No money, no mutton: Lebanon crisis upends Eid tradition

People wait for their orders at a butcher shop in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli, as Muslims across the world get ready to celebrate Eid Al-Adha, July 28, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 30 July 2020

No money, no mutton: Lebanon crisis upends Eid tradition

  • It is customary for the better-off to donate cuts of mutton to needy members of their community as a form of religious charity during the holiday
  • That might not happen this year in Lebanon, as the country is now mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Tradition dictates that Muslims donate cuts of mutton during Friday’s Eid Al-Adha festival, which would spell brisk business for butcher Abdulrazak Darwish but Lebanon’s economic crisis has cast a pall over his trade.
“This year has been the worst for us because of soaring inflation,” said the 54-year-old resident of the northern city of Tripoli.
“There is no demand for meat or requests from clients to slaughter sheep this Eid Al-Adha,” he told AFP from inside his nearly empty store near the city’s port.
Thousands of sheep are usually slaughtered annually in Lebanon at Eid Al-Adha — the festival of sacrifice — one of two major holy days observed by Muslims across the world.
It is custom for the better-off to donate cuts of mutton to needy members of their community as a form of religious charity during the holiday.
But that might not happen this year, as the country is now mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The Lebanese pound has in past months lost around 80 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market.
In a country where most consumer goods are imported, that devaluation has had a huge impact on prices and the purchasing power of ordinary Lebanese.
In Darwish’s butcher shop, one lonely cut of mutton hangs from a hook. Fridges next to it are completely empty.
For the vast majority of people whose income is not in dollars, the cost of a sheep has more than tripled since last year.
Darwish says the price he pays his suppliers is already prohibitive and leaves him with “no margin to make a profit.”
Tripoli already harbored some of the country’s poorest but the combined effect of the monetary crisis and coronavirus lockdowns is sentencing thousands of families to hunger.
This has upset Eid Al-Adha mutton donations, said Sheikh Nabil Rahim, who connects wealthy families with the needy during the Islamic holiday.
“Donations have severely dwindled by more than 80 percent which means no mutton this Eid Al-Adha,” he told AFP from his office, a stack of religious textbooks piled on his desk.
“A big segment of the Lebanese population are now preoccupied with themselves and their personal problems as a result of the economic crisis,” explained the man who runs an Islamic radio station.
Sitting on a chair outside her Tripoli apartment, Mona Al-Masri said she is preparing for a frugal Eid Al-Adha this year because of the downturn.
“Our priorities have changed,” said the 51-year-old, explaining she is not planning to buy any meat for the feast, which usually abounds with lamb and mutton.
Instead, she will prepare dishes using lentils, vegetables and herbs, she told AFP, explaining she usually relies on donations for mutton.
“This year it seems no one is planning to distribute anything,” she said.
Eid Al-Adha will still be celebrated this year even though many mosques will not hold public prayers and travel restrictions will limit annual Hajj pilgrimages and traditional family gatherings for the holiday.
Butchers have faced further complication due to power outages that have increased as state failure worsens.
“We can’t buy large quantities of meat, not even during the holidays,” said Ali Hassan Khaled, a 50-year-old butcher in a low-income Tripoli neighborhood.
He said he usually slaughters at least 100 sheep for his customers during Eid Al-Adha, but this year he has only received 10 orders.
“This Eid Al-Adha, it seems, people won’t be eating meat and won’t receive their portion of mutton donations,” Khaled said, circled by several hanging carcasses.
Salima Hijazi, a 33-year-old Tripoli resident, is one of them.
The woman usually prepares stuffed vine leaves with mutton for the feast — a staple holiday dish. But this year, mutton is no longer on the menu.
“Our incomes are nearly worthless... and we are now forced to change our eating habits,” she said.

5 reasons to add spinach to your diet

Updated 08 August 2020

5 reasons to add spinach to your diet

DUBAI: Devinder Bains, personal trainer and nutrition coach at Fit Squad DXB, shares her advice on the superfoods that will help you lead a longer and healthier life…

If you want a food that’s cheap, versatile and packed with nutrients, then you can’t go wrong with spinach. Throw a handful into a fruit or vegetable smoothie, cook it as a side dish with meat or knock out a saag curry as a main and reap the health rewards listed below.

Improved eye health

Spinach is high in the antioxidant pigments zeaxanthin and lutein, which protect your eyes from damage caused by sunlight. They also work to prevent macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly. Studies have also shown that zeaxanthin and lutein play a part in preventing cataracts.

Healthy pregnancy

As spinach is packed with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium, it’s the perfect food for pregnant women. Leafy greens are also rich in powerful immune-boosting antioxidants and contain plant compounds that may help prevent constipation, a common problem among pregnant women.

There are plenty of health rewards to be reaped from the super food. Shutterstock

Blood clotting

One spinach leaf contains over half of your daily requirements of vitamin K1, which is essential for healthy bones. It also helps white blood cells to clot effectively, preventing you from bleeding out when you are injured. Anyone who is taking blood-thinning medication such as Warfarin should speak to their doctor before increasing their intake of spinach or other leafy greens.

Healthy teeth

This super green is high in catenoids, which our bodies turn into vitamin A. This vitamin plays a key role in keeping gums healthy and in building tooth enamel. Spinach is also high in calcium, which helps harden your enamel, strengthen your jawbone, and build strong bones. In fact, spinach is also rich in vitamin D, dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C, all of which are important nutrients for bone health.

Healthy hair

This is where vitamin A comes in again, as it is necessary for sebum production to keep hair moisturized, helping it to look glossy and grow. It can also help reduce hair loss. Vitamin A is actually used in the growth of all bodily tissues, so it is essential for healthy skin as well.