The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan (or Ramzan) is celebrated by Muslims worldwide. During this holy month, after a hearty breakfast, or suhoor, before dawn, the day is spent in penance and fasting. It is broken after sunset with the delicious feasts of the iftar. Let’s take a look at some fascinating Ramadan traditions from around the world.
Since the days of the Ottoman Empire, those fasting during Ramadan have been woken up by street criers for the pre-dawn suhoor. This tradition continues in many Islamic countries, often with the chosen men donning the traditional attire. The nafar of Morocco, the mesaharaty drummers of Egypt and Turkey, and the sheriwalas of Old Delhi are just a few examples.
The sighting of the new moon marks the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid-ul-Fitr. After the final iftar, hordes of girls and women in Pakistan flock to local bazaars for the Chaand Raat festivities. To prepare for Eid, they buy colorful bangles and paint their hands with henna. Keeping this in mind, many shops stay open late leading to a lively atmosphere.
In some areas of Indonesia, Muslims engage in the purifying ritual of padusan. Occurring the day before Ramadan, this Javanese tradition sees people plunge themselves into springs or pools to cleanse themselves before the holy month of fasting.
Many Middle Eastern countries, cannons are fired at sunset to signal the end of the day’s fast. It is said to have started in Egypt over 200 years ago and is known as Midfa Al Iftar. It is especially prevalent in Qatar and Lebanon where it was recently revived by the Lebanese Army.
Egypt is famous for many things, and one of these is the use of colorful lanterns, or fanous, during Ramadan. According to legend, Egyptian welcomed the arrival of Caliph Moezz Eddin Allah to Cairo on the first day of Ramadan in the year 969 by lighting hundreds of lanterns. However, it’s unclear how these intricate lanterns actually became a part of Ramadan, but they are more of a cultural tradition than a religious one.
Often compared to the Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating, this celebration sees children don bright traditional clothes and walk around the neighborhood singing traditional songs and collecting sweets. Like many Ramadan traditions, it is shared by many countries across the Gulf. It’s known as gerga’aan in Kuwait and Haq Al Laila in the UAE where it’s celebrated two weeks before Ramadan.