Eid Al-Adha & Economic Sacrifices

There’s an article today in the Jordan Times attempting to articulate the predicament many Jordanians have found themselves in this year: the rising price of Jordanian sheep. There has been a noticeable price difference between the local variety and the international variety coming mainly from Australia, and that difference is related the rising prices of fodder. I don’t know how many sheep get sacrificed during Eid Al-Adha, but Eid is, perhaps ironically, all together a day when people suffer economically. The consumerist drive has become a tradition of sorts, personified with the purchases of new clothes, larger consumption of food, giving gifts of money to children and female members of the the family, and perhaps family outings. For some families, this day alone may cost at least 500JDs and more.

The sacrifice of a sheep, at an average price of around 130JD to 150JD is a significant piece of the pie for the average Jordanian whose salary does not exceed 200JD. The sacrifice itself is supposed to be restrained by demographics, where typically the wealthier who are able to afford it, do so and distribute it amongst the poor. That is partially the point of it from a religious point of view. But that’s not the way it works, and I would guess that the majority of those making the Eid sacrifice are not very wealthy at all, but tradition-abiding, God-fearing, low-income driven Jordanians, i.e. the majority of the population. They are insistent on making the sacrifice and doing it themselves, the old fashioned way, in order to capitalize on the sunnah (way of the Prophet pbuh).

However, I think organizations like Tikkeyet Um Ali are just as credible in this day and age – religiously speaking. You pay 90JDs, you get a receipt, and it’s done. But a lot of people I’ve asked seem to indicate that you don’t know where they money really goes, and they might as well be taking your 90JDs and buying lollipops with it. Personally, I do have faith in Tikkeyet Um Ali as an organization, having seen the good that they’ve managed to do first-handed. You can often see the crowds of people around one of their bases in the balad, by the old Raghdan station. But in either case, I think a person’s religious duty ends upon entering in to this social contract with an organization that promises to deliver.

It is modern. It is convenient. It is mess-free. And the job gets done at the end of the day. More importantly, in these troubling financial times, it is comparatively very affordable. I think if the wealthier segment of society, starting with what middle-class there is, move more towards making the Eid sacrifice in this form and manner, it may help decrease demands on the stagnant supply of local sheep, and perhaps, in the long run, drive the prices a bit down for the more adamant.

But that’s just my two piasters.

On another note:

Eid Mubarak to you all!


  • Wait, I’m sorry. But is this:

    “The sacrifice of a sheep, at an average price of around 130JD to 150JD is a significant piece of the pie for the average Jordanian whose salary does not exceed 200JD.”

    saying that a person who earns JD 200per month will (presumably save all year round to) pay JD150 for a sheep? Which works out at putting just over 5% of their monthly salary towards it. All year, every year. I know you’re saying that people want the blessings and all, but surely a person netting well under $4,000 a year — there are sound systems more expensive! — isn’t splashing out on a sheep? They’re the people The Rich ($12,000+ min. per month?) are donating to, right?

    Or, is this a case of five people in a household who collectively earn JD1000 a month, putting ‘just’ 15% of one month’s income towards it?

    Who does earn JD200 a month in Jordan? The people who work at the counters in at Umniah, Zain or Cozmo: what are they netting per month? The way I’ve heard it, it’s well upwards of JD500 per-month. The harris, who gets JD30 per flat, nets JD240 per month, which is paltry but still 20% above the “average Jordanian whose salary does not exceed JD200”.

    My estate agent informed me that, for a family (what with schools costs, etc) you need JD2,000 per month. Per month. “Minnimum”, he said. Car salesmen seem to make around this, too. Salesmen in shops like iSystem (who are surely the rudest in the whole of Amman!) look down on you so much you’d think they must be banking some pretty serious cash on commissions.

    If a waiter serves 20 tables a night (acceptable in TGI, etc), and picks up just JD1 tip per table, he’ll be taking home an extra JD600 on top of his salary. A “carrier” at the Cozmo car park must serve 100 people a day, if he gets just half-a-dinar from each person (I frequently see people giving them dinars), he’s making JD50 extra per day. If his bosses take 60% “comission” from this — and presuming he’s not a complete dimwit and hides some — that’s around JD25 per-day. An extra JD750 per month.

    Other than the “boy” who sweeps up hair in the hairdresser, and even he is tipped, *who* makes 100/150/200JD per month? Street cleaners go around asking for money or selling things, boosting their incomes to surely low-but-livable amounts above that 200JDs.

    Or am I just completely off? Who and where are these JD150-200 earning people? Do they exist in Western Amman at all? I’d like to know what the day-to-day hardships of earning such crappy wages are — especially when money is springing up all over Amman, with policemen driving around in brand-new Audis (a better car than I have in Jordan!), Lamborginhi gargaes being built, multi-million-dollar mansions shooting up in Abdoun with JD100,000+ cars parked outside, not to mention $3,000+ handbags on sale in the oh-so-nice Al Baraka Mall.

    And can I buy them lunch to discuss it? God knows they must need it.

  • @ mos :
    I agree with you, 200JDs/month sounds somehow unreal in Amman (except in few places we all know), but you can easily find these salaries (150-250JDs/month) in the other cities where a huge percentage of the workers are mostly within the army or in the public sector, and yes its hard to get an accurate number, but i guess it wont be more than 250JDs/month as an average Jordanian salary.

  • Mos, I think your estimates are a bit high, but I see your point.

    I know plenty of people in my husband’s family who are making between 150 JD – 350 JD per month. Some are men who support families, some are women. But even the women making this amount work 35-40 hour work weeks, with only Fridays off. None of them are building harrises or hair sweepers. The sad reality is that none of them are young, either, so saying “take this job and shove it” is not really an option. One of these family members has been a dedicated employee of the esteemed Royal Jordanian airlines for over 15 years. There’s no place for upward mobility, no advancement in the ranks. It’s really sad.

    You guys who post here, however, are typically university-educated and have your eyes on careers, rather than just bringing home the bread and veggies and paying rent. It makes a huge difference.

    Happy Eid.

  • @Wissam: It’s incredible how quickly the money of Amman melts away as you head out of the city. Although, in some places, I don’t understand why. I see no reason for the pitiful economy in Petra.

    Going down into Petra costs JD20 per-person. I went about a month ago, a relatively off-peak time as I understand it. And it was packed. Yet, going out into Petra town, it’s…dead. It’s filthy, unsightly and generally an uncomfortable place to be — this is the hospitality of one of the new 7 Wonders?

    Why isn’t the Petra Authority using this entrance fee to employ “ushers”? Get the local do-nothings, hook them up with some traditional Arab clothing, and pay them handsomely to encourage a good work ethic and the prestige of the job. JD600-700 ($1,000USD) per month should be the starting wage, it’ll push money into the local economy. It also lets the Government trim unnecessary employees, as they can no go and find jobs in the private sector thats been boosted from the spending of the now well-paid and useful employees.

    Madaba and Jerash: same thing. Mount Nebo is unbelievably polluted. This isn’t historical trash: that is most definitely not the bottle of Coca-Cola Moses took a sip of before he fell to his knees. So employ some caretakers. And it’s empty in there. Why aren’t there local Jordanians standing around offering advice on what we’re looking at? (“That’s Israel, and if you go 10,000 miles past that, you’ll reach NYC — though you have to be here on a really clear day to see that”.)

    The entrance fees should cover very good salaries of local people. How many people does Mount Nebo employ? 4 (2 on the gate, 1 in the Church and 1 on a chair somewhere)? More are needed. To me, paying even 1JDD is too much for Mount Nebo. It’s a dirty mountain-top. Make it nice, I’ll happily pay JD10+.

    But who’s in charge of this? I hear of these “Special Authorities”, but what do they do? I can’t see examples of their work anywhere. Are they just a bunch of talking shops? (Although, I understand the Aqaba one has its uses.)

    I realize the above may be a little O/T, but Wissam did mention other cities.

    @UmmFarouq: that’s puzzling. Why isn’t RJ taking care of their work-force? What good are new planes if they’re not cleaned well enough because the staff just can’t be bothered: ‘what’s the point for this little money’? Here, again, the Government has immense power and needs (needs!) to funnel cash towards these employees (and set up career paths).

    In the short-term JD200 makes cost-saving sense, but long-term it costs the economy massively.


    Father A can’t afford to let all his children go to school, can’t afford good food for decent nutrition and certainly can’t afford a computer. His kids hold 200JD jobs, never earn enough or buy much more than basic food stuffs to pay taxes on and die young.


    Father A drives his kids to school no matter the weather, puts meat in their diet and has a 300JD PC with an Internet connection. 2 of his kids advance to University, earn well and even fly Business Class on RJ. They live long. His other 2 kids can read, write and speak well, they move into Amman and make decent wages working in an office. They all pay taxes back into the system so the Government can help other poor people work their way up.

    These are not crazy sums of money; they’re entirely workable.

    Or is everybody (literally) too busy browsing Facebook to care?

    Happy Eid, Jordan!

  • I think there are two reasons behind this chaos in Jordan’s economic: our people’s mentality, and the wrong plans by the governments.
    We always look for behind-the-desk jobs (only while living in Jordan, but we accept ANY kind of jobs in USA, gulf, you name it..), we rush into any kind of universities without even thinking for a bit if this major we are going to attend has chances in jobs market, we hire more than 700.000 Egyptians (I am not sure of the latest numbers, I just saw this number somewhere) as if we were an oil nation, and above that we stand in lines in front of any embassy praying the interview would go smooth.
    Our governments encourage the private sector to take over tourism, that creates negative competition cause they only care for their own profits as companies, that’s why we find none-Jordanians working cause simply.. they accept the less.
    I’ve never heard of a general plan to promote Jordan as a full package tourism spot, we got everything.. although having a couple of casinos would be pretty cool (that’s my own opinion).
    I recall this.. last week in a fancy restaurant in western Amman, the 20 something waiter (who looks like a university student in part time job) didn’t know what a cappuccino without topping is, i said it in english, and then i had to translate it to arabic after i saw him coming with half-glass foam..
    I wonder if we can truly fit in jobs we die for ! ..
    note: I didn’t mention the ‘Wasta’ cause we’re all aware of it.. it runs in our veins.

  • mos: i think you’re estimates are focused in amman – western amman specifically, where wages are much higher. i’m looking at the kingdom as a whole.

    i remember the higher council for population claiming that at least 700,000 (if i remember correctly) jordanians are living on one dinar a day. that number may have decreased a bit recently as i recall, but nevertheless, for a country of 5.5 million, it is significant.

    minimum wage for the public sector, where arguably a large portion (if not a majority) of the jordanian population works, is at around 110JDs. starting january, it will rise to 150JDs. i have many relatives of my own who are in the army or are policeman and earn about that much.

    unemployment is at least 20% if not higher according to unofficial estimates, and with inflation as it is, purchasing power has been eroded for those real wages that people who are lucky enough actually make.

    all in all, the variables may differ with regards to the margin of error, but the formula and its outcome remain the same. moreover, as you point out, there is a great deal of room for improvement and many of your own suggestions are absolutely valid.

    but if you’re looking to get a more realistic slice of the country, i would recommend leaving the pockets where iSystem, high-stake real estate agents, car salesmen and Umniah, Cosmo and Safeway clerks work.

    it’s not pretty.

  • Interesting how in this day and age; a religious activity cannot be discussed without the numbers being involved, and how all spiritual things are spoken with the market language; profit, discount, salaries, percentages and more.
    It happened in the West, and they have already transformed Christmas into a consumerism bonanza. I know that Ramadan was infected here as well and now the Adha sheep extravaganza!!
    I wonder how many sheep were sacrificed some 600 years ago, I wonder if they could afford lamb at all!
    A consumer market, a religious slogan, let spending flourish and let the good times roll!!

    Happy Eid All!

  • @Nas: Can you delete the whole “P.S:” paragraph from my last comment, please? Thanks!

    @Wissam: To be fair, the Visit Jordan (http://www.visitjordan.com/) website is rather awesome. Who ever got that sorted definitely deserves more scope to boost Jordan’s profile.

    You said, like so many “the wrong plans by the governments”. Do you have to take a Personality Test to go into Government Office?

    And fail it?

    @Nas: Granted, my first comment was too Western Amman focused — I did try and expand this in my second comment, following what others had said. One dinar a day is obviously very low (even with Purchasing Power Parity), and puts them among the poorest people in the world. I didn’t know there were that many Jordanians living on such a low wage: that’s what, around 8% of the population? So I spend more money in any given week buying bread sticks than people in that bottom 8% of the population of Jordan live on in a week? (I know that sentence is poorly worded, sorry. I hope the point is clear though.)

    And that 5.5 million includes the wave of Iraqi immigrants living in Jordan? Which would…distort the figures in favour of wealth, given that richer Iraqis tended to be able to leave?

    “minimum wage for the public sector, where arguably a large portion (if not a majority) of the jordanian population works, is at around 110JDs. starting january, it will rise to 150JDs. i have many relatives of my own who are in the army or are policeman and earn about that much.”

    Clearly I’ve massively underestimated the lowness of the wages in Jordan as a whole.

    “but if you’re looking to get a more realistic slice of the country, i would recommend leaving the pockets where iSystem, high-stake real estate agents, car salesmen and Umniah, Cosmo and Safeway clerks work.”

    I *try* not to be desperately out of step and *try* to step outside of the Western Amman Bubble, but being a complete and utter foreigner it’s far more comfortable in Deir Ghibar/Abdoun/Sweifieh. There’s even a difference betweek shopping at Cozmo vs. Safeway. I do travel around Jordan and Amman as much as I can, and talk to people — although I do end up talking to the more affluent, English-speaking minority, distorting my perceptions. And what interaction I do have with the low earners tend to be with those servers: clerks, waiters, etc. I can’t very well say “…I’ll have the steak. Oh, and how much do you and your extended family earn again”? I have no Jordanian relatives, and I know very few people who are poor in Jordan – and those who I do know who’re less well off are non-Jordanian.

    So guys, Wissam and Nas especially, please pardon my ignore. I’ve learnt a lot (clearly!) — and especially enjoying reading this blog for a more authentic slice of Jordan.

    Thanks! =)

  • Nas, I speak with a good authority here; having worked for Tkiyet Um Ali (and still volunteer over there), all the typical speculations around this entity is really as classical -and typical- as all Jordanian taxi-driver driven rumors that manages to spread among us, be it the mass selling of government property or the new craze of “returned-cheques” saga by the biggest of business men in the country.

    In all cases, there’s a good reason why one should make his Eid sacrifice through TUA beside being 50 JD cheaper in average, as TUA will be processing the bulk of the meat in a variety of flavors in a long-life (a year almost) cans that can be stored without refrigeration and needs only a minimum of a cooking pan to be cooked!

    So when 100,000 or more sheep get slaughtered, that doesn’t mean they’re ought to be eaten in the course of the coming week, or get stored in unhealthy unrefrigerated manner; no they can be distributed in a proper way over the course of the coming year.

  • Like you I have complete trust in TUA and I have been doing my Eid sacrifice through it in the past 4 years. The added value of the organization is that its support is not seasonal and it cam continue throughout the year with the canned food and the very well organized network of volunteers will ensure delivery to the people who really need it.
    Regarding the debate on income, let us not forget that Jordan’s per capita GDP is 3,320 US $ (EIU 2008) so the 200 JDs per month is the statistical average income. Although the amount of money used by rural population in the burse scandal was stunning in its magnitude.

  • Very interesting post, Nas. I think it’s very easy for us West Amman dwellers to forget the other half. Especially those of us whose Arabic is limited and contact even more so. However, I actually thought the number living on 1 JD a day was higher based on stats I saw a year or two ago. One thing I do find hard to assess is whether those numbers typically refer to the family unit or a single earner, as I know most families keep adult kids at home and have 2 or 3 earners contributing. Regardless it does make you wonder, if you are living on 200JDs a month and giving a sheep, who do these sheep go to? What would the cut-off be where someone would consider themselves the “poor” who receive such gifts? And, are there issues with folks being too proud to accept the food? I sincerely hope not. I know that now, in our holy season as well, the churches are busy collecting food baskets for the needy. I give thanks that there are people across Jordan who give generously to those who are less fortunate. May we set an example of giving for our children and they for their children…

Your Two Piasters: