Id el Fitri, also known as Eid al Fitr, is a holiday kept by Muslims throughout the world, including in Nigeria.
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It is the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal, which follows the daytime fasting and intense prayer many Muslims engage in during the month of Ramadan. The exact date of Id el Fitri depends upon moon sightings, and the date moves on the Gregorian Calendar each year due to the non-alignment of lunar and solar calendar systems.
Most Muslims in Nigeria live in the northern section of the country, particularly in the area where the Hausa dwell. However, 40 percent of the population is Muslim, about 50 percent being Christian and 10 percent Animist.
In Nigeria, Id el Fitri is celebrated for three days in a row. Muslims join together for prayer and sermons at mosques or other locations, many of them traveling far to attend. There are also many local community festivals that take place, including meals and children’s programs. Cards with the greeting “Id Mubba Rak!” (Blessed Id!) are sent to family and friends, festive family meals are enjoyed, new clothes are worn, relatives are visited, and candy or other gifts are given out to children. Finally, charitable food donations, called “zakat al fitr,” are given to the poor. This may be in the form of flour, barley, dates, or raisins, and some just give money in place of food.
The Nigerian government has made Id el Fitr and two other Muslim holidays nationally recognised, along with Christian and patriotic holidays, in an attempt to promote peace and national unity. Muslims are urged on Id el Fitr to pray for a peaceful, united Nigeria.
Id el Fitri celebrations vary from locality to locality in Nigeria due to the ethnic diversity of its people. You may want to visit more than one location, therefore, to see if you notice any differences.
Three activities to take part in if in Nigeria during Id el Fitri are:
- Attend a durbar festival. These events have gone on for centuries in Muslim parts of Nigeria and were originally at time when newly recruited soldiers would test out their horse riding and combat skills. You may see parades, various shows and competitions, costumed horsemen with “olden day” weaponry, drummers and musicians, and galloping displays of horsemanship with a characteristic raised-sword salute.
- Tour the Abuja National Mosque in the capital city on Independence Avenue. It is open for all, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike, other than during prayer times. It is constructed like a big box with a tower at each corner and a large, gold dome on top. You can visit the library and conference room inside and see the decorative designs and architecture both inside and out.
- Visit Kamuku National Park in the northern state of Kaduna. The parkland is mostly savannah, but there are large, rocky outcroppings and hills that rise suddenly from the plain below. You can also see Dogon Ruwa Waterfall, and Tsaunin Rema, which is a pile of gigantic boulders that some call a hill. Wildlife includes: rock hyraxes, which are a little like guinea pigs with very short ears and tails, elephants, antelopes, baboons, warthogs, different varieties of monkeys, and over 175 species of birds, some of which are rarely seen in other parts of Nigeria.
Should you find yourself in Nigeria for Id el Fitri, there will be many celebrations to attend in the northern parts of the country. You can also take time to view the natural beauty and wildlife in the area. Nigeria holds many adventures for the tourist and has a highly diverse array of cultures to explore. Anyone who visits Nigeria during Id el Fitri is sure to find many memorable activities to take part in.