Ramadan is a much-awaited celebration for Muslims around the world, who seek rewards from the Almighty and love the peaceful vibe that comes with it. It is a month full of warmth and interesting traditions that bring about good changes of the heart.
Ramadan is an opportunity for individuals to rejoice and be more spiritual, while creating memorable moments with loved ones. As you get your heart ready to receive the light of this month, I would like to shed light on how Ramadan is welcomed and celebrated here in Oman.
In the Holy Quran, there is a verse that explains the importance of this month: “O Muslims! A noble and generous month has come to you. A month in which a night is better than one thousand months and this month is the month of charity, patience, and mercy. In this month, the gates of Paradise become wide open and the gates of Hell are shut, and the devils are chained...” (An-Nasa’i).
As the verse suggests, there is something spiritually unparalleled and quite peaceful about Ramadan that makes for a pleasant experience. This is the case even for my expatriate friends who seem to enjoy every bit of it and even take part in some of the traditions, which makes it an exciting month-long holy celebration.
How do we welcome Ramadan?
The atmosphere begins to change a week in advance, when parents tweak their reading habits and focus on religious books, bring out Ramadan-only recipes for the whole family to enjoy, and, most importantly, give up grudges and other bad habits that we, humans, tend to latch on to.
As the first day approaches, a sense of calm descends, and mosques become filled with Muslims who race to catch the Taraweh prayers, performed only during Ramadan.
Unlike other sacred seasons, there aren’t many decorations that scream Ramadan in an Omani household. There are no lanterns hung on walls around the house, or hanging light tucked in trees, but the ambience and our attitudes change drastically to become more empathetic and positive with the drive to do good.
In Oman, the traditions take us back to the olden ages, when modern means of living were slightly on the lower end of the spectrum, but retain a great deal of fun. Let’s explore them.
Ramadan is the one month that brings families together, especially in today’s society when everyone is busy on their own. After work, folks drive straight home to be with the family. They exchange conversation about religion, and have friendly and useful discussion about Islam, culture, and life in general.
After Iftar and prayers, some people gather with their loved ones for a much-needed tales-from-the-past, told by grandparents who are quite the imaginative storytellers. And sometimes, parents discuss interesting topics on religion and educate (or in some cases remind) the kids about their religion and culture.
Amid the talks and life lessons, you won’t find a single bit of gossip, as it is a sinful habit.
Some people enjoy the company of their friends, so they head out in packs and meet at their favourite spot for a cup of kahwa and a good, gossip-free conversation.
This is the most exciting part about Ramadan: The mouthwatering food that comes out of Omani kitchens. Though doctors keep urging us to adopt a healthy lifestyle, it’s difficult to go through Ramadan without indulging in some delicious treats.
Popular dishes include Thareed, a traditional Arabian dish made from pieces of bread in a meat or chicken broth. It is also popular in other Middle Eastern countries. Mashed dates, Asabe Mariyam (deep-fried, cheese-filled pastry), Luqaimat (sweet dumplings), and Khaliat Nahal (honeycomb dessert) are also some of the Ramadan favourites.
One of my absolute favourite traditions is sharing the food with neighbours. Every day, interesting and delicious dishes are exchanged between neighbours as an act of kindness. The tradition used to be practised daily, throughout the year, but now it remains widely practised during Ramadan.
If having a talk with family and friends is not top of your list of things to do during Ramadan, then you might want to opt for other activities, such as volunteering for a cause.
There are countless charity groups and organisations spread across town. From charities that lend a helping hand to the needy, to those focused on cleaning the streets of Muscat and taking care of orphans.
As you may already know, the rewards are doubled during Ramadan, which makes volunteering a favourite activity among the residents of Oman. And, it brings a sense of purpose to one’s heart (at least for me).
Aside from charitable work, many gentlemen enjoy a friendly match that stretches till midnight, or relax at a cafe near their homes to kill time while waiting for Suhoor (a meal consumed at dawn during Ramadan). Women enjoy meeting their friends for coffee or a quick exercise session, too.
Ramadan is that one month that we wish lasted longer, as it brings a unique atmosphere that is cherished by Omanis and celebrated by expatriates. Let the light in and enjoy a month full of grace and lots of love. — [email protected]