Al-Musaharati: A centuries-old Ramadan tradition now just a tale

Al-Musaharati: A centuries-old Ramadan tradition now just a tale
There was Al-Musaharati in every district who would go around beating his drum to wake up people for sahoor during Ramadan in most Arab countries. (AFP)
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Updated 07 April 2022

Al-Musaharati: A centuries-old Ramadan tradition now just a tale

Al-Musaharati: A centuries-old Ramadan tradition now just a tale
  • Technology, new generation adopting other professions leave no place for age-old Ramadan ritual

JEDDAH: Over centuries, Ramadan has witnessed numerous traditions, some of which are still alive and have been passed down from one generation to the next, while others have faded with time.  

One such past tradition associated with Ramadan is Al-Musaharati; a person who would walk around a neighborhood beating his drum and chanting poetry to wake people up for suhoor. 

“These centuries-old traditions are becoming rarer in Jeddah,” said Ahmed Abdo, who has been living in the old district of Jeddah for over five decades. 

Speaking of Al-Musharati while drinking tea and chatting with old friends on one of the oldest Al-Mirkaz (public council) in Balad, Abdo said: “There used to be Al-Musharati in every district but now many of them have gone. The younger generations have adopted other professions.”

He misses the Ramadan of yesteryear, when he would wake up to the sound of Al-Musharati for suhoor. Al-Musharati would be chosen by the people of each district, and would be diligently perform his duty until the last day of Ramadan. He would often sing and eloquently call to people  by their names, and often people would offer him suhoor in return. 

Abdo said: “Al-Musaharati used to play a big and beautiful role in the neighborhood … the people of that time used to sleep immediately after tarawih prayers, and at pre-dawn, Al-Musharati would beat his small drum to wake up people for their suhoor.

“Al-Musharati is now just an old, beautiful tale,” said Abdo, shaking his head. “People are not what they used to be, they do not sleep early. Therefore, Al-Musaharati no longer plays a role and has completely faded away.” 

With time, Abdo and his friends have moved into different neighborhoods, but they still gather at Al-Mirkaz of Al-Sham district to drink tea, talk and relive their memories of the old days. 

Abdo’s 59-year-old friend Abdulrahman Al-Awfi said that the role of “ Al-Musaharati is one of the oldest, most deep-rooted traditions found during Ramadan. However, the tradition has faded ever since technology entered people’s homes. There is television, alarm clocks and mobiles, which have replaced Al-Musaharati.” 

He added: “Today, we depend on TV and alarm clocks to know when it is time for suhoor. In the past, people used to sleep all night knowing that Al-Musaharati would wake them up.

“As times change, traditions naturally evolve, but it is important to pass on the significance of the day to younger generations,” said another resident of the old Jeddah district.