A cloud of dust rises as sheep jump off yet another truck at the new livestock market in Rai. They are herded into a pen, as the market bustles, with Eid Al-Adha just around the corner. While the market is in operation throughout the year, it explodes in size during Eid. The new market’s orderly pens and water misters are in sharp contrast to the earlier open-air livestock market nearby, which was shut down by the Municipality this year.

The sheep at the market are mostly Arabian, while the goats are from East Africa. Australian, hybrid (muhajjan) Iranian, African and Georgian sheep, to name a few, are hard to find this year. Australia has banned the export of live sheep during the summer months, so there isn’t a single Aussie sheep in sight.

Arabian sheep at the market are mostly Kuwaiti and Saudi. Prices range from KD 65 to KD 120 and higher, depending on the breed, gender and country of origin. Usually, Australian sheep are the cheapest and Arabian the most expensive, with hybrid varieties in between. The old market used to be filled with jostling buyers, vendors, porters, butchers, pickup drivers, feed sellers and hustlers, while proceedings are more sedate at the new market, which is within the compound of the new Capital slaughterhouse in Rai.

The state-of-the-art abattoir, the largest in the Middle East, is ready to receive patrons during Eid, replete with hundreds of chairs for clients to wait in air-conditioned comfort and a large play area for children. The slaughtering area is spotless and brightly lit, with conveyor belts and assembly-line overhead hooks.

Clients can watch their animal as it is brought in through a chute, slaughtered, skinned, cut up and packed from behind a wall of glass, for a nominal charge of KD 3. The conveniences of the new market and slaughterhouse will surely overcome any lingering nostalgia for the old livestock market and its free-for-all ways.

by Shakir Reshamwala