Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Birds and Animals Souk of South Jeddah

In Saudi Arabia, there are many specialized souks (markets) for whatever you may be looking for.  There is a big fresh fish market with daily auctions, textile souks for everything from sheets to carpets and fabrics, and there are souks for housewares, gold and jewelry, spices, computers, crafts, and well, just about everything under the sun!

This past week my husband took me to a souk I hadn't ever been to before in the more than twelve years since I have been here in Jeddah - the Live Birds and Animals Souk.  It's a really large souk, encompassing many square blocks of an area far south in Jeddah. My husband wanted to purchase some birds - he was having a craving.

The bird section was actually a little disappointing and it wasn't as well stocked as the times my husband has been there before.  Perhaps it was due to the virus or the fact that it was a few days before a big holiday here, when the main focus is on lambs and goats.  It was also difficult photographing the birds because many were in cages and I had a hard time focusing. 

The bird section offered all kinds of birds, from chickens and roosters to turkeys and pigeons, and many varieties that I didn't know the names of.  There were also bunny rabbits in this area of the souk as well.  Conveniently located in the same area was a butcher, who cleaned the purchased animals for a very reasonable fee, as well as stations selling charcoal and firewood.  My husband bought two pigeons for 15 SR ($4 US) for both, and the fee to have them cleaned was 2 SR each (50 cents US). 

Thousands and thousands of lambs and goats were in the next section of the souk we visited.  Because of the upcoming holiday, Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, there was an abundance of livestock available, likely imported for this holiday from Europe or Northern Africa.

The Eid al-Adha holiday occurs at the conclusion of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, a huge celebration feast of sharing.  Normally millions of pilgrims travel to Mecca each year for Hajj, however this year due to the virus, only about 1000 pilgrims from within the kingdom were permitted to attend.  All international flights to and from the kingdom have been suspended indefinitelyfor several months now. 

According to Wikipedia, Eid al-Adha "honours the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ismael as an act of obedience to God's command. But, before Ibrahim could sacrifice his son, God provided a lamb to sacrifice instead. In commemoration of this intervention, an animal, usually a sheep, is sacrificed ritually. One third of its meat is consumed by the family offering the sacrifice, while the rest is distributed to the poor and needy. Sweets and gifts are given, and extended family are typically visited and welcomed."

Some of the animals available at the souk had remnants of their winter coats visible. For the most part, the animals were separated by types.  Many were "branded" with spray painted symbols on their fur. The cost of a sheep is dependent on its size and type, ranging in price from 800 SR to 2000 SR ($213-$533 US), but is slightly higher during the holidays, priced from 1300-2500 SR ($346-$666 US). 

We also saw camels and cows in the third area of the souk that we visited that day, but we didn't get close enough for me to get any good photos of the cows. Going to this souk was actually a special treat, as my husband and I have still been isolating because of the virus. 

If you are interested in visiting this souk, you can find the location on Google Maps by typing in "Jeddah Birds and Poultry Market" or "Jeddah Cattle Market."  The photo below shows the signs at the entry to the Birds and Animals Souk.