Experience the aesthetics of Ramadan in Makkah

Some districts in Makkah become crowded every year owing to sports events and other activities. AN photo
Updated 28 May 2018

Experience the aesthetics of Ramadan in Makkah

  • The citizens of many neighborhoods near the sanctuary, such as Al-Shubaikha, Al-Gemmezah, Al-Tundobawi, Jarwal and others, compete to serve pilgrims during Ramadan
  • The houses in Makkah during the holy month were painted on the inside and outside, welcoming Ramadan

MAKKAH: Makkah is famous for being a vibrant city throughout the year. Its long Umrah season, followed by the Hajj season, makes it a rich place visited by all nationalities from around the world. Makkah conforms to its culture, identity and profound heritage, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.
If you want to experience the aesthetics of Ramadan, Makkah is a Saudi city that’s wonderfully diverse. Citizens of different races were brought together by their love for Makkah, which they have chosen as a residence. This has characterized its identity and satisfied its customs and social patterns, making it unique among Saudi areas and cities.
The Mayor of Rea Zakher neighborhood, Fahad Al-Harbi, observes many traditions and historical features in Makkah, some of which have died out while others are still ongoing. Al-Harbi speaks of old neighborhoods that surrounded the Makkan sanctuary, and how they contributed to the culture of sharing and cooperating and laid friendliness in a small geographical area, linking districts and population centers of different races and spectrums.
Al-Harbi says Makkah witnesses an increased activity during Ramadan, one of the great occasions that reflect the cultures of this city’s citizens and how they create their own happiness.
The work in ful, Sobia, Arabic sweets and other shops increases and their owners are friendly with people. All owners of specific food sell their products with pleasure and ease. They sing beautiful tunes they inherited while selling balilah, fried dumplings and soup.
Al-Harbi also tells about districts in Makkah that become crowded every year owing to sports events and witness the residents of one neighborhood bringing lights and drawing the lines of football and volleyball playgrounds. Tournaments are also held during Ramadan where the neighborhoods’ mayors give away trophies in the final games.
“The citizens of many neighborhoods near the sanctuary, such as Al-Shubaikha, Al-Gemmezah, Al-Tundobawi, Jarwal and others, compete to serve pilgrims during Ramadan. They give them water during breakfast, guide lost people and help the elderly to get to the sanctuary, and these are traditions the citizens of Makkah are proud of, while considering them their duties,” Al-Harbi added.
Businessman and engineer Amin Hafez noted that throughout the years, the royal neighborhood has maintained its cultural value which reflects the spiritual and heritage side of Makkah. In its districts, the citizens of Makkah meet pilgrims and get to know each other, establishing a great brotherhood and beautiful friendship.
Hafez said the royal neighborhood included models of Makkan houses, popular cafés, small shops, old cars that were used in the past and the Makkan heritage and architectural museum. All this diversity has made Ramadan nights in the city incomparable with any other cities: they are old neighborhoods that were linked to the Makkan sanctuary, some of which have faded away with the commitments of widening the Grand Mosque.
One elderly man from the Jarwal area near the Makkah sanctuary, Faleh Al-Moutaweh, told of many Ramadan traditions Makkah was renowned for but have died out. People have become busier with the widening of urbanism in Makkah.
In the past, the houses in Makkah during the holy month were painted on the inside and outside, welcoming Ramadan. Lights were used and sessions set in the streets near the houses where men spent their nights during Ramadan. The curtains, mattresses and cushions were cleaned, and two days before Ramadan, preparing red and white Sobia was a must.
Al-Moutaweh added that young men and women used to compete to serve pilgrims. They used to go to the Makkan sanctuary before the evening prayer, carrying Zamzam water and dates in beautiful pots. They would communicate with pilgrims in the languages they had learned and serve them yogurt and coffee for the whole holy month.

Philippines’ Boracay island reopens after 6-month cleanup

Updated 16 October 2018

Philippines’ Boracay island reopens after 6-month cleanup

  • Public opening is set on Oct. 26
  • The cleanup drive took six months, but officials estimated two years for full rehabilitation

DUBAI: Boracay, the Philippines’ world-famous island resort, has reopened for a test run after it was temporarily closed for a cleanup operation led by the Philippine government, CNN reported.

The test run involved a small group of tourists, who were invited to try the newly improved facilities of the resort off the main island of Aklan.

One of the main improvements done in the island was its sewerage system, which Philippine Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu confirmed as “100 percent” complete.

But while the beaches were signed off as safe for recreational activities, officials said that full rehabilitation could still take up to two years.

The cleanup, which lasted six months, started in April after Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte called the area a “cesspool” because of unclean waters.

Reforms have already taken place in the 6-month duration of the rehabilitation work, and officials have greenlighted a public opening on Oct. 26.

New rules

The government has set firmer regulations to maintain Boracay, including limiting the number of tourists allowed to stay on the island.

According to local media, only 19,000 tourists will be able to enter the island on the condition they present hotel reservation slips. Further, availability of hotel rooms will also be reduced to between 6,000 and 9,000 from a previous 12,000.

Other rules have been announced such as the temporary suspension of all water activities, prohibition of beachside dining, banning of souvenir shops and hawkers, among others.

Officials vowed to implement these rules as the island opens for tourists.