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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 January, 2004, 12:45 GMT
Blood problem for Bangladesh festival

By Roland Buerk
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

The streets of Dhaka are ready to run red with blood.

Cow in Dhaka street
Cow to the slaughter: Mohammed Delwar Hussein with his purchase

It can only mean one thing - Eid ul Adha, Islam's annual festival of sacrifice is here.

But Sadiq Hossain, the mayor of the Bangladeshi capital, wants this year to be different.

Hundreds of thousands of cattle will be sacrificed in the capital and across Bangladesh on 2 February.

Mr Hossain is urging those who can to carry out the sacrifice in public parks.

But he knows that in this crowded city most animals will be slaughtered in the street, leaving the stench of blood hanging in the air for days.

"Wherever you go in the Islamic world - Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Qatar - you will never see such a slaughter in the streets as in Dhaka," Mr Hossain says.

The festivities are held every year to commemorate the readiness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Ishmael.

During Eid I get lots of orders for knives. Everyday I make eight to ten
Proshanto, blacksmith

According to the Koran, a lamb was substituted for the boy at the last moment.

On the day of the Feast of Sacrifice, teams of mullahs will travel around the city to carry out the slaughter.

Bystanders use a rope around the animals' legs to bring them to the ground.

Verses from the Koran are recited before the cattle are despatched with a sword across the throat.

Optional camel

Business is brisk in the markets in the run up to the festivities.

Cattle are being brought in by the truckload, but restricted supply is pushing up the prices.

Camel-trader Abdul Zabar with his animal
Snack-time: Trader Abdul Zabar feeds his camel in a Dhaka market

"This year there are fewer cattle than last year," said trader Khazi Mohammed Selim at Gabtali market.

"Officials at the border are being very strict. They are not allowing any cattle through from India."

The animals are lined up for the buyers to inspect them.

There is fierce bargaining once a choice is made.

Mohammed Delwar Hossain arrived early to get a good deal.

"I bought this cow for 17,000 taka (roughly $300)," he said.

"I am happy with the price but cows are more expensive this year. Last year I bought a cow just like this for 15,000 taka."

Gabtoli market, Dhaka
Next stop - sacrifice: Herders lead cattle to Gabtoli market in Dhaka

For those tired of beef, a novel but expensive option is a camel.

Abdul Zabar specialises in them. "I went to Rajasthan, in India, just before Eid to buy camels," he said.

"This year I imported 29 camels and this is the only one I have left. I want 100,000 taka ($1,800) for it, but I haven't found a buyer yet."

Offal ordeal

Eid also means bumper sales for blacksmiths.

Proshanto was at work in Gabtali market, heating steel in a fire and hammering it into the shape of sacrificial swords.

"Eid is the busiest time of the year for me," he said.

Blacksmith Proshanto
Boom time for blacksmiths: Proshanto prepares blades

"During Eid I get lots of orders for knives. Everyday I make eight to ten."

By tradition, the meat from the sacrifice will be divided into three parts, one for the owner, one for friends and relatives, and one for the poor.

But off-cuts and offal will be discarded, leaving a big clean-up job for the city authorities.

"We have engaged 2,000 extra staff as well as 200 more clerks," said Mayor Hossain.

"After twelve o'clock, when most people have finished their slaughter, they will collect the waste."

"We've distributed them in the city's 90 wards," he says - "and every one will be cleaned."

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26 Feb 02  |  South Asia
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17 Mar 00  |  South Asia
Pakistan on alert for Muslim festival
12 Feb 03  |  South Asia
Shops vie with mosques at Eid
25 Nov 03  |  South Asia


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