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Happy Eid

Posted on 17 July 2012 | Narrative

Elizabeth Bingham recalls how she and her friends marked a festival in the Islam calendar.

“We were standing outside a little Turkish restaurant on George Hudson Street, waiting for Dima’s friends. We were all a bit tired; we’d spent much of last night by the river, commemorating the death of Guy Fawkes. Today we were celebrating a less familiar festival. A yellow bus pulled up and two people stepped out.

“Happy Eid!” Dima yelled. She ran and hugged them.

Jess, Helen and I did the same. Dima’s enthusiasm was infectious. We squealed, jumped around and punched the air. Yet we barely knew Aisha and Sam, we didn’t know what Eid was and we weren’t really sure why we were celebrating it. We walked into the restaurant and sat down.

Dima, beaming, brought out a box of sugared dates and offered them around. I thought it was a bit odd to eat sweets before lunch, but she was insistent. I ate one and pretended to like it but really, I thought it was a bit odd. It was fresh, but it tasted stale. It was sticky sweet but bitter underneath. I asked Dima where she got them from. She pointed to the oriental supermarket across the road.

The sweets were obviously another Eid thing, like the fasting and the decorations. I’d been puzzled, to say the least, when I found Dima outside her room, gluing cotton wool to her door. A few minutes later, the corridor was awash with smiling sheep. When I asked Dima about it, she said, somewhat cryptically: ‘we eat them’. Thankfully, mutton featured nowhere on the menu. The food was, in fact, delicious: tender, juicy and coated with mouth-watering spices. Aisha pulled out a camera and we all grinned like the sheep on Dima’s door.

For us, Eid was about cotton wool, dates and a Turkish restaurant in York. For Dima, Bonfire Night was about fireworks and a scarecrow by the River Ouse. Maybe we’d missed the true meaning of Eid, but at that moment it hardly mattered.”