Wednesday, March 22, 2023 | Sha'ban 29, 1444 H
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Habta markets lost in pandemic again

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Muscat: For the second time in a row, marred by Covid-19 pandemic, Eid al Adha celebrations will be minimal in the Sultanate under the shadow of dusk-to-dawn lockdown and other controls.

Although people have started thronging markets including traditional souqs, what they miss mainly is the decades old practice of ‘buy and sell’ at the pre-Eid souqs called Habta market.

“Without a Habta market, Eid celebrations are not complete. It is not that we get all what we require at these markets. It is a tradition in Oman that we assemble at these places not only for buying and selling, but also we go there as a social obligation’’, said Ahmed Yakoob, a retired health official.

Mohsin al Balushi, a resident of Ruwi, while lamenting the closure of the Wadi Kabir Habta market, said that Eid celebrations are becoming a story of the past.

“The coronavirus pandemic has taken away all the pleasures of life. Look at the market now against what it was two years back when it used to resonate with the sounds of both people and animals during this season of the year. Many of the Eid traditions are being squeezed out’’, he said.

Oman’s Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs announced that the first day of the Eid al Adha will be on July 20.

The Supreme Committee monitoring the Covid-19 situation, last week, banned Habta in all governorates. It also barred family gatherings, Eid greeting assemblies and collective celebrations of Eid.

It also declared a complete lockdown in the country across three days of Eid al Adha. During that time, a total ban will be imposed on all commercial activities and the movement of individuals and vehicles as well.

Eid ‘Habta’, which is an ancient legacy in the Sultanate, are held during the occasions of Eid in open spaces or under the shade of palm trees or near castles and forts. These unique seasonal markets host locally-produced goods including fruits and vegetables, as well as clothes, toys and spices, in addition to various livestock attracting scores of people to attend.

Still people are trying to recreate the tradition of Habta using different social media platforms with videos and photos to buy and sell live animals.

“Online sales of sacrificial animals are rapidly increasing as e-commerce platforms are luring customers into digital cattle markets amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Many of them are taking orders online through social media like WhatsApp, Instagram, etc”, said Faizal al Lawati, who is associated with an online marketing firm.

This marks a departure from the times when people shopped till late night in crowded malls and shops, he added.

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