Eid ul-Azha, one of the most important of all holidays to Muslims worldwide, is also a public holiday in the South American nation of Guyana.
|2020||31 Jul||Fri||Eid al-Adha|
|2021||20 Jul||Tue||Eid al-Adha|
|2022||10 Jul||Sun||Eid al-Adha|
|11 Jul||Mon||Eid ul-Azha|
Mostly the descendants of Indian, Afghan, and Pakistani immigrants during the 19th Century, Guyana’s Muslims account for seven to 10 percent of Guyana’s 735,000 people.
Like other Muslims, they celebrate Eid ul Azha on the 10th day of the Islamic month of Zul Haj. Eid ul Azha, or “the Feast of the Sacrifice,“ celebrations begin on the 10th but continue into the 11th and 12th of Zul Haj. The holiday commemorates the Koranic tradition of Ibrahim (Abraham) being willing to sacrifice his son Ishmael when God required it of him. The tradition says that God told Ibrahim in a dream to sacrifice Ishmael on Mount Moriah in Arabia, giving up the very thing he loved most in the world. However, an angel intervened to stop him from completing the sacrifice and a ram was offered instead. This differs with the Biblical account of Abraham “almost sacrificing” his son Isaac in a Mount Moriah in the land of Canaan.
Eid ul Azha traditions in Guyana include sacrificing animals as did Ibrahim. One-third of the meat is to be given to the poor, another third shared with friends and family, and the final third kept by the one sacrificing the animal. Islamic law allows cows, sheep, goats, and camels to be sacrificed for Eid ul Azha, but as camels are not too common in Guyana, cattle and sheep account for most of the sacrificial meat.
Guyanan Muslims also don new clothing and attend special mosque services for Eid ul Azha. They arrive early in the morning to pray, say chants reminding them of their duties as Muslims, and hear sermons on themes of sacrifice and service to Allah. After services, there are usually feasts at home with family and friends.
If in Guyana for Eid ul Azha, some possible activities include:
- In Georgetown, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike are welcome to get shares of meat at the MYO (Muslim Youth Organisation) on Woolford Avenue. There are prayer services early in the morning, then a “kutbah“ (Islamic sermon), and the halal slaughtering process of dozens of bulls, cows, and sheep, besides the mere distribution of the meat.
- Get a taste of some halal and Indian-style cuisine in Guyana’s culturally diverse restaurants. While you’re at it, you can also try Chinese, Brazilian, African “soul food,” seafood, baked goods, and a veritable smorgasbord of other options. The intense ethnic diversity in Guyana, and especially in its capital city of Georgetown, create a culinary melting pot as well. There is no reason not to “explore every corner of the pot” to see what new dishes you may come to love.
- Regardless of the travel occasion, Guyana’s vast interior is always worth exploring on any visit. The mountains, rivers, rain forest, and abundant wildlife of inland Guyana are second to none, which explains why Guyana has a booming eco-tourism industry. Consider going to Shell Beach to see an endangered species of giant sea turtles; to Kaieteur Falls, which is five times higher than Niagara Falls; or to Timberhead Resort, a hidden bit of luxury that can only be reached by river boat.
Touring Guyana during Eid ul Azha will expose you to Islamic culture and traditions of one segment of the local population and also give you a chance to explore other aspects of Guyana while already there.