In Islamabad, Ancient Meets Modern As Farm Animals Come To Town

Sep 27, 2015
Originally published on December 22, 2015 10:12 am

A few days ago, a strange new sound crept over my garden wall.

My neighborhood, in Islamabad, Pakistan, is usually very quiet. I'm used to hearing the call to prayer from nearby mosques; the cry of our local vegetable trader, gliding by on his bicycle; and lots of birds.

The new sound was the bleating of a goat.

In South Asia, animals and people often live side-by-side. That doesn't happen much here, in this orderly government town.

Islamabad is a modern place, built on a grid. A lot of it looks like it's made of Lego. There are shopping malls and big wide highways.

In my neighborhood, you don't hear a lot of goats.

This week was the exception, thanks to Eid al-Adha, one of the most important holidays in the Islamic calendar. Muslims sacrifice an animal as a symbolic celebration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son on God's orders. They give away a third of the meat to the poor.

The bleating goat I could hear was one of many thousands of goats, sheep, cows and camels hauled into Islamabad ahead of the festival. Farmers started bringing them in days ago in the back of pickups or in big, garishly decorated trucks.

The same thing happens all over Pakistan.

During last year's Eid al-Adha, it's thought about 7 million animals were slaughtered nationwide.

As an outsider, it's odd seeing these beasts congregate in this orderly town, tethered to trees, waiting to be sold. A lot of them are freshly shampooed and decorated with blobs of orange henna and garlands of brightly colored plastic flowers.

Suddenly, Islamabad's market stalls are full of barbecue skewers and very sharp knives. The city's sanitation people have dug some giant pits around town for burying the remains.

The holiday continues this weekend, but the biggest day for sacrificing was Friday. That was when the bleating stopped wafting over my garden wall.

I rather miss it.

Let's not forget, though, that this weekend, many very poor people here are finally getting a decent meal.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

At NPR, we bring you news from all corners of the world, but we also like our correspondents to tell you what life is like wherever they're based in the world. NPR's Philip Reeves covers Pakistan. He sent us an essay about life and death this past week in the capital, Islamabad.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: A few days ago, a strange new sound crept over my garden wall. The neighborhood is usually very quiet. I'm used to hearing the call to prayer from nearby mosques, the cry of our local vegetable trader gliding by on his bicycle and lots of birds. The new sound was the bleating of a goat. In South Asia, animals and people often live side-by-side. That doesn't happen much here in this orderly government town.

Islamabad's a modern place, built on a grid. A lot of it looks like it's made of Lego. There are shopping malls and big wide highways. In my neighborhood, you don't hear a lot of goats. This week was the exception, thanks to Eid al-Adha, one of the most important holidays in the Islamic calendar. When Muslims sacrifice an animal, as a symbolic celebration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son on God's orders, they give away a third of the meat to the poor. The bleating goat I could hear was one of many thousands of goats, sheep, cows and camels hauled into Islamabad ahead of the festival.

Farmers started bringing them in days ago in the back of pickups or in big, garishly decorated trucks. The same thing happens all over Pakistan.

During last year's Eid al-Adha, it's thought about 7 million animals were slaughtered nationwide. As an outsider, it's odd seeing these beasts congregate in this orderly town, tethered to trees, waiting to be sold. A lot of them are freshly shampooed and decorated with blobs of orange henna and garlands of brightly colored plastic flowers.

Suddenly, Islamabad's market stalls are full of barbecue skewers and very sharp knives. The city's sanitation people have dug some giant pits around town for burying the remains.

The holiday continues this weekend, but the biggest day for sacrificing was Friday. That was when the bleating stopped wafting over my garden wall. I rather miss it. Let's not forget, though, that this weekend many very poor people here are finally getting a decent meal. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.