Ramadan around the Middle East
Updated: Jul 24
Ramadan is a special period for all Muslims around the world. It’s not only about fasting, but about culture, faith, family, and history. The month of Ramadan inspires and sets the tone for the upcoming year. Each Muslim country has its own traditions of celebrating the holy month and below is a breakdown from around several Middle Eastern and Asian countries that celebrate Ramadan.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar year. Seen as an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with Allah, all healthy adults abstain from eating, drinking, sex and smoking during daylight hours. General rules for anyone that observes Ramadan are: - Every day at sunset the fast ends with a special dinner called Iftar. - Before sunrise, it is customary to eat a lighter meal called suhoor. People usually eat cereals, dried fruits, or dairy products as long as it is not heavy.
There is a special prayer called taraweh which is prayed from the first Moon-sighted evening (which marks the start of Ramadan) to the second Moon-sighted evening (last day of Ramadan). Taraweh derives from the Arabic word “rest and relaxation.” It is also called “Night Ramadan prayer”.
Laylatul Qadr, the Night of Decree or Night of Power, is one of the most sacred nights in the Islamic calendar. It takes place in the last ten days of Ramadan and was the night in which the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
People in Indonesia have their own rituals to ‘cleanse’ themselves on the day before Ramadan. In parts of this country, there’s a tradition called “padusan” in which Muslims plunge themselves in springs, soaking their bodies from head to toe. People also clean graves of their relatives before Ramadan.
In Turkey, anyone who observes Ramadan is called upon on suhoor by drums. This tradition has been preserved since the Ottoman Empire and usually about 2000 drummers walk the streets in national costumes. Coffee and desserts are especially appreciated during iftar and suhoor. Also, there is a Sugar Feast after the sunset.
In Egypt, children run around their neighborhoods swinging small fanoos (lantern) and singing a folkloric song that celebrates the start of Ramadan. Egyptians decorate their homes, streets and alleyways with fawanees (plural of fanoos). They also have a traditional dish called “Khchaf” which is a mix of dates, figs and other different fruits.
Ramadan festivals in the UAE is held in tents so everyone can feel the special atmosphere and embrace the spirit of giving when all seated together. In this region the familial atmosphere is especially appreciated during this holiday.
On the 14th day of Ramadan, people in Qatar celebrate Garangao, a fun tradition for children. During Garangao, after the sunset prayer, children dress up in their traditional clothes, carry a decorated material bag, and walk around their neighborhoods singing the Garangao song (Gara) while hitting stones together to create a rhythm. Gara is the Khaliji (Gulf) word for the sound of two things knocking together, connoting the sound of the nuts and sweets in bags or the sound of knocking on doors.
The end of Ramadan is celebrated with the holiday called Eid-al fitr, on this day it is customary to give gifts to each other and dress up. Ramadan in general in the Middle East (or in any other Muslim country) is an amazing experience. For the past two years, however, due to the pandemic most countries have not held mass festivities, family gatherings in homes, or even community-based celebrations. It’s safe to say that we are all looking forward to putting the pandemic behind us and joining hands in celebrations of all kinds.
Do you want to know more about different cultures, traditions, or cuisines around the world? Check out our other articles and join in on the beauty of the world!