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‘Eidonomics’ explained

While there appears to be a shutdown during Eid, many businesses still prosper

Sacrificial lambs await their fate during Eid Al Adha Reuters/Rami Alsayed/NurPhoto
Sacrificial lambs await their fate during Eid Al Adha

Those who stayed in Dubai during the Eid Al Adha holiday enjoyed a tranquil week.

The normally buzzy and busy Dubai International Financial Centre was almost deserted during the day. Sheikh Zayed Road was not the hazardous F1 racetrack it often is. Lunch tables even at top restaurants were easy to come by.

But you get bored of all this relaxing quietude after a couple of days. So, keen for some holiday action, I headed down to Al Quoz Abattoir to savour the Eid experience at the sharp end – literally.

During Eid Al Adha, the five-year-old complex in Dubai’s industrial zone – a satellite of the much bigger abattoir complex at Al Qusais north of the Creek – becomes a hive of commercial activity.

It is here that observant Muslims in south Dubai select, slaughter and butcher the animals that Islam requires as sacrifice, in emulation of the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to offer up his son to Allah.

As a place to study “Eidonomics” – the changing economic and commercial patterns of an Islamic city during the religious holiday – it was perfect.

While the rest of the emirate moved at an unusually leisurely pace, Al Quoz was hectic, with a full car park from just after dawn prayers until late at night as the pious clamoured for lambs and goats for sacrifice.

The unknowing animals were held in a pen at the back of the industrial building, scrambling innocently to get through the entry-only gateway to the abattoir.

In a highly automated process, individual animals had already been chosen and paid for, and their new owners were now lining up on the other side of the building to collect their goods – although in a very different shape to the way they were on selection.

A boisterous crowd waited in the area marked “viewing gallery and meat receiving”, either clutching tickets entitling them to their goods, or wheeling away shopping trolleys laden with plastic bags through which you can just discern the deep purple of freshly cut meat.

On one wall was a large CCTV flatscreen on which you could watch the final seconds of your animal as it was slaughtered according to halal rites – two slashes to the neck arteries to ensure all the blood was voided. It was gruesomely compulsive viewing.

I’m no stranger to animal sacrifice. When I married in Baku, Azerbaijan, many years ago, my new brother-in-law observed Shia ritual by arranging for a lamb to be slaughtered next to our feast table as an auspice of good luck.

I have somewhere a picture of bride and groom smiling nervously on either side of a lamb’s head with glassy eyes, oozing blood onto a ceremonial cloth. Al Quoz was a sanitised industrial version of that experience.

Fahad, the abattoir manager who was kind enough to show me around, explained that a lamb or goat would cost AED1,000 to AED1,200 ($275 to $325) depending on size, while a tariff board showed that slaughtering and butchery fees were a modest AED25 ($7) for the smallest sheep or goat.

For that outlay, you receive enough meat to feed yourself, family and close friends, and make a sizeable charitable donation of meat to feed the poor at Eid.

Plus you help ensure the Al Quoz abattoir continues as a profitable commercial concern for the rest of the year, when business isn’t quite so hectic.

It’s one of the ways in which the Islamic economy complements and enhances overall economic life in the UAE and other Muslim countries.

Sure, the public and private sectors in the UAE enjoy a long work break during Eid al Adha, as well as the other Islamic celebration of Eid Al Fitr at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Some have said this is to the economic detriment of the region, amid issues of “productivity”.

Economists I’ve talked to in the region point instead to the positive economic aspects. The airlines and airports are chock full during Eid, as people travel to Dubai for some R&R or go elsewhere for a short break.

Hotels stage special Eid events, and the beach resorts enjoy a steady flow of people enjoying their days off and spending money lavishly in a vacation setting.

In the evenings the malls are packed as the authorities put on special promotions to take advantage of the influx of tourists. Some are still frantic well after midnight as opening hours are extended.

The DIFC, deserted during the day, was an even more hedonistic marketplace than normal after dark.

For a consumer-oriented economy like Dubai, the religious holiday surely has a powerful positive economic effect, even outside the abattoir business. Mabruk. 

Frank Kane is Editor-at-Large