Today is the beginning of Eid al-Adha, Islam's most important religious holiday, which also provides a serious boost to social and economic activity in Turkey as millions use the feast for travel inside the country to spend time with family members and loved ones.
Eid al-Adha is a time of year when Turks actively socialize and reunite with friends and family, creating a positive atmosphere across the country with solidarity between relatives, neighbors and all of society, with communities not forgetting the needs of the poor and less fortunate, even at this joyful time.
There are a number of spiritual benefits. "Even at this time of joy, we start the day praying to God. Today it is possible to send sacrificial meat to the needy everywhere, from Africa to any point in the world," notes theology professor Hayrettin Karaman, who asserts that this is important in terms of the sense of social justice and equality it creates. "Thanks to this, poor families who normally do not get to enjoy much meat have the same food on their table as everyone else, instilling a sense of social equality. Every ritual in Islam brings people closer to wisdom, and so do the rituals of Eid al-Adha. As a benefit of this, the economic and social life of Muslim communities gets a boost," Karaman notes.
Eid al-Adha is also a day of remembrance for those who are no longer with us, with many visiting the graves of deceased relatives and loved ones over the holiday.
The holiday is also helping to alleviate recent tensions caused by Kurdish separatists. Many businessmen from Turkey's western provinces will be spending this year's Eid al-Adha with the needy in the Kurdish-dominated East and the Southeast through a project of the Kimse Yok Mu foundation. Nearly 2,000 businessmen will be personally visiting the homes of the poor in the cities of the Southeast to distribute the sacrificial meat of thousands of animals.
Selahattin Karagöz, the owner of textile company Besel in İstanbul, will be spending his Eid al-Adha in the southeastern city of Siirt, where he will "personally give the sacrificial meat my brothers there." Fetin Kazancı, the owner of Rodi, also a textile and clothing company, will be spending his holiday not at home but in the Southeast. He will voluntarily spend his Eid al-Adha away from his family and personally deliver his donations to the needy of the Southeast.
Faruk Güllü, head of İstanbul's patisserie chain Güllüoğlu, will also be away from home this Eid al-Adha. He will be distributing tons of Turkish sweets such as helva and jams in the southeastern cities of Mardin, Şırnak and Silopi.
In addition to charity, the economy is thriving this week as people make airplane, bus and hotel reservations, buy holiday candy and dozens of gifts to make the most of Eid al-Adha, making shopping a central activity during this time of the year.
Most spending goes toward livestock, leisure
An estimated 2 million goats and sheep and 600,000 cattle will be sacrificed during Eid al-Adha, with YTL 2.5 billion being spent on the animals, according to data from the Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ATO). Donations and charity are also likely to be hefty in this time of giving. For last year's Eid al-Adha a total of 1,110,000 donations were made through the Internet alone, ATO says.
The holiday is also expected to revitalize the tourism sector. According to data provided by the Turkish Association of Travel Agents (TÜRSAB), 70,000 Turks made hotel reservations abroad.
Turkish tourists inside the country are expected to spend $50 million in total. Accommodation facilities in the winter sport resort cities of Uludağ, Palandöken, Erciyes and Kartalkaya as well as hotels in the Mediterranean region are preparing to host domestic tourists during the holiday.
Travel, particularly land travel, is also another active sector during this time of the year. Bus companies were booked 100 percent days ahead of Eid al-Adha. Turkish Fleet Operators' Federation (TOFED) President Mustafa Yıldırım said intercity transportation companies aimed to carry 6.5 million passengers during the holiday and added that the number may go up to 7 million passengers. He said people generally prefer to visit their acquaintances in their hometowns during religious feasts, especially if they fall in winter, instead of traveling to holiday spots. He said the demand for seats began to rise last weekend and that fleets were operating at full capacity, in contrast to a 60 percent occupancy rate in normal times. In addition, up to 40 percent more seats have been made available for use by holiday travelers.
Some of the reservation makers who will get off those buses will be staying in hotels, which have offered discounts of up to 20 percent this year. In addition to Eid al-Adha, many hotels are offering New Year's travel opportunities.
According to the Federation of Hotel Operators (TÜROFED), ski centers and spas have been attracting an ever-growing number of customers. According to TÜROFED numbers, at least 140,000 people will be spending their holiday at a ski center or spa resort.
Luxury hotels such as Bodrum's Mövenpick and Kempinski are offering rooms for as low as 50 euros a night. In addition to the special packages, extensive payment arrangements and a wide variety of installment options are available to credit card holders. Traveling abroad at Eid al-Adha is also effortless, with four-day tours being organized to nearby countries such as Greece for as low as 299 euros. Credit card holders also can get special deals on their foreign travel arrangements.
Can't stop buying clothes
Clothes sales soared in the weeks ahead of Eid al-Adha as this year's winter started out much colder than last year's, with sales already rising by 10 to 50 percent for various winter garments. Eid al-Adha also spiked sales, as wearing a new suit is a tradition at this time of the year. With stores offering discounts of up to 50 percent and extended payment options with credit cards; it is almost impossible for the average Turk not to spend some of those liras.
Along with the big stores, which launched discount campaigns and variable payment options, street vendors are also trying to benefit from this shopping surge the best they can. Street vendors generally say that sales were already better than the previous religious holiday, the Ramadan holiday, which was two months ago. Hamdi Özçelik, a street vendor told Today's Zaman. In Ramadan, people were hesitant to buy new clothes as it coincided with the transition between seasons.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Aralık 2007, 13:22
The clothing retailer YKM is most happy about Eid al-Adha. Saruhan Tan, a YKM board member, said: "Our sales in December went up by 50 percent, and that is only until now. We can't even meet the demand; we are trying to do our best to supply our customers' needs as fast as we can." Tan said sales are expected to go even higher starting today, the first day of the feast.
Another clothing retailer, Boyner, said their sales had increased by 15 percent over the same period last year. Boyner's General Manager Aslı Karadeniz said in addition to the approaching Eid al-Adha, a sharp drop in winter temperatures also played a role in the recent boost. Other high-end retailers such as Stefanel, Paul&Shark and Derimod have recorded boosts in sales, which their managers attribute to decreasing winter temperatures and the festive spirit of Eid al-Adha.