It's a quarter past 2 a.m. My siblings and I are standing in an assembly line in the sunroom of our Ohio home, preparing falafel sandwiches. I'm in charge of the final stage: wrapping each one in aluminum foil, then cutting it into two pieces. We are preparing these for morning Eid prayer, and we will pass them out to worshippers who'll be attending in just a few hours. It's become an annual family tradition, and though the work is tiring, we feel rewarded. For as long as I could remember, this was Eid.
Islam has two religious holidays, both known as Eid. The first is Eid Al-fitr, which is celebrated after the month of Ramadan, and the second, Eid Al Adha, marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Eid Al Adha, "Festival of Sacrifice," refers to Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. But before he could sacrifice him, God provided a sheep to sacrifice instead of his son.
I moved to Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2017, and for the first time ever I spent Eid alone. Suddenly all the things that made Eid special were no longer there: the anticipation of staying up late, deciding what to wear and where to eat, and spending the day with family and friends. My new friends encouraged me to attend Eid at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., so I put on my nicest clothes and grabbed my camera.
When we arrived at the mosque, I was surrounded by many unfamiliar faces, but the experience reminded me of home. The people around me were incredibly diverse, and I met beautiful individuals from all walks of life in the short time I was at the center. There were people from Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the U.S., dressed in their respective traditional attires. Although we come from different places, experiences and histories, we all were gathered in one place for one reason.
Taking pictures during Eid has always been a favorite part of the annual celebration, and I was inspired to photograph my new community. I'm grateful to have spent the second Eid, Eid Al-Adha earlier this week, surrounded by familiar faces back in my hometown. But experiencing Eid Al-Fitr away allowed me to connect with individuals who I was originally hesitant to meet, and the results were beautiful.
Eslah Attar is a photographer and photo editor based in Washington, D.C. She was a photo editing intern at NPR earlier this year.
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