AL-AHSA: Communities in the eastern Saudi region of Al-Ahsa have been reviving age-old traditions as part of their celebration of Ramadan.
Customs passed down through generations, such as grand family meals, games nights, communal swims, and neighborhood festivals, are all being enjoyed by thousands of Muslims in towns and villages across the region during the holy month of fasting.
Qarsh night, also known as Quraish, is held on the night before Ramadan starts, with families gathering for a big meal of special dishes, many unique to Al-Ahsa.
In some areas, whole communities come together to welcome the arrival of Ramadan by playing games such as foosball (table soccer), football and hopscotch, with candy on sale for children.
Al-Ahsa region is well-known for its 150 natural springs, the largest of which can be found at Al-Harah (Arabic for the hot spring) in the heart of Al-Mubarraz where its waters have flowed for hundreds of years.
Many locals swim in the springs during hot days, and Ramadan is no exception, with families following tradition by taking a dip before breaking their fast.
Planning food schedules for Ramadan iftars is a major operation in Al-Ahsa, and many homes located near mosques still provide meals for Muslim worshippers in time-honored fashion. Elsewhere, Al-Musahir “Abu-tibailah,” or Al-Mesaharati as he is known to many, can still be seen walking around neighborhoods in many of Al-Ahsa’s small villages, banging on his little “table” drum as he calls for people to wake up for their evening meal or sahoor.
And one of the most deeply rooted traditions found in the region is Gargee’an. Celebrated on the 15th night of Ramadan, families deck their homes with lights and colorful decorations as they welcome children, dressed in their finest traditional clothing and jewelry, holding empty bags waiting to be filled with candy and sweets.
The day is particularly important to kids, as they go from one house to the next, knocking on doors, singing and receiving gifts before returning home where the celebrations continue.
Games and festivities get underway after Maghreb prayers and go on late into the night.