Palestinian dad beats drum for age-old traditions of Ramadan

Abu Atwan and Mohammed Shaath perform al-musaharati in Rafah. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 May 2020

Palestinian dad beats drum for age-old traditions of Ramadan

  • Abu Atwan has operated as musaharati in his neighborhood west of the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip for the past seven years

GAZA STRIP: Despite the march of modern technology, Abdel Khaleq Abu Atwan continues to beat the drum for the age-old traditions of Ramadan in Palestine.
Every year, during the holy month of fasting, the hairdresser and father-of-three   takes on the role of musaharati, the name given to the person who walks residential areas to wake worshippers for their sahoor meal.
It is a custom that has been passed down through generations and remains a deep-rooted part of Ramadan for many Muslims.
As Abu Atwan roams the streets before dawn prayers, adults and children often come out of their homes or peer from windows to watch him pass by beating his drum while reciting prayers.
Although modern technology can now be relied upon to alert worshippers, many Palestinian communities continue to adhere to the time-honored ways.
Abu Atwan has operated as musaharati in his neighborhood west of the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip for the past seven years. Wearing a traditional Palestinian costume along with a red hat and white scarf, he weaves his way through the streets banging his drum for around 90 minutes before returning home to have a sahoor meal with his family.
He told Arab News that he loved performing the role because of the interaction and appreciation he received from people, especially when he recited hymns about the importance of fasting and worshipping God, and slogans urging national unity and interdependence.

FASTFACTS

• Musaharati is a custom that has been passed down through generations and remains a deep-rooted part of Ramadan for many Muslims.

• Although modern technology can now be relied upon to alert worshippers, many Palestinian communities continue to adhere to the time-honored ways.

• The Israeli blockade has adversely affected all aspects of life for the 2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip ‘but had not diminished enthusiasm for the musaharati.’

While computers, TV and other technological developments had changed the habits and lifestyles of many people, he said the musaharati role was still respected and had maintained its popularity in many communities.
The Israeli blockade and political turmoil has adversely affected all aspects of life for the 2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip but Abu Atwan noted that these issues had not diminished enthusiasm for the musaharati.
Due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak Abu Atwan has seen a dramatic fall in business at his hairdressing salon. However, although his work as a musaharati was voluntary, he said he sometimes received money and other gifts from people in honor of his role, which helped in the deteriorating economic climate.
Abu Atwan is accompanied on his Ramadan rounds by his friend Mohammad Shaath, 25, who said he enjoyed being able to bring smiles to the faces of people while chanting religious and patriotic hymns and slogans. Shaath added that musaharati rituals were among the most important features of Ramadan.


Haftar forces quit Tripoli after year-long assault

Updated 05 June 2020

Haftar forces quit Tripoli after year-long assault

  • US envoy: Haftar’s defeat in Tripoli created an opportunity to stop fighting

TRIPOLI: Libya’s internationally recognized government regained control of Tripoli on Thursday, driving eastern forces out of the capital after a 14-month battle in which foreign powers poured in arms and fighters.

In the recaptured southern suburbs, bodies still lay on the ground and fighters brandished weapons abandoned by the eastern forces.

In the city center, civilians were glad the fighting was over. “It’s an incredible feeling. People can now return home and there is no more shelling,” said a 37-year-old man from the Ain Zara district, one of the areas taken, who asked not to use his name.

A military source with the eastern forces said they were pulling back from all of Tripoli’s suburbs. Government forces said they now held everything within the city boundary.

It represents a stinging reversal for eastern commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA), which launched an offensive on Tripoli last year pledging to unite Libya after years of chaos.

The US ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, said in a call with journalists on Thursday the situation had escalated dangerously, but added that Haftar’s defeat in Tripoli created an opportunity to stop fighting.

“Participants have a choice to watch it escalate into a full-blown regional war or to finally de-escalate,” he said.

The main outside powers engaged in the conflict have welcomed the decision to resume cease-fire talks and publicly say they support a political resolution, but it is unclear if they could agree on a settlement.

It leaves Libya still partitioned between rival administrations in Tripoli and Benghazi in the east.