As Eid Al-Adha (Grand Bairam) approaches, millions of Egyptian Muslims prepare to celebrate with the age-old ritual of slaughtering cattle and sheep and distributing their meat among the needy.
The ritual marks the prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail after seeing a dream in which God commanded him to slaughter his son. However, an angel replaced Ismail with a lamb at the last minute. Since then, Muslims who can afford it have slaughtered a cow, a lamb or a goat and given some of its meat to the poor.
The days leading up to the Bairam, which will take place on July 20 of this year, usually see a huge demand for livestock. However, this is not the case this year. While demand was hit hard last year by the pandemic, the rise in the price of cattle and lambs this season has made it unaffordable for thousands of Egyptian households.
Traders said the market is witnessing a recession.
Mohamed Wahba, head of the butchers’ division at the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI), told reporters that many citizens have delayed or opted out of purchasing sacrificial animals this season.
The cost of a kilogram of sheep varies between LE60 and LE65 compared to LE55 to LE60 last year, bringing the average price of sheep to around LE5,500.
The price per kilo of cow meat is around LE 58, with the cost of the cow ranging from LE 19,000 to LE 65,000 depending on its weight. The cost does not include butchers’ slaughter costs, which are estimated this season at LE 500 for sheep and LE 3,000 for cows.
The surge in prices is due to the increase in the cost of fodder, in addition to the increase in the cost of transporting livestock from one governorate to another.
Egyptians who do not want to abandon the religious tradition choose to resort to an alternative: sacrificial sukuk, or Islamic bonds, purchased from charities in the country. Through the sacrificial sukuk, charities are allowed to buy, slaughter and distribute sacrificial livestock to thousands of people in need.
Charitable organizations include the Egyptian Food Bank (EFB), the Misr Al-Kheir Association and the Orman Charity Association (OCA). The EFB sells sacrificial sukuk for LE 3,400 for local sheep while the sacrificial sukuk for imported sheep is LE 1,950. This is compared to last year’s 3,300 LE, when the imported sukuk were for LE 1,900.
Abdel-Hamdi Abu Moussa, board member of the Misr Al-Kheir association, noted that there is an estimated 40-50% increase in demand for sacrificial sukuk this season compared to the year last.
“People are refraining from slaughtering in their homes due to escalating livestock prices,” Abou Moussa said, adding that the surge in demand for sukuk this year comes as more donors want their sacrifices be made to those most in need, as charities can reach living in remote and impoverished areas.
Besides being easier on the wallet, buying sukuk is a hassle-free alternative for Muslims rather than buying the cow or sheep, slaughtering it and distributing its meat themselves.
Mohamed Nayer, a computer expert, told Al-Ahram Weekly that he has been using the sacrificial sukuk for two years. “I practice the ritual inexpensively and with as little hassle as possible,” Nayer said.
Others believe the ritual should not be abandoned this year despite the price hike. Ayman Adel, a banker, said he preferred to observe the traditions of Eid Al-Adha. “I will use my savings to buy a sheep for the sacrifice and will not give up the ritual.
“Since I was a child, we have a habit of delivering the meat of the sacrifice to certain individuals and families every Eid,” Adel said. “I cannot keep them waiting because many of them are so poor that they only eat meat during the days of Eid.”
* A print version of this article appears in the July 15, 2021 edition of Weekly Al Ahram.