JEDDAH: The Ramadan Nights festival has returned to record crowds as thousands flock to Jeddah historical area to enjoy a range of activities.
With its decorated streets and ancient and historical passages, Al-Balad area of Jeddah, one of the favorite places for people to go during the holy month due to its festive mood, witnessed the return of the Ramadan festival under this year’s theme “Every Day a Story.”
Visitors to the event, which began on April 10 and will run until May 6, can enjoy the interactive, educational and entertaining sections catering for all ages.
It is crowded at night as the festival has many attractions.
People gather around stalls to enjoy delicious Hijazi food such as baleela (chickpeas) and kibda (fried liver).
Other sections focus on handicrafts, educational workshops, traditional storytelling, art exhibits, cultural talks, live folk art performances and traditional games played by children and elderly men, including carrom and dominoes.
There is also the kids’ corner where young visitors are entertained with activities such as magical storytelling, mini-artwork sessions, coloring competitions, craftwork and a range of other exciting options.
The festival also offers multiple workshops such as introducing the basics of Arabic calligraphy and woodturning, and learning to draw Jeddah’s historical buildings with acrylic colors.
In one of the corners of the old Al-Sham district, an educational section features renowned authors, poets, designers, producers and artists who share their experience of how they transformed their life and career through daily discussion talks organized by Bab Alheraf.
Family and friends walk up and down the busy roads in the historical area to enjoy the beautiful nights and experience the delicious traditional food and drinks.
- At the kids’ corner, young visitors are entertained with activities such as magical storytelling and mini-artwork sessions.
- Other sections focus on handicrafts, educational workshops, traditional storytelling, art exhibits, cultural talks, live folk art performances and traditional games played by children and elderly men, including caroms and dominoes.
Shops catering to coffee lovers are set inside the renovated old buildings across the historical area.
Several historic houses are open to the public to show how Hijazi families used to live in Al-Balad. To know more about those families before entering the houses, visitors can find tour guides that provide information about the history of the home owners.
“The Ramadan festival in Al-Balad has become a season event and one of Jeddah’s major destinations due to its amazing atmosphere and entertaining activities,” said Abdul Hadi Al-Qahtani.
The 28-year-old, who came to Al-Balad with his friends, added: “With this year’s new activities, Ramadan festival is unquestionably the best destination for families and individuals looking to spend their Ramadan evenings for entertainment and shopping. The event is also jam-packed with fun activities for everyone in order to cement Jeddah’s position as the top family destination.”
For Saeed Al-Abdalli, Ramadan evenings during the holy month in Al-Balad are different from any other time of the year as he shops and enjoys the festive atmosphere of Ramadan. “When Ramadan comes, we are always eager to go to the historical area (Al-Balad) because it is the place where you can feel the vibes of Ramadan,” he said.
Saeed Ba Bakeer, who was sitting with his family and enjoying the famous balila when approached by Arab News, said: “I always enjoy the distinctive Ramadan atmosphere here in Al-Balad, and it’s a must-visit for me and my family.”
In one of the most attractive sections of Al-Balad, stall owners can be heard from far away calling out their offers as they encourage customers to try their food. Most of the vendors at the food stalls wear Hijazi attire, comprising a white thobe, turban and vest, as a mark of their deep-rooted customs and traditions.
Wearing traditional Hijazi garb, Mohammed Al-Dardirri, who was stirring sizzling platters of chopped liver and singing old Hijazi songs loudly to attract customers, told Arab News that he and other stall owners were very happy to see the festival back in Al-Balad after a two-year pause due to the coronavirus.
The large number of stalls lined up in front of Al-Mahmal center remain open until the midnight hours. Hassan Mutbagani, a stall owner, said that this year’s festival is much bigger and more organized.
The Old Downtown looks like a big restoration workshop as the Saudi Ministry of Culture is restoring old mosques, buildings and traditional markets, most of which are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.