CAIRO: Throngs of Egyptians flooded to Muslim mosques nationwide on Saturday to perform congregational prayers and start celebrating the rituals of Eidul Azha — or the Sacrifice Feast — which is marked by better security conditions this year compared to past ones.
Surrounded by five armoured vehicles and tens of security men, popular Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandseen town of Giza, a stone- throw from the capital Cairo, has been overwhelmed by thousands of worshippers who filled the mosque inside out, including men, women and children. The opposite public park alongside the main street has been crowded with toy and balloon sellers portraying all together a fresh and colorful holiday morning.
“Egypt is making constant steps towards security and stability after three chaotic years, and President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is trying to fix long-term inherited problems in a very short time,” said Ahmed, a 30-year-old employee at an oil company, after finishing the prayers outside the mosque.
Ex-military chief and now President Sisi took office a few months ago, one year after he led the overthrow of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against his one- year rule. Sisi’s supporters have great confidence in him despite the recent price hikes, the declining Islamist anti-government protests and the terrorist blasts targeting police and military men.
“We back Sisi and we will be patient about price hikes as long as Egypt is doing well,” said Omar, 39, a businessman, while heading with his wife towards the crowded garden opposite to the mosque. His 32-year-old wife, Yousra, said that she is optimistic about the country’s future under Sisi. “We all love you, Sisi,” she said with a smile.
To provide a joyful atmosphere, the Egyptian Agriculture Ministry announced that it has prepared its public parks to receive about 2 million visitors during the 4-day Sacrifice Feast. The Interior Ministry said it has installed monitors at parks and beaches to maintain utmost security during the celebrations.
At al-Azhar Park in Cairo, one of the famous destinations for Egyptian holidays, many parents sat together on sheets on the grass to enjoy the fresh air while watching their children playing around.
Hussein al-Ogary, a 57-year-old worker at a state-run publishing house, said that the Eid is so joyful this year and that he supports Sisi “wholeheartedly.” His sister-in-law Umm Wael, 50, said that Sisi should be hailed for burdening such heavy responsibilities for Egypt and Egyptians. “Egypt will be much better and everything will be awesome,” the lady confidently told Xinhua.
Holding her baby girl at the park, Shaimaa, a 40-year-old housewife wearing a face-covering veil, seemed less enthusiastic about Sisi and more sympathetic with ousted Morsi.
“I am not so optimistic due to the ongoing massive security campaign on Morsi’s supporters,” Shaimaa continued, “I ask Sisi to pay more attention to the poor citizens and find out why some desperate citizens have recently committed suicide.” The lady expressed her belief that the people felt neither progress nor change since the 2011 upheaval that toppled long-time ex-President Hosni Mubarak.
Like all Muslims worldwide, Egyptians slaughter sheep and cattle as a basic ritual of Eidul Azha and distribute their meat among families, friends and the poor.
Therefore, sheep stockyards could be seen everywhere across Egypt with shepherds and livestock owners vying to sell their sheep and cattle to worshippers to sacrifice for the holy occasion.
“The price hikes have surely affected our sales this year,” said Sobhy al-Raqabawi while guarding his sheep at a stockyard in Giza’s Boulak al-Dakrour neighbourhood.