ritual. At the end the meat is distributed among the believers: a third is for the family, a third for friends and a third is given to the poor
A family affair: many Muslims are keen to get home for the beginning of the Festival of Sacrifice, known in Arabic as ″Eid-ul-Adha″. It′s traditionally a time for friends and family to get together. Thousands of people here are trying to catch the last train from the Bangladesh capital Dhaka. Some 90 percent of the population are Muslim
Filigree patterns: since the Festival of Sacrifice (Eid-ul-Adha) is a special occasion, many Muslims dress up. In Bangladesh, Pakistan and many other countries, the women apply henna tattoos to their hands. Believers put on their best clothes and most valuable jewellery to attend the prayers and celebrations
Roses for the dead: even those who have already passed on are remembered during Eid-ul-Adha. These Muslims in Hyderabad, India are packing roses into little bags. Later the roses will be placed on the graves of the dead as a sign of respect
Shrouded in smoke: this year believers in Indonesia have had to wear face masks in some areas. Smoke from illegal slash and burn operations in the rainforest on Sumatra have led to smog in many places. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world
Under police protection: terrorist attacks have become the order of the day during Eid ul-Adha in recent years. Security is therefore high in many countries. Such as here in Karachi, Pakistan′s largest city, which has an estimated population of 15 million
Celebrating under fire...: Muslims in Syria are also celebrating Eid-ul-Adha. In the Syrian town of Idlib, some 60 kilometres southwest of Aleppo, these children are enjoying the holiday – despite the civil war and daily bombing raids run by the Syrian air force
...and in safety: this young refugee has been given a balloon to celebrate the festival. In many refugee shelters in Germany and Austria, Muslims have come together to cook, pray and celebrate Eid-ul-Adha – no longer in fear of their lives
Iftekhar Hossain, a spokesman for the livestock ministry, told AFP "a record 11.9 million cows, goats, buffaloes and lambs have been readied for sacrifice this Eid".
He said authorities have launched an app to facilitate online animal sales as they want to cut crowds in the cattle markets to stop the spread of coronavirus.
"A record 387,000 cows and goats have been sold online," he said.
The Eid ul-Adha animal sale is a $10 billion industry and is one of the key drivers of the economy in rural Bangladesh.
It is a key reason the government lifted the lockdown to allow cattle farmers to bring their animals to the cities.
Mohammad Ali, a farmer, said: "Last year we had to struggle due to the lockdown. This year again, if the lockdown wasn't lifted, we along with our families would have to die starving."
Ali came to Dhaka with 20 cows from the western border district of Kushtia.
On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of people thronged the Gabtoli cattle market, the largest in the capital, deep into the night for last-minute purchases of animals.
"This is a difficult time. But sacrificing an animal during Eid is mandatory. Being a follower of Islam, how can I deny that? That's why I came to the market to buy a cow," Yasir Arafat, 39, a banker and a buyer, told journalists. (AFP)