The Camp is quiet. Except for UNHCR essential staff, most humanitarian workers in the camp are off duty for two days to join the rest of the country celebrating Eid al-Adha, the most important Muslim holiday of the year. Marking the end of hajj and commemorating prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to obey God’s command to sacrifice his son Ismael, this is the time when markets are full of delicacies, families flock to the malls and long traffic jams slow down the hustle and bustle in Amman. Post-offices, schools and government offices are closed. This is the time, when Jordanians cultivate extended family ties, children receive gifts, and sheep are sacrificed to distribute meat among family, neighbors, the poor and needy. It is a time of giving and sharing.
For some this is the second Eid al-Adha in the camp and for some, their very first day. 316 new arrivals from the previous night are registered this morning, most of them from Homs. Ihab Shaban, UNHCR’s Community Services Associate Officer, is greeting everyone in the spacious, cool tent. A kind smile on his face, he quickly assesses whether vulnerable cases, injured refugees and elderly need instant attention. Newly arrived families already received their mats and blankets and are resting from their arduous journey. Ihab notices an elderly woman in her seventies, sitting on the floor. Bewildered and trembling from exhaustion she whispers: “It is Eid, and I am here….here”. She then catches herself and falls silent. Self-conscious about not expressing her relief and gratitude to have arrived safely, she is distraught at not being home for Eid.
In the shaded registration area, two teenage sisters and their four brothers, 16 – 25 years old, are patiently waiting for their turn. They arrived without their parents who needed to stay behind to sell all their sheep for Eid. As soon as business affairs are settled, they will join – that is the plan. The oldest boy is now in charge of the family.
There are no signs of sheep being slaughtered. Refugees cannot afford to buy a locally raised sheep for 250 – 300 JOD. However, family members and friends are arriving at the gate, carrying cooked food in big pots and bringing in special supplies which are swiftly picked up in wheelbarrows by young boys, kicking up dust as they push their precious cargo to its destination. While supermarkets are open and the tented mosque is currently empty after this morning’s early and long call for prayer, young girls are eagerly admiring the colorful display of toys, dolls, and other trinkets made in China. Once they have inspected the first shop, they walk hand in hand to the next – one never knows what the next stall has in store. Clutching a crumpled 1 JOD note in their hands, a cherished present for Eid, tiaras in their hair and glimmer flower tattoos on their cheeks, they look beautiful and are excited about the day. Young boys pass by, furtively shooting bibi-gun pellets and relishing dripping ice-cream cones.
During a walk through the camp to verify rumors of unlicensed water shops having been closed down by the police, the UNHCR team passes three young men enjoying a brief hushed dance, arms around each other, synchronizing their steps. They chuckle, then losen their embrace, as more people are starting to watch.
The playground in the child-friendly spaces is teeming with laughing and squealing children, boys and girls. Two young guards are watching over them, ready to intervene in case there is a row over who gets to go next on the swing and protecting the space. Expecting some kind of treat for Eid, children happily share that their wishes have been granted by parents and relatives. Popping balloons and frozen syrup slush in their sticky hands, they seem joyful. Nine year old Hannah proudly pulls out a 1 JOD note which she intends to save. Their biggest wish is to spend the next Eid al-Adha at home, joined by all family members, just the way it used to be. They unanimously confess they would trade being back home for any sweets and gifts in the world.
Frauke Riller, External Relations