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
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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.


Why Bollywood can’t get enough of fashion from the Arab world

No major red-carpet event in India is complete without at least a couple of leading ladies wearing a gown from an Arab designer. (AFP)
Updated 46 min 57 sec ago
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Why Bollywood can’t get enough of fashion from the Arab world

  • When Indian cinema’s leading ladies need to slay on the red carpet, they are increasingly turning to Middle East designers.

DUBAI: Bollywood has long been popular in the region. The Gulf is Indian cinema’s largest overseas market, and — in return — Bollywood has fallen in love with fashion from the Middle East. The two have plenty in common: not least a passion for opulence, (melo)drama and craftsmanship.

No major red-carpet event in India is complete without at least a couple of leading ladies wearing a gown from an Arab designer — and designers from, or based in, the Middle East are increasingly becoming the “go-to” for Indian actors at international film festivals too. At the most recent edition of the Cannes Film Festival, for example, Priyanka Chopra wore a white strapless gown from Lebanese designer Georges Hobeika, Aishwarya Rai wore a white gown by Beirut-based Ashi Studio, Kangana Ranaut opted for a sheer embroidered gown by Dubai-based Filipino designer Michael Cinco and Diana Penty was spotted in a yellow dress with feather details by Oman’s Atelier Zuhra.

Mohit Rai, one of India’s leading celebrity stylists, started his career with Harper’s Bazaar India and made the switch to working with Bollywood several years ago. His client list includes Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonakshi Sinha and Shilpa Shetty. He says, “The Middle East is the only other region apart from India that really appreciates a high level of couture and craftsmanship. Their common aesthetic is a major reason for Indian stylists looking to Middle Eastern fashion. Plus, Arab designers are able to combine the Parisian and European flair for pattern cutting while retaining the Indian love for embellishment.” 

With many designers from the Middle East showing at Paris Couture Week (this year, Maison Rabih Kayrouz became the second Arab designer after Elie Saab to be authorized by the French Couture Federation to use the tag haute couture), they understand silhouette and tailoring, and because the region has a heritage of handcrafted beading and threadwork, they are able to marry the best of East and West.

Dubai-based Syrian designer Rami Al-Ai recently worked with Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor Khan. “We both appreciate the same beauty, and there’s a lot of similarity in the way they celebrate life. Both have this kind of dramatic celebration when it comes to weddings and functions.” Indeed, when Deepika Padukone married Ranveer Singh last year, she turned to acclaimed Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad for one of her wedding looks.

There are designers in India who specialize in red-carpet fashion, and while their surface embellishments are impeccable, their fit often is not on par with their embroidery. Historically Indian fashion is more about drape than construction, as Rai points out.

“I do not think India has enough designers catering to the Western evening wear segment in a very couture category such as the Middle Eastern ones,” he tells Arab News.

His favoured Arab designers include Beirut-band ased Saudi Arabian designer Mohammed Ashi of Ashi Studio, Kuwait’s Yousef Al-Jasmi, Dubai based Atelier Zuhra. Whereas Hollywood tends to go with the region’s best-known designers such as Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad — who both have a strong international retail presence — Bollywood is happy to work with both seasoned and emerging designers.

A shared aesthetic is what makes Arab design appeal to Bollywood’s stylists, but there is also a more pragmatic reason for the synergy between the Bollywood red carpet and Middle Eastern fashion: Their geographical proximity.

Ami Patel is one of the best-known celebrity stylists in India and works with stars including Priyanka Chopra, Alia Bhatt and Kananga Ranaut. She finds it easier to work with the Middle East than Europe, she says.

“I think Middle Eastern designers understand the Indian body type and silhouette very well. They know exactly what Indian celebrities want and cater to them. Since the countries are in close proximity working with them becomes easier.”

Patel adds that she finds designers from the region can work on quick turnarounds and are able to tweak designs when needed. Indian women do tend to be curvy, so regular European sample sizes are often just not an option for many of India’s leading ladies. And whereas European fashion houses may have only heard of Indian actors who have done international work — such as Priyanka Chopra or Deepika Padukone — designers from the Middle East are familiar with the landscape of Indian cinema, meaning they are easier to approach. As Patel says, “Middle Eastern designers follow Bollywood films and stars very closely and it’s a great amalgamation which has some really great outcomes.” 

One recent look of which Patel is particularly proud is Alia Bhatt’s appearance in a midnight-black Zuhair Murad gown at the Indian International Film Academy Awards in New York.

“It was a really special look for me,” she says. “The gown was stunning; it had such beautiful delicate embroidery which gave an illusion as if the entire constellation of stars had descended onto Alia.”

The fact that the region is so close to India also means that Indian celebrities regularly visit the Middle East.

“A lot of Indian celebrities are doing a lot of events in the Middle East, and that plays a big role in picking what kind of outfits to wear,” says Rai.

Dubai designer Rami Al-Ali agrees. “Bollywood stars are also celebrities in the Middle East world,” he says.

“Since the Middle East is actually aligned with the industry, they are definitely keener on dressing Indian stars and even willing to customise and size outfits for our actors,” says Rai. And so, for Indian cinema, it is Arab designers who rule the red carpet.