Eid al Adha dates in 2011
The date is subject to adjustment 10 days before the expected date, depending on the start of the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah. It is expected about 70 days after the end of Ramadan, itself variable. In 2011 it will be around 8/9 November. It is a 3 day festival, some shops close for just the day, banks and offices close for 2 days, some shops close for the 3 days, and some people travel to be with their families for the week.
This is usually a busy time for tourists so we shall stay open for the Eid.
Because Marrakech is a dense urban environment evidence of the Eid is everywhere. There are some impressions below on how it impacts the city. For some tourists this is too much and they are better off leaving the city where there is still a celebration, but there are not so many people.
In the Riad
We try to give as many of our staff at least some time off during the day. We will have lunch available for those who prefer to stay in the Riad and chill. In the afternoon lots of locals go walkabout very smartly dressed, and that can be nice to see. We have games and plenty of books in the Riad. There is the spa too.
It will be important for guests to pre-order meals the day before as many shops will be closed.
Most, though not all, restaurants that cater for tourists will open in the evening.
Excursions will still operate, though it can be a little difficult to find drivers in the morning.
Because food shops will close on the day, and most the day after it is important that you pre-order any meals that you want to take in the Riad. Supplies are disrupted for a few days.
Significance of Eid al Adha
Eid al-Adha "Festival of Sacrifice" or "Greater Eid", Eid el Kebir as it is known in Morocco is an important religious holiday to commemorate the willingness of Abraham(Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son Ishmael, and of his son Ishmael to be sacrificed, as an act of obedience to God, but instead was able to sacrifice a ram (by God's command).
Eid is also about spending time with family and friends, sacrifice, and thanksgiving for being able to afford food and housing.
Most families will buy an animal to slaughter for the Eid, and this is what impacts tourists mostly.
How will it effect my visit to Marrakech?
For the month before prices generally rise as people try to get enough money to prepare for the fete.
A week before there is evidence in the local souks of things necessary for the slaughter, little mounds of hay and salt to keep the animal alive until the day, charcoal and braziers for sale, blocks of wood and axes for chopping, knife sharpeners and skewers for food preparation. And finally sheep being transported to the homes and kept on the roofs. There is mounting tension and excitement in the air.
The sacrifice takes place in the morning and nothing is open, by mid morning the smell of cooking meat covers the city. About mid-day fires are started in some of the streets to cook the heads, and later other ones to cook the feet. Late afternoon barrels of offal will appear.
In the afternoon many young people dress up very smartly and walk about, and the evening is a time for celebration.
Outside the city
There is less evidence of the preparations for the Eid in the countryside. You may be fortunate and experience in some villages in the Atlas the tradition of the young men dressing up in the sheep’s skins and visiting houses to general merriment. Sometimes the older men of the village are driven out for a period.
If you come to Marrakech and Morocco over Eid el Kebir you will experience a very diferent Morocco. If you are prepared and come with an open mind it can be a very different and rewarding experience.