Our MDIO is a melting pot of 17 different countries. Each one of them has a unique culture and traditions. Most Mediterranean countries celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, which is starting today. We are about to give you an insight into its festivities – which will surely be a bit different this year.
Ramadan is considered the holiest month for Muslims. Every year, Muslims around the world fast during daylight hours. Healthy adult Muslims fast from dawn until dusk every day. This includes abstaining from drinking, eating, immoral acts, and anger. Other acts of worship such as charity, prayer and reading the Quran are also encouraged during this holy month. Muslims wake up early to have a pre-dawn meal called suhoor, and they break their fast with a meal referred to as iftar.
Since different cultures have different Ramadan traditions, we have asked Rotaractors from the Mediterrenean region about their country’s traditions during the holy month.
Omneya, Egypt 🇪🇬
In Egypt, Ramadan is all about gatherings and reunions with loved ones. “The best thing about Ramadan is that we all gather,” tells Omneya, adding she used to make a calendar for iftar reunions.
On the first day, most families gather in one house to break their fast together and catch up. Like most Mediterranean people, Egyptians have a passion for food. They break their fast by eating some dates and keep in mind that it has to be an odd number. Then, they drink traditional Egyptian drinks such as kharoub and sobya. For meals, they cook essentials, like wara2 3inab, molokheya, bambousak, soups, different types of salads.
After iftar, families gather and start catching up, as well as talk about Egyptian Ramadan sitcoms since they are very popular. Afterwards, they enjoy desserts, such as konafa, katayef, balh, echam, and of course Turkish coffee. Then, men go to mosques to perform nightly prayers called tarawih – due to lockdown, they will remain at home this year. Normally, most Egyptians would go to social clubs after to eat suhoor together.
Egyptian Rotaractors never forget those in need. They prepare grocery bags with essentials for the poor. They also cook food to distribute it to people in need, as well as host large iftars. They organize visits to break their fast with people in retirement homes and orphans.
Egyptians also like to stay trendy with a pinch of traditional clothing – they wear chiffon 3abayet while pairing it with a simple T-shirt and jeans. Besides, they decorate their homes with some Ramadan decorations, such as putting a type of Arabian fabric on tables and hanging the colorful fanous – lanterns that embody unity and joy of the holy month.
Rayan, Lebanon 🇱🇧
Ramadan is a time when cultures of Lebanon merge in harmony and unity. Christians gather with their Muslim friends to celebrate the holy month together. You can find special Ramadan decorations everywhere in Lebanon.
In many countries across the Middle East, they fire cannons every day during the month of Ramadan to signal the end of each day’s fast. This tradition, known as midfa al iftar, was revived by the Lebanese Asmy after the war and continues even today. It is often accompanied by a festive mood and storytelling, which reinforces the spirit of the holy month.
The Lebanese cuisine is famous for its sweet delights, for example, kellaj, raman, mafroukh, chaaybiyet qatayef. In the morning, most people go to the markets to prepare for iftar and evening festivities. At exactly 2.50 AM, a person called a musaharati plays the drum around the city of Tripoli to wake everyone up for suhoor. Then, everyone in Tripoli gathers around the city’s clock to talk and dance in a beautiful atmosphere.Rotaractors from Saida organize a yearly festival called saydawi eh where they gather in the old souk in Sayda and listen to oumsiyat ramadaniya while eating and shopping.
Amine, Morocco 🇲🇦
“Ramadan is a very special month for us. We spend more time with our families and we cook a lot of traditional dishes,” tells Amine from Morocco.
One of the unique traditions in Morocco is also the tabal. In each street, there is one: they are in charge of beating on the drum that they hang on their body in order to wake people up for suhoor. Each tabal has different ways of doing their job. Some sing religious chants while playing the drum, some only play, some even tell jokes and anecdotes. “However, lately I feel like there are less tabals around, which is probably due to everybody staying up late. I really do not want to see them gone! Ramadan won’t be the same without them,” says Amine.
For iftar, Moroccans cook dishes like shebakia, harira, and sweets sweets like sellou, briwat, beghrir. Moroccan Rotaractors cook and distribute iftar meals to poor families every year.
Maryem, Tunisia 🇹🇳
Maryem from Tunisia told us that they break their fast by eating dates and drinking bsisa as a start. Then, they cook traditional food like couscous, nwaser, fondouk l’ghala and other savory and quite spicy food.
After iftar, Tunisians like to drink tea and eat Tunisian sweets like baclava, kaak lwarka, knefa, and wedhnin lkadhi while watching Tunisian TV-series or going to cafés to smoke chicha (hookah). The nightly prayers are also held in mosques after iftar.
The Tunisian generosity knows no limits – thus, it is common for Rotaractors to host large iftars, especially for the poor and needy.
In the night, several festivals take place all over Tunisia. The most known Malouf music festival takes place in the old medina of Tunis. People from all over the country come to attend it. Street concerts in Habib Bourguiba Avenue also attract a broad audience. On the contrary, people spend their days praying and reading the Quran. Most try to finish reading it within the month of Ramadan – a time to detach from worldly pleasures and get closer to God through focusing on prayers.
Did you know?
The word Ramadan derives from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ (scorching heat; dryness).
The first and last dates of Ramadan are determined by the lunar Islamic calendar.
Because Hilāl, the crescent moon, typically occurs approximately one day after the new moon, Muslims can usually estimate the beginning of Ramadan; however, many prefer to confirm the opening of Ramadan by direct visual observation of the crescent.
Night of Power
Laylat al-Qadr is considered the holiest night of the year. It is generally believed to have occurred on an odd-numbered night during the last ten days of Ramadan; the Dawoodi Bohra believe that Laylat al-Qadr was the twenty-third night of Ramadan.
The end of the Ramadan fast is celebrated as Eid al-Fitr, the Feast of Fast-Breaking, which is one of the two major religious holidays of the Muslim calendar (the other, Eid al-Adha).
Eid celebrates the return to a more natural disposition (fitra) of eating, drinking, and marital intimacy.
Source: Wikipedia; Encyclopedia Britannica
To all of you celebrating, we wish a month filled with spirituality and unity. Ramadan kareem!
Photo credits to the rightful owners.