Eid Al-Fitr: Delight or plight? [Archives:2006/993/Front Page]

October 26 2006

Mohammed Al-Jabri
During Eid Al-Fitr, in Yemen the poor are thinking of providing basic food for their families, while the rich are thinking of majestic hotels and attractive places to spend their Eid holidays.

“I shall never feel happy as I can't buy Eid clothes for my children,” says Hamzah Kamel, who is a father to 4 children, “Alas for the poor! We want to do anything to make our children happy on Eid occasions.”

Like other Arab and Muslim countries, Yemen is celebrating Eid al-Fitr – the breaking of the fast. In this part of the world, the poor can't enjoy this occasion the same way the rich can: there are obstacles that muddy their days of joy and happiness.

“Things have changed remarkably. We had unforgettable days when people used to celebrate Eid with real happiness, at a time when they cared for no price hikes or other worries,” says 70-year-old Alya Hamoud. “That was then, this is now.”

Worries about Eid expenses

Days before Eid Al-Fitr arrives, people get prepared with the Eid accessories, from buying new clothes, to preparing sweets. But this is not the case with a lot of families whose main concern lies mainly in how to provide basic food for their family.

“As the Eid approaches, I grow worried as to how I can buy new clothes for my children. What is worst for me is when they ask me to do so at a time of being totally broke,” says Mohammed Al-Harazi, who supports seven family members.

For Al-Harazi, Eid is an occasion for double worries about “the possible way to make children enjoy the possible extent of pleasure.”

Even some parents go beyond this and resort to begging in mosques or streets or going from one house to another asking for a second hand dress for a girl or a shirt for a boy whose clothes have worn thin. Nasser Al-Hamami says that during Ramadan, mosques see a large number of beggars who “need to purchase clothes for their children.”

“Everywhere whether in streets, mosques, and even bus stations the poor with their palms of the hand or shawls laid on ground await five riyals,” Al-Hamami explains. The closer Eid draws, the more the poor grow worrier, he concluded.

The sufferings don't stop here. When visiting female relatives, societal habits necessitate they have to give some money.

“This is more of a worry for a man who can't afford to give his female relatives four or five hundred riyals each upon visiting them on Eid,” says al-Hamami.

Some prefer to stay at home rather than visit any relative, however precious the occasion.

“Sometimes I prefer to stay home when I don't have money enough to distribute among my female relatives in Eid,” Al-Harazi pointed out.

Noisy Eid?

On the eve of Eid Al-Fitr, boys set off firecrackers everywhere.

“A few days before Eid, I make ready large quantities of firecrackers and weapon-like toys. These are the favorites of every boy. What else can I sell?” asks shopkeeper Ahmed Ma'moun.

For many people the firecracker create very noise sounds, especially when they are set off during night. It is very common to hear firecrackers in the first ten days of Eid and this habit is more common in the countryside.

Boys also have historically set fire to tires on the eve of Eid.

“People receive Ramadan by setting fire to tires and setting off firecracker; so they end it the same way,” Saif Mahdi explains. “Firing bullets is common in some villages as well.”

But over the past two years the government exerted much effort to help prevent the exercise of such practices, namely in main cities.

“We always hear firecrackers although selling them is not allowed. What is the role of security authorities then?” Mahdi wonders.

Some locals say the problem continues as some state's officials are firecrackers traders. While children enjoy playing with firecrackers, parents worry about the hazards they cause. It is no wonder to see a child give a cry upon setting off firecrackers. Firecrackers cause harm to the eyes in most cases if misused.

“Last year, I brought my 12-year-old child to hospital as his eyes were injured by firecrackers,” says Al-Harazi.

Here boys find it a good chance to enjoy every minute of it: they divided into groups and begin what seems to them as a war.

“I happened to pass by a neighborhood in the capital city. There were boys on roofs, behind cars and walls, on windows. They were throwing firecrackers at one another,” Al-Hamami says.

Manipulation of services

Eid is the season of earning as much money as possible for some people. Qat is sold at high prices, taxis put up their prices, entertainment tickets become expensive – and it all makes things more difficult for people.

“I have to give a taxi driver YR 800 for a short errand, while on other days I give him just quarter the amount,” said Khalid al-Wadei.

Many other people complain of qat sellers who raise prices on Eid days.

“I don't know why we have to buy qat at high prices in Eid. Is it because it has irritable taste nowadays?” Al-Harazi asked.

Very few restaurants or bakeries open in Eid making it difficult for those families that depend on their services.

Increasing incidents

Traveling to the countryside or attractive places is common during Eid days. Car accidents occur very frequently as a consequence. Hospitals very often receive hundreds of casualties as victims of car accidents.