Blast from the past: In Pakistan’s Gwadar, every Eid brings nostalgia for Arab cannons

Special Blast from the past: In Pakistan’s Gwadar, every Eid brings nostalgia for Arab cannons
Muslims share Eid greetings after performing an Eid Al-Fitr prayer at a ground in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on May 13, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 17 May 2021

Blast from the past: In Pakistan’s Gwadar, every Eid brings nostalgia for Arab cannons

Blast from the past: In Pakistan’s Gwadar, every Eid brings nostalgia for Arab cannons
  • Gwadar, once a tiny fishing town and now a port city central to the multi-billion-dollar CPEC, remained part of Oman from 1783 to 1958
  • Thousands of Gwadar locals have dual Pakistani and Omani nationality and continue to live and work between the two countries

KARACHI: Every year in Pakistan, while televisions boom with the news of Eid moon-sighting, one southern fishing town still feels nostalgia for the old Arab cannons going off to announce the holy festival.

The city of Gwadar, a natural hammerhead-shaped headland, was relinquished by the Sultanate of Oman in 1958 when Pakistan purchased it for Rs 5.5 billion ($36 million).

The city is central to the multi-billion-dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is situated on a tapered and sandy 12-kilometer-long strip that links the Pakistani coast to rocky outcroppings in the Arabian Sea.

Before Pakistan took the reign of the fishing town, rituals in the area were a mix of local and Arab traditions, locals say.

“As children, we would stand at a distance and watch the scene,” Hasan Ali Sohail, an author and local historian, told Arab News.

First, nitrous would be placed inside the cannon and then sacks pressed inside to strengthen it, he said.

“All those sacks would fly skyward, and when they would fall down, we would run, pick them up and head home, shouting,” Sohail laughed. “This was an expression of happiness in those days. The scene is still fresh in my mind despite the passage of over seven decades.”

A cannon would be placed right in front of the residence of the Wali-e-Gwadar (administrator of the city), and when the moon of Ramadan or Eid would be sighted, the people would be informed through the firing.

“When the Arab soldier would get news of the moon-sighting, a rod on fire would be inserted inside the cannon, and when the iron branding reached the sacks, he would run back and stand at a distance,” Sohail said.

Mohammed Akbar, 80, a young fisherman then, has similar memories of the Eid cannon.

“I still remember when on one Eid, while I accompanied my father for deep-sea fishing, we heard the sound of the cannon, and we turned back and anchored our fishing boat and hurried home,” Akber said.

Despite the time that has passed, not all the old rituals have faded; some links with the former state have stayed strong.  

“We still break our fasts like Arabs,” Akbar told Arab News.

Unlike the rest of the country, the people of Gwadar consume a substantial quantity of dates and lassi (a yogurt-based drink) during Ramadan and have their dinner after taraweeh prayers. Sukoun, an Arabian dish, is also made and shared by the people of the town.

Noor Mohsin, a local journalist, told Arab News that thousands of Gwadar locals possess dual Pakistani and Omani nationality and live and work between the two countries.

“There is a strong bond the people of Gwadar feel with Arabs, which will always remain intact,” Mohsin added.