Today marks the start of Eid al-Adha -- the Feast of the Sacrifice -- across the Muslim world. The holiday honors Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his eldest son to God. (Satisfied with Abraham's loyalty, at the last minute God gives him a ram to sacrifice instead.)
In Turkey, where the festival is known as Kurban Bayramı, it is celebrated with family gatherings and ritual slaughter. Families with means buy an animal and donate a portion of the meat to the poor. In Istanbul, the city now provides special areas for farmers to sell sheep, cows and goats, and for butchers to perform the slaughter for a fee.
At one such public slaughteryard in Istanbul's Piyalepasa neighborhood, hundreds turned out on October 25. Some took their purchases home to kill and butcher themselves; others found a professional who would perform the duties for 50 Turkish lira (about $28) for a sheep. Sheep cost between 500-700 lira. Cows and bulls are significantly more.
Sometimes the men say a prayer before the animal is killed. Sometimes it's just work. But the calming techniques used by the butchers and the swiftness of the animals' deaths testify to the skill and experience built up over centuries (except when they let amateurs take a whack at it).
David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.