Friday, August 9, 2013

Selamat Idul Fitri from Banda Aceh!

Selamat Idul Fitri from Banda Aceh, Indonesia! Idul Fitri marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and it's certainly a unique time to be in Indonesia, especially in Aceh, often called Serambi Mekkah, or the Veranda of Mecca. I'm in Banda Aceh, the capital of the province here on the northern tip of Sumatra for a week of interviews, but in the meantime have been watching many of the Idul Fitri celebrations.

Takbir celebrations marking the start of Idul Fitri
The video and pictures here are from the night of August 7th, or the beginning of Idul Fitri. Each year various groups from across the city take part in takbir, a parade through the streets of Banda Aceh, making floats to represent their organization (e.g. schools, youth groups, mosques) or neighborhood. It's a competition, in a sense, with prizes awarded to the best groups.

Takbir, an act meant to glorify and praise Allah, is done as you'll hear the boys and men singing "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) over the loudspeakers as they walk down the street. It's amazing to watch, and hundreds of residents come out to watch the event. In the back of the video above you'll see an enormous (and beautiful) white mosque in the center of Banda Aceh, Masjid Baiturrahman. One thing to note is that the various boys and men seem to combine several different types of Islamic clothing. The boys wearing checkered black and white turbans adopt a more Middle Eastern style while the boys in white and the video below are more representative of Indonesian Islamic clothing, complete with a sarong, batik shirts, and a peci or kopiah, the black folded cap.

Youth groups taking part in the parade in Banda Aceh
"Mari bermaaf-maafan" = Let us ask for forgiveness from each other

Back at home, Idul Fitri means cooking special foods for the celebration, chief among them being lontong, or rice cooked in banana leaves and eaten with various stews and curries. A few days before Idul Fitri the city suddenly becomes full of butchers selling lamb and beef on side of the road in preparation for the holiday. In the dish below, the dark chunks of beef are rendang, a spicy (and delicious) dry beef curry which, I might add, somehow managed to be voted the #1 most delicious food in the world by CNN a couple years ago.


I count myself among the rendang fanatics as I used to live in Padang, a city on the west coast of Sumatra credited as the origin of rendang. The first meal I ate after touchdown in Indonesia? Rendang at Padang restaurant in Jakarta.

Jamison Liang
MA Candidate, Anthropology & International Development
Sigur Center Grant for Asian Field Research

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