Letters from Iraq- Dec.5.1 EID

Report from Iraq Dec. 5, 2002

Last night there was more car horn honking than usual at about 10:30 PM. Peter and I figured that they had just announced that EID would begin tomorrow. When the new moon appears after the month of Ramadan begins, and is verified by proper religious authorities, it signals the beginning of the 3 day festival time that marks the end of the month of fasting and other disciplines. We joined our friends at the 7 AM service at the beautiful mosque which is several blocks away. All the women on our team donned the proper garb, including head coverings and entered the mosque in the rear. There they can hear the call to prayer and the sermon but are both physically and visually separated from the men. The men all remove their shoes before entering the mosque and most prayed, on their knees, in the large, unfurnished area inside. The floor is covered with many rugs and the inside opens all the way to the dome with many intersecting archways. The intricate designs pressed into the walls are beautiful, with Arabic writing circling the base of the inside of the dome. The exterior of the dome and the minaret (the tall tower from which the call to prayer is broadcast) is all in beautiful blue tile. I wish I could send a photo of it with this journal. The more formal part of the service began about 7:20 and all the men lined up in rows and bowed, foreheads touching the floor, sat erect, stood, hands cupped outward from their ears, and chanted in response to the calls sung out to them. After another period, the "sermon" began and some of the men moved about the large room to get comfortable. Like Christmas or Easter sermons in churches, it seemed rather long because this is one of the few times all year to preach to those who attend only infrequently. At the end, we go outside to claim our shoes and greet one another, many congratulating each other for completing the discipline of the month. We walked back to the Al Fanar, our hotel, for our typical breakfast of hard boiled egg, cheese slices, bread with jam and whipped cream or butter, and hot tea. We skip the sliced tomatoes and cukes to avoid getting sick from the local water.

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