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In a year of great sacrifice, Turkish Muslims mark Eid al-Adha with charity and hope


In many Muslim-majority countries around the world, this is a festive week. It's a time to celebrate the Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice. In Istanbul, NPR's Peter Kenyon went looking for families stocking up for the holiday.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: At a live animal market in Istanbul's Eyupsultan neighborhood, shoppers stroll past pens filled with lambs munching on straw. They're looking for one that's not only the right size, but affordable - an important consideration in a place where inflation had skyrocketed to more than 85% just a few months ago. But despite the slumping economy, people here seem determined to carry on with another holiday tradition - sharing food with those in need.


KENYON: According to religious tradition, Eid al-Adha marks the saving of Abraham's son, Ishmael, from being sacrificed when God provided a ram to be slain instead. In Turkey, this Eid comes after a devastating earthquake and aftershocks that killed more than 50,000 people and left millions homeless. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hopes the holiday will be a blessing for families, quote, "when our hearts are burning due to the February 6 earthquakes." Sixty-year-old Cansu Hondor says she wishes she could afford to send an entire animal to one of the cities hard hit by the quake, but at least she can share with some of the displaced families who are sheltering here in Istanbul.


CANSU HONDOR: (Through interpreter) Everyone would rather be sending food to the earthquake zone, but there are quake victims here as well. And we will share whatever we can with them.

KENYON: Abdul Rahim, a 43-year-old man from Erzurum in eastern Anatolia, says he wishes he were back home where the prices would be lower.

ABDUL RAHIM: (Speaking Turkish).

KENYON: "There," he says, "lamb would cost less than $4 a pound," while he's expecting to pay nearly twice that here in Turkey's largest city. He also says he misses seeing members of his extended family at this time of year. Forty-five-year-old Serap Gursoy has also noticed the high prices at the market. She worries that some families won't be able to afford much of a feast this year.

SERAP GURSOY: (Through interpreter) The prices are certainly expensive. Most years, it's possible for everyone to find something. But this year, the prices are a bit high.

KENYON: She says an entire good-size lamb would cost around 13,000 Turkish lira this year. That's nearly 500 U.S. dollars. This market is owned by 42-year-old Sercan Kazar. He says it's been in his family for 85 years, and he sells anywhere from one to 2,000 lambs a year, depending on the economy. This year, he estimates the business is down about 50%. He says it was a tough year for agriculture in general, which meant problems for him getting animal feed.

SERCAN KAZAR: (Through interpreter) It's a bit slow because of the economy not being good. It's the climate as well as the inflation, of course. The rain was at first too little, and then there were floods that destroyed the crops.

KENYON: But despite the sacrifices people have made this year, or perhaps because of them, families are gathering to look forward to the better times they hope lie ahead. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul.

(SOUNDBITE OF RINI SONG, "SELFISH (FEAT. BEAM)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.