Id (or Eid) el Kabir is one of the most important holidays on the Islamic Calendar.
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It occurs on the tenth day of the Muslim lunar month of Dhul Hijja, and festivities often continue for four days. Another name for this festival is “Eid al Adha,” but either way, the general meaning is “Feast of the Sacrifice,” referring to the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice Ishmael on Mount Moriah, according to Islamic tradition.
Since about 40 percent of Nigerians are Muslim, Id el Kabir is a public holiday in Nigeria. It is especially observed in the northern regions of the country where most Muslims live.
Muslims who can afford it will travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage. There, they can reenact the sacrifice of Ibrahim, accomplishing one of the Five Pillars of Islam. There are holiday packages to accommodate the pilgrims, and many save and plan for years before they can go. Most, however, can never afford to visit Mecca, and so they simply keep Id el Kabir at home right in Nigeria.
Muslims gather on this day for prayers and sermons at local mosques and in outdoor areas. They dress up in new clothes or, at least, in the finest clothes they have before going to the services. There, they greet each other with the words “Eid Mubarrak!” (Blessed Eid!).
Families also gather together and partake of a festive meal. An animal of some kind will be sacrificed, if the family can afford to pay for it, and the meat partly eaten by guests and partly distributed to the poor. The sacrificed animal is meant to represent Ishmael, who was nearly sacrificed by Ibrahim before an angel stayed his hand. In some provinces, the government will distribute rams and other food to help poor Muslims living there to have a happy Eid.
Muslims also frequently invite non-Muslims to attend Id el Kabir celebrations, hoping to introduce them to Islam and Islamic culture. Finally, gifts are given out to children during Eid, giving the a reason to enjoy the day besides the religious aspect.
If in Nigeria for Id el Kabir, some activities you may want to consider include:
- Attend the “durbar” in the northern city of Kano. Durbars are held in some parts of Nigeria on both Id el Kabir and Id el Fitr, the two most important Muslim holidays. These festivals feature horsemanship first and foremost and were originally connected with display of military skills during the Middle Ages. In Kano, durbars have been around since the 14th Century A.D. There will be prayers, parades, the Emir of Kano in attendance, musicians, and of course, plenty of horseback riding. Other cities with durbars of note include Bida and Katsina.
- Tour Mandara Mountain in the northeastern area of Nigeria near the Cameroon border. The mountain was once the site of iron working, and the village below the mountain, Sukur, was once part of the Sukur Kingdom. The village and mountain are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Again in Kano, visit the Emir of Kano Palace. This palace is one of the oldest elements of the ancient Kano culture and the seat of Kano’s Emir. The Kano Emirate was formed later, however, in 1805, succeeding the Hausa Sultanate of Kano. During the Colonial Era, the Emirate gradually lost power, and it finally went out of existence as an independent nation in the early 1900’s. The palace, however, remains, and it is an exquisitely ornate building with a dazzling array of colours. It is truly a very unique sight to see.
If you should visit Nigeria, particularly northern Nigeria, during Id el Kabir festivities, you will find much that is memorable. The history, culture, food, and natural beauty you will discover will stay with you for years to come.