Traveling inspires us, enriches with new experiences, gives us the opportunity to learn from others, contributes to our personal growth, helps in getting to know our own interests, and allows us to test our abilities. In contact with others, we learn how to communicate, be tolerant, live lives through the eyes of others, reduce stereotypes, be less judgmental, etc.
If you are in The Gambia during Eid Al-Adha (Tobaski), you have an amazing opportunity to know more about this Islamic holiday. International media often presents Muslim countries as one single story that generalizes the entire population, cultures, and customs. But the fact is that every country, region, tribe, and a family have its own way and if we learn from each other and respect each other, we can live in harmony.
The best way to know more about the certain holiday and its rituals is to spend time with Gambians and their families, taste traditional food and learn about the charity activities among families, neighbours, and strangers.
Preparations for one of the most important Islamic holidays have already started. People are also buying basics like oil, onions, eggs, rice, spices, etc. for a week, so they do not need to go to the market during festive days. Regardless of the holiday, Serrekunda market will not completely close as some vendors will come to sale their products in the morning. In addition to colourful dresses and kaftans for children and adults, tailors are busy with sewing masks this year. Beauty salons are busy with children and women making their new hair styles. As it is a Feast of the Sacrifice, which coincides with annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca (which is cancelled this year), families throughout The Gambia ritually slaughter mostly sheep in ritual sacrifice, you can see them on many different places, also on the main roads. Most of the animals are coming from Senegal and Mauritania.
The Islamic calendar is lunar, divided into twelve months of 29 or 30 days (totaling 354 days) so the dates of Tobaski and also other holidays like Koriteh (end of Ramadan) shift forward by about eleven or twelve days each year and the precise dates depend on official sightings of the moon and it may vary in various countries for a day.
Tobaski 2020 is expected to be on Friday, 31st of July, the tenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah month. The first 10 days of this holly month are particularly special, filled with rewards, blessings and significance therefore many Muslims around the world are fasting these days as days are considered sacred for both those individuals going to Hajj and those who are not. Some will fast “only” the 9th day of the month Eid-Al-Adha, which supposed to be tomorrow. Muslims are urged to fast any or all of the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah. Each day in these 10 days, Allah rewards the Muslim who fasts as if they had fasted a whole year. But those who fast on the ninth day (the Day of Arafah) will have their reward doubled.
In addition to fasting, Muslims are strongly encouraged to increase their remembrance of Allah and give extra Sadaqa (voluntary charity).
The celebration usually goes on for three days. The first day starts with morning prayers. Families are going to the mosques. Children and adults are dressed in finest, colourful traditional dresses.
Most of the families clean all the house, change curtains, bed sheets, etc.
Every married man or head of the family who can afford, should buy a ram or other animal (cow, goat, chicken). Even though the cost of providing a ram and buying new clothes for that special day is a big burden, it is really a special feeling to see people united in celebration. After the prayers, people are going to their homes. Those who could afford to buy a ram will sacrifice it and start sharing the meat to neighbors and relatives, and the most poor and needy. Only a third of the meat will stay with the family.
After slaughtering, family celebrations begin. It is usually massive gatherings with plenty of eating, drinking, and parading of new clothes. Children roam around and about seeking for what is called “Saliboo” in (Mandinka), “Ndewenal” in (Wolof), a pocket money for the children. These moments project colorful ambiences, everyone in their African attires which are well sewed and from the elderly who rest the day visit love ones and pray for one another down to the younger generation who just want to have a day to enjoy, have fun and socialize. The day promotes moral indulgence, peaceful coexistence, harmony, love and religious solidarity among the Muslim communities.
The Gambia is a country which is showing high tolerance towards others. And the best to feel and face this is to be part of their celebrations, both Muslim or Christian holidays, to learn about daily life, food sharing on daily basis and strong connections they have between family, friends, and communities.
The giving of charity in the form of money, food, or clothes to the homeless or poor is another key tradition of Eid al Adha.
This is a unique experience for all those who are interested in other cultures and traditions, spending a day with the locals, witness the celebration of one of the biggest Muslim holiday and learn something new about other culture and religion.
If not this year, maybe you will be here for Koriteh or Tobaski 2021.
We wish happy Eid Al Adha to all the Muslims around the world.
Peace, harmony, happiness, good health and prosperity may continue in your lives.