The Islamic food-filled holiday Eid al-Adha, also known as the “Festival (or Feast) of
Sacrifice”, coincides with the new moon to mark Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice
his son, Ishmael, as an act of devotion, and unquestionable submission, to God.
Muslims around the world began celebrating the Greater Eid, which fell on
September 11 th or 12 th this year, respectively, with delectable dishes that not only
vary by country, but also by individual communities and families.
Local differences aside, the holiday is centered on iron-packed meat—cow, goat,
lamb, and/or camel, depending on the local terrain. However, the livestock of choice
should be sacrificed using the same method: after placing the animal on its side with
its head facing toward Mecca and reciting “Bismillah Allahu-Akbar” (In the name of
God, God is great), the butcher slits the animal’s neck with one quick swipe, cutting
the large arteries to ensure minimal pain and a quick death, and then allows the
blood to spill at his feet.
Next up: a barbeque that gives the fourth of July a run for its meaty money starts off
the annual meal for many. A variety of kebobs, some on skewers, others made with
ground meat, and tender pieces of liver and kidneys tend to be served first during
In the UAE, the dishes are influenced by countries across the Middle East, where
sheep—or their younger counterpart, lamb—reigns as the meat of choice. But, in
2016, livestock can be hard to organize, so residents can be found hunting at
supermarkets and butcher shops, post sacrifice. In addition, cooking an entire
animal—head to tail, ensuring zero-waste—can be daunting and unpractical.
Therefore, Emirati, Saudi, and Yemini restaurants take special orders for the
Toasted pine nuts and almonds on saffron flavored rice is a regional favourite, as is
tabbouleh made with fresh parsley and bulgur (partially-cooked, dried wheat).
Iranian-spiced lamb shanks, za’atar covered chickpeas, multiple types of kibbeh
(fried, baked, or raw), and Egyptian fattoush (a salad made with fried pita bread)
are all Eid options. Eggplant is a staple ingredient: from baba ganoush to the
multiple recipes that including lamb and tomato sauce. Kabsa—a dish originally
from Yemen, but eaten in several Gulf countries (sometimes called makbus)—is
made with layers of long grain rice, meat, and a spice mix often containing
cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, dried lime powder, cumin, and saffron, but recipes
are specific to each chef.
In many areas of Pakistan, the holiday has earned the name Bakra Eid, which
translates to goat in Urdu (not to be confused with the Arabic word Baqarah,
meaning cow), reflecting the popularity of goat for the occasion. Beef places second.
You’ll often find nihari—a slow cooked curry, made with shank meat, and hearty
chunks of bone—in the north of Pakistan and surrounding countries, while
haleem—boneless meat with wheat, lentils, and barley—is traditional for families
from the southern areas of South Asia. The rice-based dish that you’ll find in the
region is a brightly colored biryani.
No matter where you celebrate Eid al-Adha, you can be sure to expect a carnivore’s
delight. But, while you’re busy digesting platefuls of savory meat, make sure you’ve
left room for dessert. Eid in the Indian Subcontinent calls for kheer (rice pudding),
kulfi (a cousin of ice cream), and deep-fried, bright orange jalebi (also popular
throughout north and east Africa), while dates, honey, pomegranate molasses and
filo dough fill plates from the Levant to Dubai!