Friday, November 25, 2011

16 Days against gender violence

The 16 Days Campaign calling for the eradication of all forms of violence against women starts today, November 25.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign emanating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute (WGLI) sponsored by Rutgers University Schools of Arts and Sciences’ Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) in 1991.

I am surprised not to see any activities planned in the region, where reports about gender violence abound. Or maybe there are activities in the pipeline of which I am unaware.

I was happily brought up in a family without violence, where females were loved, respected and treated on a par with males. I was fortunate to enroll at university, although my academic pursuits were cut short by civil war. I was also lucky to realize a childhood dream by landing a career in journalism and falling on an editor who believed in gender equality. 

It was not easy for a woman to be accepted as a full-fledged journalist in the early Seventies in the Middle East. On the job, my female colleagues and I were often derided, looked down upon and mocked. We repeatedly came back to our magazine workplace in tears because of the way we were treated. But we persisted and rapidly earned the respect of our readers and of the people of public interest we were writing about and interviewing.

The 16 Days Campaign participants chose November 25 (International Day Against Violence Against Women), and December 10 (International Human Rights Day) to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.

This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates, including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day; December 1, World AIDS Day; and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. 

The 16 Days Campaign calls for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by:
  • Raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels
  • Strengthening local work around violence against women
  • Establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women
  • Providing a forum where organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies
  • Demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing against violence against women
  • Creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women.
Since 1991, over 3,700 organizations in approximately 164 countries have participated in the 16 Days Campaign.

Patricia, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabal*

International Day Against Violence Against Women was first declared in 1981 by the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean to commemorate the violent assassination, by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, of the Mirabal sisters on that date in 1960. 

As a result of extensive marshaling by women’s rights organizations, the UN General Assembly officially designated November 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women [A/RES/54/134] in 1999. 

The theme for 2011 is: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let's Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!

To explore some of the deeper social structures that promote and perpetuate violence against women and girls, the CWGL last year launched a multi-annual campaign theme on the intersections of militarism and violence against women. While there are many different ways to define militarism, “our working definition outlines militarism as an ideology that creates a culture of fear and supports the use of violence, aggression, or military interventions for settling disputes and enforcing economic and political interests,” says the CWGL.

“Current world events -- including military interventions, femicides, attacks on civilians participating in political change, ongoing conflicts etc. -- exemplify the distinctive way in which militarism influences how we see our neighbors, our families, our public life, and other people in the world,” it adds.

This year’s 16 Days Campaign will delve further into five priority issues for those working on the intersections of violence against women and militarism:
  1. Bringing together women, peace, and human rights movements to challenge militarism: There are many international tools and mechanisms that can help hold governments accountable for protecting and respecting rights (e.g. the Beijing Platform for Action, CEDAW, international humanitarian law, the Human Rights Council, and Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960 on Women, Peace, and Security, and more). These approaches and tools provide entry points for social movements to reframe security as a human rights issue instead of a military issue.
  2. Proliferation of small arms and their role in domestic violence: Domestic violence is a reality in every country of the world. According to the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) Women’s Network, women are three times more likely to die violently if there is a gun in the house. Consequently, this year the 16-Day Campaign will also look at the sale, trade, proliferation, and misuse of small firearms.
  3. Sexual violence in and after conflict: Rape is often used as a tactic of war to drive fear and to humiliate or punish women and their communities.
  4. Political violence against women, including pre/during/post-election violence: The use of violence to achieve political goals has specific gendered implications. Governments that use force against their own civilians, suspend rule of law in an “emergency” period or use “anti-terrorism” laws to suppress pro-democracy movements or to silence human rights defenders also employ militaristic ideologies that attempt to pass off violence as “security” measures.
  5. Sexual and gender-based violence committed by state agents, particularly the police or military: Even in places where there is no recognized conflict, militarized violence against civilians by uniformed personnel takes place.
The 2011 16 Days Campaign is an opportunity for reflection and conversation about what the global women’s rights movement can do to challenge structures that allow violence against women to continue at all levels. It is also a crucial time to reach out to and involve more men, boys, faith-based and traditional leaders, and other key partners in this work towards building a more just and peaceful world.

A crucial aspect of the 16 Days Campaign involves listening to the stories of women around the world and standing in solidarity with one another, but it also underscores the value of working locally to transform violent or militaristic mindsets.

During these 16 days and beyond, let’s focus on how “peace in the home” extends and relates to “peace in the world.” Every nonviolent value can influence family, friends, communities and governments. Let’s now put our shoulders to the wheel.

[* Original images of the Mirabal Sisters owned by the Mirabal Family] 

Related post:
Rest in Peace, Myriam Achkar -- at Nadine Moawad's blog "What if I get Free?" -- November 25, 2011
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wise up, reckless drivers!

Most of us know at least one Road Traffic Victim… I wish this weren’t so!

Today, November 20, is World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), road traffic crashes kill nearly 1.3 million people every year and injure or disable as many as 50 million more. They are the leading cause of death among people aged 10-24 years.

Dad Esa -- Jeddah, 1950
It is a day I didn’t know was commemorated. It is very dear to my heart as I lost my dad, Esa, to a drink driving accident in December 1973. He was 65. Dad had just retired from a long spell as a civil servant and had embarked on a new life in his preferred profession of being a lawyer in Bahrain when he was hit one night by a young man driving under the influence of alcohol.

To be robbed of a husband and father because of a drunk driver, in Bahrain out of all places, is beyond words or words that can appear in print.

Reckless and drink driving is something that happens on the roads all over the world. But I was shocked at the speed of driving and recklessness and disregard for all highway codes in Dubai since I have been in Dubai.

Why don’t drivers signal? Why do they blind you with their headlights (I had one accident because of that)? Why do they drive so fast? Don’t they have families? Why? Why? And why do drivers have to use their mobiles on the road? What is so urgent? 

In October 2005, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on governments to mark the third Sunday in November as World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. The day was created to give recognition to victims of road traffic crashes and the plight of their relatives who must cope with the emotional and practical consequences of their unexpected and tragic loss.

WHO and the UN Road Safety Collaboration encourage governments and NGOs around the world to commemorate this day to draw the public’s attention to road traffic crashes, their consequences and costs, and the precautionary measures liable to prevent them.

In May 2011, the international community marked the start of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. Governments acknowledged the threat of road traffic deaths to health and development, and committed themselves to the Decade goal of saving five million lives and preventing 50 million injuries. Some used this occasion to release national Decade plans and new road safety legislation targeted at drinking and driving, speeding and using helmets, seat-belts and child car seats.

WHO says 3000 people die on the world’s roads every day and several million are injured or disabled each year. About 124 people are dying every hour and hundreds are severely disabled and injured. It notes the Middle East and North Africa have above average road accident rates.

In Dubai, I found that the Suraya Foundation, a non-profit road safety organization, has partnered with educators, the media, the creative community and families who have been affected by tragic accidents to help spread the awareness of safe driving and educating the community on how safe driving can save lives.

Founder Mohd Shahnawaz knows first-hand what it is like to lose a loved one due to a reckless driving accident. His younger sister Suraya (read her story) was killed in a hit and run accident in March 2009. In honor of her memory, he has made it his goal to spread awareness on the dangers of reckless driving. 

By spreading emotionally compelling messages through awareness campaigns and mass media, the Suraya Foundation is hoping to change the attitudes of rash drivers and get them to drive safely.

One of the Suraya Foundation campaigns is “Take the Oath,” a project where you take a vow to be a safer driver on the road using a checklist as a guide.

WHO says UAE residents are seven times more likely to die in a car accident compared to UK inhabitants. Road accidents are the second major cause of deaths in the UAE, where car accident deaths have been increasing every year (except in 2009 when fatalities dropped 10 percent).

Most car accidents in the UAE, it says, are due to heedless driving. Experts suggest educating drivers and teaching them traffic safety and courteous driving rules could change this.

Indeed, last week I read about another accident, this time involving a cyclist… It was the case of another family robbed of a loved one.

An article in Daily Tech quotes UAE Police as saying traffic accidents dropped 40 percent in Abu Dhabi and 20 percent in Dubai in October, when millions of BlackBerry users around the world were disconnected for about four days.

On this day of remembrance, maybe it’s a good time to take the oath and be a safe driver. Please drive carefully and responsibly and be safe.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sweet memories of King Hussein

I'm wearing sunglasses on the extreme right in this snapshot of the 1978 wedding
Jordan today marks the 76th birthday of the late King Hussein.

The online community and social media platforms have been flooding timelines with pictures, quotes and messages of respect. And I was reminded of a very special day in 1978 with His Majesty.

I was honored when my magazine in Beirut, Monday Morning, chose me to cover the wedding of the late Hashemite monarch to Liza Halaby. King Hussein married Queen Noor on June 15, 1978.

I traveled to Amman with our photographer, Krikor (Koko) Ohannes, to cover the event. We were offered a royal souvenir silver box, which is unfortunately packed with the rest of my memorabilia.

Both Koko (who was killed during the Lebanon civil war a decade later) and I were fortunate to get very close to the happy couple. And Koko was the only photographer who dared call out to the late King Hussein and his bride, Queen Noor: “King, King! Kiss together.” Koko was Armenian and his English was not exactly Shakespearean. Both the king and queen smiled and obliged.

It was a magical day I will never forget. 

At the time of his death on February 7, 1999, King Hussein was the longest serving executive head of state in the world and the 40th generation direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

I read that in his final years, King Hussein “enjoyed surfing the Web and developed a strong appreciation for the power of the Internet as a force for progress and understanding.” I thus think a blog evoking sweet memories on this day is fitting.

God bless your soul, King Hussein

Friday, November 11, 2011

Twitterians for Lebanon government

The French Revolution originated in the “French literary salons.” That's where middle-class intellectuals and liberal nobles discussed the works of Voltaire and Rousseau and pondered the ideas of civil society and social change, progress, spiritual-versus-government authority and government reform...

A “Lebanese political salon” opened this month on Twitter with both former Prime Minister Saad Hariri (@haririsaad) and his successor Najib Mikati (@najib_mikati) taking to the social media platform to communicate with the online community.

Hariri went online November 4 to take questions and explain his position on various current affairs topics. He addressed issues connected to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, his anticipated homecoming, the fortunes of his Future Movement, the Syria Spring, his children and scuba diving…

He also spoke about Harley Davidsons (thanks to George Elkhabbaz, @UXSoup) and Batman (thanks to Angie Nassar, @angienassar)!

“I miss Beirut and I miss Lebanon, but mostly I miss the people,” he tweeted. Hariri has been out of the country for about six months.

With many people still skeptical about whether it was Hariri in person tweeting, he said, “It’s me, Saad, you are talking to. Believe it.” 

Premier Mikati joined the social media fray 48 hours later by engaging in a twitter Q&A session that involved the British ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher (@HMATomFletcher) ahead of his November 7 meeting with his British counterpart David Cameron at 10 Downing Street.

If only several hundreds knew about Twitter in Lebanon, tens of thousands do now. By November 8, Mikati followers had jumped to 5,050. Hariri’s were up to 13,518 by then. And by the time he finished his nightly session, he had 14,279 followers and 20,231 this Friday morning (November 11).

This outbreak of digital politics got me thinking of suggesting to Mikati, Hariri or whoever heads a new Lebanese government in future to co-opt an “Advisory Cabinet” of Twitterians.

I am sure I missed many Twitterians when drawing my list of candidates for such a Government Advisory Cabinet. So please feel free to add or delete nominations. We might eventually propose an ideal lineup.


(My list of “portfolios” is drawn from the Government of Lebanon website. I just omitted the Office of the Minister of State. The short bios are taken either from Twitter or the person’s blog)

Najib Mitri (@LeNajib) – Blogger at BlogBaladi.

Samer Chami (@_BiGsAm_) -- Do I really need a bio? Tech freak should be enough...

Displaced Persons
Saad K. (@SeenKaf) -- In communications; an aspiring documentary producer, embraces human rights, activism, reform, film, photography, street art and cultures.

Post and Telecom
Antoine Naaman (@_Ant1_) – Digital marketer obsessed with mobile phones, video gamer, movie buff, tweeting mostly about technology.

Amer Tabsh (@arzleb) -- Consultant, TV producer and journalist; tech and science addict.

Foreign Affairs & Emigrants
Octavia Nasr (@OctaviaNasr) -- CEO at BridgesMediaC, Middle East expert, blogger and social media advocate.

@BeirutBilArabeh -- Trying to make a damn difference... but what difference does it make?

Sana Tawileh (@SanaTawileh) -- Founder of

Mustapha Hamoui (@Beirutspring) -- Blogging about Lebanese society, business and politics since February 2005. Originally from Tripoli and living and working outside of Lebanon. A computer geek, especially when it comes to experimenting with web programming and design.

Liliane Assaf (@FunkyOzzi) -- Software Developer/SEM/SEO womosapien. Liliane writes more blogs than can be counted, among them Lebanon Aggregator, started in 2006 “about Lebanese blogs, gathering different opinions from different backgrounds, a variety of perspectives and interests written in different languages; politics, art, photography, paintings, comics, recipes, and poetry. From Lebanon, to Lebanon and about Lebanon.”

Youssef Alam (@JoesBox) – “I have a passion for marketing, food, photography and all things social media related. Living and loving Lebanon.”

Rawan Abu Salman (@rawanabusalman) -- Marketing and social media specialist. Passionate about technology, gadgets and the online world.

Paola Salwan Daher (@CafeThawra) -- An Arab, Lebanese, resistant and feminist author.

Joelle Hatem (@Joellehatem) -- Runner, biker, reporter, activist, feminist, existentialist.

Youth and Sports
Mohamed Harb (@figo29) – “I watch football.”

Hussam Al-Oueini (@sam_lb) -- A tech-geek, hardcore Apple fan, snowboarder and adrenaline junkie enjoying life.

Samer Chehab (@meetsamer) -- Collector of words, casual traveler, takes photos at times, content strategist in daytime.

Nadine Moawad (@nmoawad) -- Full-time activist, blogger, researcher, organizer, feminist, leftist and secularist.

Brigitte Khair (@Brigitte_khair) -- Head of UNHCR's External Relations Hub for the GCC-Abu Dhabi, blogger, skier, a lover of politics and an unrepentant chocoholic.

Higher Education
Magda Abu Fadil (@MagdaAbuFadil) -- Veteran journalist, blogger, director of the Journalism Training Program at the American University of Beirut.

Public Works and Transport
Rami Fayoumi (@Plus961) -- IT Auditor who tweets and blogs about everything.

Interior and Municipalities
Assaad Thebian (@Beirutiyat) – Journalist, blogger, social media consultant, activist and photographer.

Racha Ghamlouch (@LebaneseVoices) –…Because those that should be heard have no voice, but those that shouldn't have media stations...”

@Buzz81FMB, 10 years in the financial markets, FX, futures, socio economy.

Walid Khalife (@Dashkoun) – The online community’s accountant!

Ghassan Deeb (@gabdallah) -- Engineer, cook and traveler along with a never-ending smile.

Economy and Trade
George Elkhabbaz (@UxSoup) -- UX consultant, interactive manager, blogger, and contributor. An IxD/Mobile/Apple fiend.

Alexandra Tohme (@alextohme) – Digital strategist in bed with the Middle East startup crowd; likes tech, innovation and communities.

Public Health
Paty M. (@PatyAMag) – A licensed dietitian and nutrition consultant who is passionate about food and nutrition.

Georges Azzi (@AZZI) -- Medical doctor, MD.

Social Affairs
Darine Sabbagh (@sdarine) -- Passionate marketer and traveler, a dabbler in professional translation, copywriting and amateur photography; a firm believer in SEO, wishful thinking and chocolate.

Naeema Zarif (@Naeema) -- Integrated media consultant, enthusiastic supporter of open culture. Utilizing visual and social strategic skills to advocacy projects around the Middle East region, and beyond.

Should we maybe add these advisors too?

Mireille Raad (@migheille) -- Words I don't like: minion, consultant, entrepreneur, cloud computing; words I like: avant-guardist, hactivist, grid computing, freelancer, art, infographics.

Fadi Nammour (@footnem) -- Tweeting about tech, photography, music, football and F1. Adrenaline junkie, extreme sports lover and living in my own Matrix Universe.

Abir Ghattas (@abzzyy) -- An activist, photographer, media planner and a gamer with the superpower of Software Engineering.

Mher Krikorian (@krikorianM) – Takes photos mainly of Lebanon and chiefly Beirut. “I like to take photos nonstop, I call it my passion. I love doing it and sharing it.”

Rita Kamel (@ritakml) -- Street photographer, social activist, geek, HR marketing with a blog!

Gustav (@LeGustav) -- Offering some of the finest desserts in town.

Poets laureate
Pascal Assaf (@PascalAssaf) – Narcissist, liberal, existentialist and your friendly neighborhood writer. “I believe Time is my friend and Angels are us. “

Mohammad Badr (@mhdbadr) – Marketing and branding consultant, poet and photographer.

@maeiva – “I have as many names as my moods, I wear identities as if slippers forgotten under the bed and mimic the faces of life, I live as an actor caught in play by the strings of imagination. The spotlight sometimes follows and some days I just bathe in utter darkness.”

Gino Raidy (@GinoRaidy) -- A militant biologist… if that makes sense!

Ziad Kamel (@ZiadKamel) -- Beirut-lover, founder/CEO of The Alleyway Group. Treasurer of the Syndicate of Restaurant Owners in Lebanon.

Mohammad Hijazi (@mhijazi) -- A passionate marketer, blogger and president of AUB’s Online Collaborative.

Misho Richa (@MishoRicha) -- Working very, very hard at the Lebanese University to become a doctor.

I am sure there are many more names to be included here. These were chosen from my timeline. Please suggest, add or delete as you deem fit in the comments section and we should be able to get this cabinet right.

P.S.: I didn’t link the twitter handles to their pages. You can do so by putting the @name following!/_______.

Related posts:

❊ Lebanese Prime Ministers Play with Twitter –

The Zu’ama Discover Twitter… -- by Elias Muhanna (@QifaNabki) and Maya Zankoul (@MayaZankoul)

Saad Hariri & Ziad Baroud on Twitter -- BlogBaladi

Hariri & Mikati playing on our Twitterground -- From Beirut with Funk (by @FunkyOzzi)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Camel and Corvette thru a Nokia lens

The next-door visitor
On my way home on Sunday evening (November 6) I couldn’t believe we had a next-door visitor – a most beautiful camel.

It was Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, and one of the families was having a party. They must have arranged for the camel and its handler to take children for rides. What a great idea.

The children were running in and out of the villa to take turns riding the camel. 

I had to stop and take pictures. It was a good opportunity to test my new Nokia N8 camera. 

Up close...
The camel was all decked up in its best finery. When I got up close, it was as though the camel was talking, the eyes were so expressive and it was making a kind of purring sound. I am not sure whether it was moaning and groaning sounds, pitched bleats, loud bellows or roars or simply a rumbling growl.

The camel and its handler
Two boys get up on the hump
Off they go for a ride around the block
Not a usual sight around Umm Suqeim
It was a good occasion to try out my new Nokia N8 camera, and I got clicking. But there wasn’t much time. Two boys jumped up on the hump and off they went for a ride around the block.

I still haven’t mastered how to transfer the photos from the phone to the computer via Bluetooth, so I had to email them to myself one at a time.

None of the kids seemed interested in the Corvette
There were all kinds of fancy cars around, and a topnotch Corvette. The kids, however, were definitely more interested in the camel… just the way it should be.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hello again, with a Nokia touch

My new blue Nokia N8
I know you won’t believe this. Most of my friends giggled when I told them or showed it to them: I am finally the proud owner of a smartphone! And above all, it was gifted to me. Cool, no?
Earlier this summer, on an evening out, at one point I sat next to my friend Carla Eid (@CarlaEid). She nearly fainted when she saw the mobile phone I was using. It was a Nokia all right, but an antiquated model and Carla works at Nokia Dubai. Right there and then, she promised to get me a smartphone -- one I could also use for Mich Café photos.

We both traveled a lot after that, and kept missing each other in Dubai… That’s until about a fortnight ago, when I went up to the 27th floor to finally pick it up from Nokia’s smart offices at Dubai Media City.

To my great surprise, it was a Nokia N8 – and a blue one to boot to match the colors of my football team, Chelsea FC!

At first, I really didn’t know what to do with my windfall. I was overwhelmed. But as most of my friends know, I am not techy. I spent a week opening and closing the box, just looking at the phone. I read the instructions pamphlet, but still did not dare to go ahead and switch it on. I then started carrying it around, hoping to meet a friend who would set it up for me.

A week later, I finally decided to switch SIM cards and try it. I was encouraged by my friend Uzma Atcha, better known as @Lhjunkie, sitting two desks away from me at work. We did that together and I was on.

From one phone to another... with a difference
Consulting the manual, I changed the time, date, ring tone, created an Ovi account, set up my email and connected to the Internet, by Wi-Fi, as I use pay-as-you-go.

At home, I entered the wrong numbers for the Wi-Fi connection and didn’t know how to delete that and enter the correct one. As you would expect, I am getting used to the touch screen mechanism and my fingers tend to stray all over the place. It took a few days, and then I found an excellent site – Top 67 Nokia N8 tips and tricks – that helped me and I now keep consulting.

My biggest thrill was to test the camera. The N8 is dubbed the “best camera phone in the world.” It has a 12-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and Xenon flash.

I was eager to try it out and had occasion to do so at a gathering for a friend’s birthday. But when I checked the pictures they were terrible. Problem is I had forgotten to remove the transparent paper covering the back of the lens!

My first N8 picture... of Uzma
A couple of days later, I tried again at work, with Uzma’s moral and technical support. I took a picture of her, tweeted it and it worked like magic!

So far, I love my new smartphone because:
  1. It is such a valuable gift
  2. I feel sophisticated and au courant
  3. It fits well in my hand and I love the color
  4. I can go online wherever there is a Wi-Fi connection
  5. I can take first-class snapshots on the go
I can’t elaborate on the N8’s other specifications. One, I don’t understand them, and two I’ll have to try them out first. I am looking forward to testing the maps, check-ins, videos and so many other features of the N8.

Meantime, I am enjoying it and taking it one step at a time. Hopefully posts in future will have outstanding pictures taken with my new smartphone. Thank you Carla!

Related sites:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A little light on Eid al-Adha

The Kaaba, in the Holy City of Mecca
Talk of the Hajj and Eid reverberates around Dubai in the countdown to Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, due to begin Sunday, November 6.
I was particularly absorbed into the excitement this year through my friend Nada Dabliz. Nada and I have coffee together every morning at Dubai Media City, before heading to our respective office buildings.

This year, Nada’s sister Abeer, who lives in Qatar, is going on the Hajj pilgrimage with her husband. Nada will be babysitting her nieces and nephew, having been to the Hajj herself in 1997.

My friend Nada Dabliz
Although I was initially thinking of nothing other than the Eid break, Nada passed on the thrill about the pilgrimage. She shared her experience with me, recounting how the Hajj changed her life as it does to most pilgrims. Our mornings have been mostly taken up by talk about the buildup to the impending feast.

Literally, Hajj means “to set out for a place." For Muslims, that place is the Holy City of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. And we got into the history and symbolism of the place and the upcoming festival. That in turn set off my Internet search for supplementary information for this post. There was a lot to read and I found the Saudi-sponsored Ministry of Hajj website particularly helpful.

More than 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid al-Adha to commemorate the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a ram to sacrifice instead. The sacrificial meat is divided into three parts: one-third for the family; another third for relatives, friends and neighbors; and the remaining third to the poor and needy.

The Hajj pilgrimage route

Eid al-Adha is celebrated annually on the 10th day of the 12th and last Muslim month of Dhu al-Hijjah of the lunar Islamic calendar. Celebrations start after the Hajj, when Muslims descend from Mount Arafat. Arafat Day this year falls on Saturday, November 5.

Mount Arafat
Mount Arafat, about 70 meters high, is a granite hill to the east of Mecca. It was on Mount Arafat that Adam and Eve, separated for 200 years following their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, recognized each other and were reunited. There too God forgave them for their transgression. It is where pilgrims must spend an afternoon in a state of Ihram

It is professed that when Abraham was ready to return to Canaan he was to leave behind his wife Hajar and baby son. Hajar asked him, “Did God order you to leave us here? Or are you leaving us here to die.” Abraham was so sad he fell silent but pointed to the sky. Hajar said, “Then God will not waste us; you can go.” 

Soon Hajar's meager provisions of dates and water ran out and both mother and child became thirsty. Hajar was desperate to find water. She ran up and down between two hills -- Al-Safa and Al-Marwah -- seven times in her desperate quest. Exhausted, she finally collapsed beside her baby and prayed to God for deliverance. Miraculously, a spring of water gushed forth from the earth at the feet of baby Ishmael. With this secure water supply, known as the Zamzam Well, they were not only able to provide for their own needs, but were also able to trade water with passing nomads in exchange for food and supplies.

Years later, Abraham was instructed by God to return from Canaan to build a place of worship adjacent to Hajar's well. Abraham and Ishmael constructed a stone and mortar structure -- known as the Kaaba. It was to be the gathering place for all who wished to strengthen their faith in God. 

One of the main trials of Abraham's life, at 99, was to fulfill God’s command to devote his dearest possession, his only son Ishmael, then 13. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to God's will. During this preparation, Satan tried to dissuade Abraham and his family from carrying out God's commandment, but they drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars signifying Satan during the Hajj rites.

As a reward for this sacrifice, God then granted Abraham the good news of the birth of his second son, Isaac: “And We gave him the good news of Ishaaq, a prophet from among the righteous.”

Muslims commemorate Abraham’s ultimate act of sacrifice during Eid al-Adha.

Ishmael married the daughter of the chief of the Banu Jurhum, a tribe that had settled in the Mecca valley. When Abraham died, Ishmael continued to perform Hajj each year and to look after the Kaaba. After Ishmael, the Kaaba came into the possession of the Banu Jurhum tribe for many centuries until the Khuza'ah tribe took it over. Throughout this period, the Kaaba was vulnerable to flooding and was virtually destroyed.

Seeing the Kaaba in a state of disrepair, Qusay bin Kilaab (born around 400 CE), of the Quraysh tribe, rebuilt it, according to the original design but he added a roof to protect it from the extremes of weather. 

The starting point for the circumambulation of the Holy Kaaba is where Abraham placed the Black Stone in the eastern corner. The Black Stone (al-Hajar al-Aswad) was brought from Paradise by Archangel Gabriel and was set into one corner of the Kaaba. 

The Black Stone
In the course of their Hajj, pilgrims will kiss or touch the Black Stone because the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) kissed it. On the roof of the Kaaba is a gilded waterspout (al-Masabb) protruding from the northwestern wall. 

To complete the upper part of the Kaaba walls, Abraham stood on a large stone block, which he moved along when each section was completed. When the Kaaba was finished, the large stone block was left outside, close to the eastern wall of the sanctuary. It became known as the Maqam Ibrahim (the station of Abraham).

Nearly opposite the Black Stone, near the Maqam Ibrahim, is the Zamzam Well.

The Kaaba is a large stone structure constituting a single room with a marble floor. It lies at the heart of the Holy Mosque (al-Masjid al-Haram). It stands some 60 feet high and each side is approximately 60 feet in length. The four walls of the Kaaba are covered with a black drape that is 45x135 feet -- the Kiswah.

Every year, a new Kiswah is prepared, embroidered in gold thread with the Shahadah and verses from Qur'an and carried to Mecca by pilgrims. A recent estimate of annually producing the Kiswah put the cost at about $4.5 million. During the Hajj, the black Kiswah is replaced by a white cloth, matching the white robes of the pilgrims. At the end of Hajj, the newly woven Kiswah is placed over the Kaaba. The old one is cut into small pieces and given to pilgrims from different Muslim countries.

As Nada’s sister joins the more than 1,222,474 pilgrims in Mecca (as at October 26), I wish all my readers celebrating the occasion a happy and blessed Eid al-Adha.

(Credit for the photos goes to the Ministry of Hajj at