Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
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IRAQ: Cooking for Ashura

January 18, 2008 | 11:24 am


Young Shiite men in Baghdad cook a traditional Iraqi lamb and bean dish called Harissa in a huge cauldron for the festival of Ashura, one of the most important dates on the Shiite calendar. It takes two hours to cook the dish on a huge fire.

Rich and poor set aside their money every year to provide food to pilgrims and neighbors during Ashura in honor of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad. This year the anniversary of his death falls on Saturday. Hussein and his 71 followers were massacred on the plains of Karbala in 680. They had no food or water during their battle with the Caliph Yazid. The food is meant as a blessing for the soul of Hussein. Shiites ask forgiveness for Hussein's death and to atone for their own sins.

-- Ned Parker in Baghdad

Photo: Ashura festivities in Iraq. Credit: Saad Khalaf