The Tourists Guide to Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice
Visiting a foreign country during a festival season is a great opportunity to glimpse into the deeper aspects of a culture, but it can come with some extra hurdles that you’ll want to be prepared for. Kurban Bayramı, or Eid al-Adha as its more commonly known, is certainly no exception. It’s a time when the cities are filled with animals and smell like barns, its a time for family, visiting neighbors and friends, and it’s a time for food. It’s one of the two most important holidays of the Islamic calendar and so if you’re looking for a glimpse into life in Turkey it’s a great time to visit!
BUT WHAT IS THE FESTIVAL OF SACRIFICE?
The Festival of Sacrifice (Kurban Bayramı in Turkish or Eid al-Adha in Arabic) is a festival celebrated by Muslims around the world commemorating the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son in obedience to Allah. When Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son, Allah intervened and provided a ram, which is why most Muslims today will sacrifice a ram specifically.
On the first day of the holiday most men will go to the mosque to pray before going to sacrifice an animal with family members. Before the animal is killed a short prayer is recited, then the animal is butchered.
In major cities this will take place in special designated places (sometimes special butcher yards, sometimes car washes) though in the countryside this can still happen in driveways, fields, or pretty much anywhere.
The meat is portioned out with some given to relatives and friends, some to the poor, and the rest consumed by the family over the next few days.
It’s a season of spending time with family, visiting neighbors, and giving to charity. Not only is the meat often given to the poor, but clothes and other goods can also be given at this time. Some families will opt to skip the sacrifice and instead give money to charities.
TIPS AND THINGS TO KNOW WHEN VISITING DURING THE FESTIVAL OF SACRIFICE
-This is a major holiday and many businesses and touristic sights will be closed on the first day of the holiday as well as the afternoon beforehand which is a time of preparation.
-In particular, mosques will be much busier during the morning prayers. Either plan to visit during other times of day or after the holiday. For more about visiting mosques see our Guide to Visiting Religious Sites
-The holiday brings a lot of people back to Turkey from other countries and so it can be a bit harder than usual to book a hotel or car. If you’re planning to visit during this time, make sure to book in advance!
-don’t plan to get your car washed. You probably weren’t going to anyways, but car washes will be filled with blood, heaps of meat, and piles of offal.
-If you’re not squeamish about butchering feel free to visit a public slaughter house and see this unique part of the culture. Make sure to not be intrusive though.
-Be prepared for traffic delays. People will be out visiting and on the road at odd hours making for unpredictable traffic.
-Busses will tend to run a bit less frequently depending on where you are so if you’re going somewhere remote make sure that there will be transit.
-In the summer all the butchering can lead to some pretty horrible smells. The drainage canals are filled with blood baking in the sun and the garbage cans with off cuts.
WHEN IS THE FESTIVAL OF SACRIFICE?
The Festival of Sacrifice marks the end of the Hajj season (the season of pilgrimage to Mecca) so you will likely see people in long white robes in the airports.
The festival is a four-day holiday preceded by an afternoon of preparation so make sure you stock up on groceries before then.
2022 – July 9 – 12
2023 – June 28 – July 1
2024 – June 16 – 19
2025 – June 6 – 9
2026 – May 27 – 30
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TURKISH PHRASES FOR THE HOLIDAY
İyi bayramlar! – Happy holiday!
Bayram – Holiday
Bayramınız mübarek olsun! – May your day be blessed!
Kurban Bayramı – The festival of Sacrifice in Turkish or Eid al-Adha in Arabic
Kurban – Sacrifice
Kurban kesmek – to sacrifice (literally to cut a sacrifice)
Allah kabul etsin – May Allah accept (your sacrifice)