Being a casualty of recession in Ireland and a former inhabitant of McCurtain Street in Cork City it stands to reason that when Abu Dhabi became my new home, via emigration, I began to try and embrace an expat lifestyle and the general customs of Middle Eastern life. This weekend sees one of the largest events of the year in Abu Dhabi, Eid-Al-Adha ( Festival of Sacrifice), not exactly the kind of festival I relished, as the words festival and sacrifice should possibly never be in the same sentence.
Eid-Al-Adha, (Festival of Sacrifice) is one of the large religious celebrations in the Muslim calendar. Oblivious to the significance of the occasion and disinterested in anything that involves sacrifice. I can confirm that during the celebration of Eid-al-Adha Muslims commemorate and remember Abraham’s trials, by slaughtering an animal such as a sheep, camel, or goat at home. The meat from the sacrifice of Eid al-Adha is mostly given away to others. One-third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the poor. It symbolizes the willingness to give up some of their own bounties, in order to strengthen ties of friendship and help those who are in need.
Meanwhile, I rooted out the cooler box and started to prepare for a day long beach stop-off on the way to our celebration, a two day to trip to a multi pooled, multi-restauranted, five star hotel in Al Ain, two hours from Abu Dhabi on the border of Oman. Delighted to have the three days off so that all the family could enjoy the declining temperatures and frolic by the sea, I packed with gusto. I stuffed the cool box with ill gotten ham sandwiches and tubes of Pringles, ( the tayto’s have now ran out) I was determined to bring it packed tight as a drum. This was now our Halloween break, our mid-term break, a weekend at the Hilton. I pack for the family trip with increasing intensity as I try to wipe out any thoughts of home. Stuffing gear bags, hold-alls, crocs, frocks and socks into every nook and cranny of the boot, I start to hum loudly, almost crazily, to eradicate the thoughts of this weekend in Ireland, but the memories of home kept seeping through. I couldn’t ignore it any longer, this weekend wasn’t about Eid or lazing by the pool at the Hilton, it was da Jazz.
With one eye always on the social calendar in Ireland but both feet firmly sunk in the Arabian sands, I kick myself to know that this weekend I’m missing the Jazz Festival, a lot different kind of festival to Eid, where nobody gets slaughtered, at least not in the literal sense.
Take it from me, soul-less, sedate hotel life is a poor trade-off for mid morning music sessions, mid-afternoon jazz jams and late evenings enjoying the dulcet tones of first rate musicians, outside the Teach Beag on McCurtain Street. The fact that all this is being washed down by lashings of creamy Guinness does not make it any easier to swallow. Snippets of years gone by, early hours fun fuelled by an eclectic atmosphere and great company in Gallaghers while the poshest of us went to the Metropole where we didn’t mind paying at the door, because there was no end to the bottomless pit of disposable cash we earned each month. Without chick, child, marriage or mortgage, the jazz was the weekend where you splashed out and spent the pennies you have saved by staying home the weeks before. That was my idea of a Festival of Sacrifice. We had sacrificed the weeks before by eating Chinese in front of the telly to save a few quid, this was festival bit, the bit to be enjoyed. Alleluia!
Now here in Abu Dhabi, zilch disposable income ( well enough for a special offer at the Hilton) and what seems like a lifetime of eating Chinese in front of telly behind me and in front of me, no craic and no certainly no jazz, I yearn for the frenzied melee that this weekend used to signify. So woe is me as I pack for the predictable Hilton and I ask the question, If this is the sacrifice (surely this must be) then where is the Festival?