ALEPPO, Syria — Like many Syrians living on the frontline of the war, Abu Hamid is not slaughtering a sheep this year and not celebrating Eid al-Adha. The only thing he’s worried about is staying alive.
“There will be no party. There will be no celebration this year, because all the people are refugees, and I’m scared of dying,” he says, standing tall in his jalabiya at a sheep market on the edge of Syria’s second city.
Shelling and air strikes in his neighbourhood, he says, forced him to shut up the family home in Aleppo and move his five children, wife and extended family into his shop on the outskirts of the city where they are camping out.
Business is slow at the scraggy, stony land given over to sheep merchants desperately trying to make a quick sell in the last few days before Eid.
“I came here to the market just to pass the time and see what’s going on, but I can’t buy a sheep because I don’t have the money,” said Abu Hamid.
It is the tradition for the four-day Muslim festival to buy and slaughter an animal to feed the family, guests and donate as charity to the poor.
Sheep of all sizes, both large and scrawny, were roped to the ground, but few customers were looking and even fewer were buying.
“This year won’t be like before. This year, there’ll be no Eid in Syria,” says Mohammed Aasi, 20, who has a clothes shop in Aleppo.
“I came to buy a sheep but can’t find what I need and the prices are so expensive. We’re talking about around 15,000 Syrian pounds ($220). Last year it was 11-12,000,” he said, his blond hair and beard closely cropped.
“People don’t have enough money even to buy new clothes and there won’t be anything special because everyone is so sad,” he added.
Hopes are slim in Aleppo of a truce during Eid, which begins on Friday, as announced by peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi from Cairo.
The administrator of one field hospital who asked that its name not be published, said only six people had been brought in with injuries on Wednesday, wondering if it was a sign of a possible ceasefire.
“There may be a truce, I’m not sure, but there isn’t a lot of fighting today,” he said.
In the cluttered lobby, two medics bent over a man as blood poured out of shrapnel wounds in his head and dripped onto the floor, turned into bloodied footprints by shoes of the doctors stitching his injuries.
Islamist group the Al-Nusra Front, which has claimed the majority suicide bombings in the Syrian conflict, has rejected any question of a truce.
President Bashar al-Assad’s regime says it will take a “final decision” on Thursday and the Free Syrian Army, the main rebel group, says it will only observe a truce if government forces stop shooting first.
But for Umm Ahmed, 36, shopping with her sisters and youngest daughter for shoes for winter, there is little hope of a happy festival.
“It’ll be a very sad Eid given all the strikes and the shelling and the bombing,” she said, dressed all in black and heavily veiled.
“We’re just surviving. I’ve borrowed money from my brother just for food. The schools are closed in Aleppo and the kids are at home all day. I don’t even let them go to the shops for sweets because I’m so frightened,” she said.
The shoe shop was small and dank. Hamood Mohammed Ali, a friend of the owner, says the electricity has been off for two days, and only pale light filtered through the front window from the street outside.
“There’s no work, no money. Everything is so expensive and we can’t even leave the neighbourhood because of snipers. Two days ago, for example, a guy aged around 30 tried to and he was shot dead by one of the snipers on the very high buildings,” said Ali.