Calabar the Capital of Cross River State is known for lots of festivals globally. Famous among these festivals is the annual thirty two days Christmas festival where fun seekers gather in the ancient city to do businesses while catching their fun. The period is December and it’s registered in the global tourism calendar.
This festive period coincided with the Christmas period when Jesus Christ (prophet Issa) was born and everyone, including the Muslim community in the city joined the predominantly Christian state to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Like Christmas festival like Calabar Carnival, Cross River State is known for many firsts in the history of Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. Calabar is the home of the first Inspector General of Police in Nigeria, the first Nigeria Capital City, Calabar has the first social Club, African Club, home of the first football, cricket and field hockey games, the city of the oldest secondary school in Eastern Nigeria, Hope Waddell Training Institution, the home of an international museum, not forgetting Hogan Bassey among others.
Today Cross River State Capital is about to add another first in the South Sout, this time from the Muslim Community who have lived, worked and contributed to the developmet of the State.
Calabar Eid-El-Fitr Picnic which is arguably the first in the South South, South Eastern region, holds during the Sallah celebrations. The festival-like picnic, an initiative of the Chief Imam of Calabar Central Mosque, Imam Abdulkabir Olowolayemo, with the support of other organising committee members, recorded a boost to the Muslim community who find it difficult to go out a day after Eid prayers. The aim of the Eid el-Fitr picnic was part of the festival marking the end of the Muslim holy month where Muslims gather together.
It was a meeting point of people , families, friends and loved ones (Muslims and Non Muslims), to congratulate one another as they end the thirty or twenty nine days Ramadan fast.
Held a day after Eid prayers, Muslims spend the period to meet their friends, relatives, neighbours, and distributing gifts as they move around from one stand to another .
Children were the main beneficiaries of the maiden Calabar Eid El-Fitri picnic, as they used the period to play different games, watching films and movies, dancing and participating in Islamic quiz competitions with lots of fanfare and merry making with their parents watching.
Trade and commerce was another opportunity provided by the Eid el-Fitr picnic. It was an avenue where buyers and sellers met to engage in business transactions. Suya spots, smoothie and other various kinds of drinks, shawarma and other pizza and cake sellers, drinks and food vendors as well as gift items and branded clothes were all located at different stands.
Security at the venue of the event was superb, as Police patrol on uniform and secret police (DSS) were seen all around the venue monitoring what was going on. Their presence in numbers may not be unconnected to the large number of children in attendance and the proximity of the event venue to the Calabar River.
In all it was a good outing being the maiden edition and the need for governmnent to key into this kind of event not only to give the Sallah celebrations in Calabar a boost but to also serve as a revenue generation point for the governmnent due to the large turnout of Mulsims and non Muslims who in the spirit of the celebrations decked in their various Islamic dresses to fit into the mood of event.
Eid-el-Fitr marks the end of the sacred month of Ramadan. Also known as “feast of breaking the fast”, it is an important religious day celebrated by Muslims worldwide.
The Eid is perfomed on the first day of Shawwal, the month that follows Ramadan when Muslims start the day with an obligatory contribution called zakat al-fitr in which prosperous families give away, for each member of the house, food items such as rice, corn wheat, garri etc. to the needy before going to Eid ground for prayers.
May Allah Enable us to witness more in life and allow the next Eid-El Fitri Sallah Picnic in Calabar to be more successful than the maiden edition.
Alhaji Rasheed Olanrewaju Zubair is a Muslim Community Watch Team Leader and Public affairs Commentator and writes from Calabar.