Aunt Alice in Arabia – An Eid Holiday

April 26, 1990

I had helped a student who was partially blind last year and he invited me to join his family on the Eid holiday. I couldn’t so he telephoned and told me about the day.

“We go to the mosque and everyone brings their most valuable possession….” he said.

“What do they bring?” I asked

He tried to avoid answering. I repeated the question.  I could almost see him lower his face, “Their guns.  Some have old ones, some have machine guns.”

“Machine guns?” I shouted.  “Men carry machine guns to the mosque!” I have to remind myself that tribal disputes made owning a gun a necessity, especially before the emirates were united.

“Did you carry yours?” I asked.

“I met a group of my friends from high school, about ten of them.  They were all carrying machine guns.  They asked me why I hadn’t brought my gun.  I told them I was educated.”  Both of us laughed.

My student continued to tell me stories about his village’s Eid traditions.  “When you see a child, you must give the child ten dirhams.”

“Any child?” I asked.

“All the children in the village.  Two young girls ran up to me and almost hit me because I did not immediately give them ten dirhams. I wasn’t sure who they were, then I realized they were my nieces wearing their new Eid dresses!”

“The kids must collect a lot of money,” I commented.

“Some of them collect 4-500 dirhams, sometimes a few thousand.  Some of them spend it right away on candy, but some  save it for something special.”

“When all of us men finish praying at the mosque,” he continued, “we walk to every home in the village and greet everyone.  It is a longggg walk,” he said.  “It took more than three hours! I did not recognize some of the children when I greeted them. Everyone laughed. I then realized I knew them but they had grown since I was away at college.”  We laughed again.

“What did the holy man at the mosque say?” I asked.

“He told us to be good people, to be kind and not to get angry. He told us to remember God and to help our families and friends.”

“That sounds familiar,” I said and again, we both laughed, enjoying the Eid holiday together.