Northern Ireland

Eid al-Adha festival celebrated in Belfast's Botanic Gardens

Zoreena Ahmed (left), Nazeeta Ahmed and Amira Ahmed celebrate the launch of the first ever Belfast Eid Festival with the Housing Executive’s Race Relations Officer Sylwia McAvoy (right) Image copyright Housing Executive
Image caption The Eid al-Adha celebration is being held in Belfast for the first time

Crowds of people are celebrating the Eid al-Adha Festival in Belfast's Botanic Gardens for the first time.

Organised by the Belfast Islamic Centre, its 2,000 tickets sold out within 72 hours of going on sale.

Festival-goers are enjoying activities including events for children, craft stalls and Henna tattoo artists.

Zoreena Ahmed, one of the organisers, said those attending would receive the "very best Islamic welcome".

Backed by £4,000 of funding from the Housing Executive, today's festival also features a range of international food on offer, including vegan, vegetarian and halal options.

What is Eid al-Adha?

The word "Eid" means "feast" or "festival".

Each year Muslims celebrate both Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Eid al-Fitr - which means "festival of the breaking of the fast" - is celebrated at the end of Ramadan, a month when many adult Muslims fast.

Meaning "feast of the sacrifice", Eid al-Adha commemorates the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son out of obedience to Allah. Before the sacrifice goes ahead, God provides a lamb to be sacrificed instead.

The festival, which is marked by special prayers and the sharing of food among family and friends. is celebrated at a time of year when many Muslims perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Muslim festivals are based on the lunar calendar, so fall on different days each year, but Eid al-Adha falls roughly two months after Eid al-Fitr.

"In the Muslim community we have a saying: 'how we gather is how we live,'" said Zoreena Ahmed, one of the organisers of the event from north Belfast.

"That's the spirit in which the Eid festival is being held and the Botanic Gardens will be a riot of colour, noise, taste and smells as the best of our community will be on show."

Race relations officer at the Housing Executive Sylwia McAvoy said the celebration was an important outreach opportunity.

"We can all learn from each other and what better way to promote dialogue than eating, playing and promoting enjoyment together as a community," said Mrs McAvoy.

"For us, community cohesion is paramount and we congratulate the Belfast Islamic Centre for taking this brave and important step in putting the best of their culture on show for the rest of us to enjoy."

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