Kurban Bayram

The day started early in the tiny Kazakh village of Karasart, two hundred miles soutwest from Novosibirsk, near the Kazakhstani border. In the village consisting of three streets and a few dozen houses every family cut sheep for the greatest Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, or as they call it in Turkic and Persian regions, Kurban Bayram, the festival of sacrifice.

On the festival of sacrifice the whole Muslim world remembers Abraham’s obedience, by which on Allah’s order he was ready to sacrifice his only son, and his son’s obedience, by which he agreed to be sacrificed. At the sight of their obedience Allah considered the sacrifice fulfilled, and ordered Abraham to kill a ram instead of his son. This is also how the Bible tells it, with the difference that according to the Quran this son was Abraham’s first-born from the slave Hagar, Ismael, the forefather of the Arab people.

After the early morning slaughter of the sheep the men in groups go around all the houses of the village, paying respect to the host and wishing abundance in the coming year. They pray and eat together from the freshly cut sheep. Today they were accompanied also by the Novosibirsk photographer Valery Klamm who has photographed for many years the everyday life of the villages in Novosibirsk region. His pictures, published just a couple of hours ago on the region’s photo portal, present a world which is strangely familiar: apart from a few differences, this could be a village in eastern Hungary or Transylvania as well.

The guests sit by rank around the low festive table, the dastarkhan, and the bones of the sheep are also served according to their rank. The most venerated guest receives the hip bone, the next one the femur and the tibia. The oldest person, sitting at the head of table and saying the prayer, receives the sheep’s head, of which he gives to everyone present. On this occasion the food must be especially praised, and no slice of bread or cup of tea must be left on the table.

On the festival of the sacrifice every moment around the table has a special significance. Even the cat, which is also invited to the table, commemorating the Prophet’s love of cats, who cut off the edge of his robe rather than awakening the cat sleeping on it.

And in the houses where they have a television, they also look at how in other countries of the Muslim world they celebrate the festival of the sacrifice.