The first Eid I spent overseas was when I was working in the diplomatic corps in Pakistan. I was on secondment (temporary transfer) to East Pakistan during that period in order to issue visas to pilgrims. They used to travel by ship to the holy lands from Chittagong Seaport located on the Bay of Bengal.
After completing the task, for which I was seconded, only two or three days remained before the advent of Eid. So I decided to spend the Eid holidays between Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad before returning to my place of work in the embassy in Karachi.
After spending one day in Lahore, I headed to Rawalpindi and from there to Islamabad on Eid Day. At that time, it had just a few buildings. I enquired about the mountains near the city. I was told that they are the snow-covered “Marri Mountains”. So I headed to these mountains.
Mountains of Pakistan
I saw snow for the first time in my life. I walked on the snow, but slipped and fell. I was not used to walking on snow. When I fell for the second time, I realized it was worse than the first, so I decided to withdraw and return to Rawalpindi.
From there to Peshawar, where I had a friend studying in the Peshawar University. He welcomed me. He had a car and took me to important places, like Landi Kotal and the Tribal Areas. We even reached the borders with Afghanistan.
Among the unforgettable Eid feasts is the first Eid I celebrated in Japan. There was only one mosque in Tokyo and the number of Muslims was small. I was staying in an area which was comparatively far from the mosque.
Among the unforgettable Eid feasts is the first one celebrated in Japan. There a small number of Muslims and only one mosque in TokyoDr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
Taraweeh in Japan
However, I was keen to perform Taraweeh prayers three days a week in the only mosque in Tokyo during those days. It was built in 1938 and supervised by the Turkish community. The imam was also a Turk. He used to make the Friday sermon in three languages. He started with Turkish language, then Japanese and finally in Arabic.
I used to go to perform Taraweeh prayers via the subway. I had to stop at three stations until I reached the mosque. The number of worshipers for Taraweeh prayer was small. However, during Friday and Eid prayers the mosque was full.
I recall after performing my first Eid prayer in the Tokyo Mosque, we were invited by one of the Arab rich men from Syria. He owned a palace not far from the mosque. It had one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens. He invited us for Eid breakfast in his house. I learned that every Eid he invited the worshipers to have breakfast.
Feast in Columbia
Among the most unforgettable Eid feasts was Eid Al-Adha, which coincided with my presence in Colombia. I was attending a G-77 conference that was held in Cartagena city. The Eid Al-Adha feast coincided with the deliberations of the conference.
After consulting the delegations of some Muslim countries, we requested the conference presidency that Eid Al-Adha should be a holiday that is free from any meetings so that we can celebrate Eid. We got the approval with great difficulty and only after arduous negotiations.
The most important thing that we thought about was the Eid prayer and who would lead the prayers and the place for performing the prayers.
A translator volunteered to be the imam and khateeb. One of the officials of the hotel in which the conference was being held was a Pakistani. He expressed the hotel’s readiness to provide a place for performing Eid prayer. He also expressed the hotel’s readiness to hold a tea party for the worshipers after the prayers.
At the specified time, we gathered in the hall allotted by the hotel to perform Eid prayer, but the man who promised to lead the prayer did not appear. We looked for him everywhere. But our efforts were in vain. We tried our best to find an alternative person, but failed.
So I expressed my readiness to carry out the task, but I could not recall how Eid prayer is performed, especially how many Takbirahs one has to make in every rakaah.
If there was anyone who can provide me the information, I was ready to lead the prayer. After intensive discussions and consultations, we could get the correct information on how Eid prayer is performed. I carried out my role as imam.
I made the first khutbah (sermon), which took about five minutes and approximately three minutes for the second khutbah. After prayer, we went to the place where the hotel allotted to hold a tea party at its expense, as a contribution to the Eid celebration.
Undoubtedly, our success in convincing the presidency of the conference to make Eid Day a holiday shows how important it is to form a bloc and maintain solidarity to achieve the aspired goals.
The reminisces (recollections, memories, etc.) of Eid celebration overseas are many, but there is insufficient space for more. I might revert to some of these recollections on another occasion.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on June 28, 2017.
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @DrAliAlghamdi.