MINA, Saudi Arabia -- On Saturday, millions of Muslims around the world celebrated Eid al-Adha, one of Islam's most important holidays.
The "Feast of Sacrifice" is a revered religious observance that coincides with the last rites of the Saudi Arabian hajj. It is a joyful occasion for which food is a key ingredient. The holiday will be observed by large parts of Asia, including India, Pakistan, and Indonesia.
Many people in the Middle East say they cannot afford to sacrifice their livestock because of Russia's war with Ukraine. The once booming holiday trade of sheep, goats, and cows has been slowed down by a desperate concern about the rising cost of living.
Mohammad Nadir, a Mohammad Nadir, said that everyone wants to sacrifice an animal for Allah's sake, but they're not able because they are poor. He was speaking from Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan where a few men haggled about bleating sheep.
Eid al-Adha is a celebration of the Quranic story of Ibrahim willing to sacrifice Ismail in obedience to God. God offered a ram to Abraham before he could perform the sacrifice. According to both Jewish and Christian stories, Abraham is told to kill Isaac.
Cash-strapped Afghanistan is known for its mad rush to buy prime animals before the holiday. However, the Taliban takeover and the resulting global inflation surge have made it impossible to purchase a great religious item.
Mohammad Qassim (an Afghan cattle vendor) said, "Last Year on this day, I sold 40-50 cattle." "I have sold two cattle this year," he said.
As Russia's war against Ukraine causes disruption to agriculture and limits energy supply, wheat and meat prices have risen and hunger has increased. Animal feed and fertilizer are at record highs, which has forced livestock sellers to increase their prices.
Families in Tripoli, Libya are eagerly awaiting the holiday after the two-year pandemic that decimated the country and over a decade of violence. Buyers were pacing in the dusty market next to the palm-strewn highway, nervous about making such a large purchase due to the high price tag.
Sabri al-Hadi said, "Honestly, the price is crazy," appearing exasperated.
There were few buyers at a Gaza Strip livestock market. According to vendors, the price for sheep feed has increased fourfold in recent weeks.
Abu Mustafa, a central Gaza sheep seller, lamented that "our life is full of losses". Gaza has long suffered from poverty and widespread joblessness.
Palestinian families were reducing the amount of food they were eating in Ramallah, West Bank.
Baligh Hamdi, a fruit vendor, said that "On days such as these, there was demand to fruits, sweets, and for nuts as well as for nuts, but as can be seen... no one stands to buy now."
However, despite the extravagant feasts, many people were happy to see community prayers after years of restrictions caused by coronavirus. On Saturday, the faithful crowded mosques in North Africa and the Middle East.
Many worshippers, from Kenya to Russia and Egypt, prayed shoulder-to-shoulder, feet to feet, in places like Egypt.
Sahar Mohamed, smiling broadly in Cairo, said that he was very happy that so many people came to pray. "There is love between people."
Saudi Arabia saw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims rise at dawn to trek to Mina. Mina is a large valley surrounded by barren mountains, where Prophet Muhammad stopped along his 1,400-year-old journey. This week, one million Muslims from all over the globe flocked to Mecca for the largest pilgrimage since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Pilgrims performed the symbolic stoneing of devil at the Jamarat Complex to recall Ibrahim's triumph over temptation. It is one of the rituals associated to the Prophet Muhammad, the prophets Ibrahim, and Ismail (or Abraham and Ishmael as it is called in the Bible). This ritual is performed each year during these five intense days.
Three large pillars were marked by the devil's attempts to stop Ibrahim's sacrifice. The pilgrims placed pebbles on them.
This is the most dangerous part of the hajj with large crowds rushing back and forth. In 2015, thousands died from the ferocious crowds. Saudi Arabia never announced the final death toll. Authorities have made it easier to get around the country in recent years with electronic gates, wider streets and a high speed rail link.
Muslims should complete the spiritual journey at least once in their lifetime if they are financially and physically able. Saudi Arabia maintained strict limits on the spread of the virus with a COVID-19 vaccination mandate and attendance below half of pre-pandemic levels.
The scenes were still a step closer to normal. Famous crowds visited holy sites without safety precautions or masks.
As part of the main pillars of Islam men and women are required to shave their heads at the end of the pilgrimage.
They will circle the Kaaba in Mecca, the cube-shaped symbol of the metaphorical House of God, before returning home to continue celebrating Eid al-Adha.
"We feel very proud," declared Izhar Anjoom (Indian pilgrim), who was stoneing the devil at Mina. "We are enjoying ourselves so much because today's Eid is."
DeBre reported in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This report was contributed by Jelal Hassan, West Bank, Fares Akram, Gaza Strip, Gaza City; Kawa Besharat, Mazar-e-Sharif; and Mohamed Wagdy, Cairo.