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Traditions and celebrations during Ramadan

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(Photos: Envato Elements and Freepik)
After two years of health and safety measures changing how people globally were able to celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the rollback of COVID-19 preventative measures this year is bringing celebrations closer to what they were prior to March 2020. اضافة اعلان

Worldwide, around 1.6 billion Muslims will be observing Ramadan. And while daytime fasting is shared amongst those observing, celebrations and traditions differ around the world.

Illuminating neighborhoods

Large lanterns hang along meters of rope strung across streets in Egypt, welcoming Ramadan by colorfully illuminating various neighborhoods. Jordan, Saudi, Kuwait, and many other countries share the decorations of bright crescent moons and colorful lights.

For many Muslims, Ramadan and social gatherings are deeply related.

After iftar and taraweeh prayers end, Egyptian men usually meet in street cafes under the street lights to play chess and Backgammon, while the women gather to enjoy sweets, catch up, and watch TV series together.

Gatherings continue till suhoor, with dried fava beans — or foul — being the most famous dish in Egypt.

Mheibes

In Iraqi villages, the game Mheibes, or hide the ring — one of the oldest popular games in Iraq dating back to the Abbasid era between the eighth and 13th century — is enjoyed after ftour (breakfast) and prayers.

The game includes two teams. Each team attempts to hide a ring from the opposition, then the opposing team nominates a player who only has one chance to guess who is holding the ring.
Worldwide, around 1.6 billion Muslims will be observing Ramadan. And while daytime fasting is shared amongst those observing, celebrations and traditions differ around the world.
Studying facial expressions, ruling out players that the guesser is sure does not have the ring, and other techniques make for an interesting game all around.

When a player rules out a hand holding the ring, the ring is exposed followed by shouting the word “batt,” meaning “stay the night” in an Arabic Iraqi dialect, and the ring is once again hidden.

A Mheibes tournament is held between villages daily during Ramadan.

Food holds added importance in Ramadan, as elaborate meals and traditional foods are prepared for family and friends as they break their fast.

Iraqis, on the first day of Ramadan, usually cook their famous meal, Dolma. Breaking their fast with traditional stuffed vegetables cooked in tomato sauce alongside condiments and cooked meat is common for many Iraqis, both in Iraq and abroad.

Saudi coffee all night

For Saudis, water, dates, and yogurt are how they break their fast. This is so they do not irritate the stomach and can gradually start eating cooked meals, usually consisting of some variety of rice and chicken or meat. 

Drinks, much like food, are also of added significance in Ramadan, and for Saudis, coffee is a staple of Ramadan.

The coffee is served to family members, friends, and visitors throughout the night. Saudi coffee is known to be lighter than Arabic coffee and more golden in color because of how it’s roasted. It is usually served with dates and nuts.

As a rule, the host has to serve the coffee with their right hand and fill it with more than half. If the guest swirls the cup, it indicates that they would like more, and if they are done, they refrain from swirling. 

common pastry

To many, the Ramadan table is incomplete without the famous fried pastry appetizer. Whether you call it Börek like in Turkey and Tunisia or Samosa like in Pakistan, this crispy pastry filled with meat or cheese and deep fried in hot oil is not something you can replace or go without.

Gargee’aan

From Jordan to Kuwait, Gargee’an, a traditional celebration that aims to educate children on Ramadan’s importance, is held for three days in the middle of the month.

Kids dressed in traditional Kuwaiti and Jordanian attire wander the streets and sing educational and traditional songs to kids, neighbors, and family while distributing and collecting candy and nuts.

Msaharati

A token of Ramadan traditions is the Msaharati or the drummer.

Responsible for waking Muslims just before dawn to drink water and eat suhoor before they begin their fast, the Msaharati strolls around the streets he’s appointed to, beats his drum, and sings hymns and religious songs.

The best part about this tradition is when neighborhood children accompany the Msaharati on his mission and fill the streets with joy and laughter.

Ramadan cannon

Like the Msaharati, the cannon is another Ramadan staple and tradition. Despite technological advancements, Ramadan cannons are still used to this day in most Arab countries.

The cannon launch indicates to observant Muslims that it is time to break the daily fast. Many stories trace this tradition back to Egypt, where Sayf ad-Din Khushqadam — a Mamluk sultan of Egypt — and his entourage experimented with the cannon near iftar time. People heard the boom and a new tradition was born.

According to stories, the sultan ordered the cannon to launch every day for iftar during Ramadan.

Other stories trace the beginning of this tradition to Muhammad Ali Pasha, the Ottoman sultan of Egypt from 1805-1848, when he wanted to check a new cannon that arrived from Italy. Others trace it to Ismail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt from 1863-1879, accidentally launching a cannon near dusk time.

While the accurate history of the cannon is unclear, the tradition spread to many Muslim countries including Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, and is still carried on today.

All of these sounds and traditions are attached to Ramadan, and wherever they are heard or seen, the tradition comes back to life.

This is Ramadan’s charm, with some customs unique to certain areas, others widespread across the Muslim world, and the recognition and celebration of the holy month uniting Muslims around the world.


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