For Saudis, Eid Al-Fitr is an opportunity to highlight unique local traditions

Special For Saudis, Eid Al-Fitr is an opportunity to highlight unique local traditions
Families gorge on sweet treats such as mamool (main) during Eid. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 03 May 2022

For Saudis, Eid Al-Fitr is an opportunity to highlight unique local traditions

For Saudis, Eid Al-Fitr is an opportunity to highlight unique local traditions
  • Each region of Saudi Arabia has its own distinctive set of traditions to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr
  • Communities come together for Eid to mark the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting

JEDDAH: Muslims throughout Saudi Arabia are celebrating Eid Al-Fitr, also known as the feast of breaking the fast, which marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of dawn-to-sunset fasting.

Each region of the Kingdom has its own distinctive set of traditions, but what they all have in common is a combination of prayer, charity, hospitality, good food, fine clothing, decorations, and quality time with relatives.

Eid Al-Fitr is a joyous holiday celebrated during the first day of Shawwal, the 10th month of the Islamic calendar. It brings together families and communities for sumptuous feasts, the giving of gifts, and colorful festivities.

Saudis were especially excited about  Eid Al-Fitr this year as it was going to be the first time since 2019 that they would be celebrating the holiday free of the social-distancing measures and travel bans necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.

On March 6, Saudi authorities announced the lifting of most COVID-19-linked restrictions, including the requirement for social distancing in public places such as the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.

More than 3.5 million worshippers observed Eid prayers at the two mosques.

Eid Al-Fitr falls on a different date every year. In accordance with Islamic tradition, festivities cannot begin until the first sighting of the crescent moon has been observed, meaning that some parts of the world may celebrate Eid Al-Fitr on a slightly different date to others. This year it is expected to fall on May 2 or 3.

In Saudi Arabia, the days leading up to the holidays are always hectic, with families rushing to get their best clothes pressed and perfumed, their homes decorated with colorful lanterns, and plates of chocolates, dates, mamool, and sweets kept in preparation for guests.

It is a tradition to buy new clothes and shoes to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, so malls in many of the Kingdom’s largest cities are open 24 hours a day offering last-minute Ramadan deals. Beauty salons and barbershops are also jam-packed with patrons wanting to look their best.

Each region of the Kingdom has its own distinctive set of traditions. (Supplied)

For many, however, it is food that plays an integral role in Eid celebrations. Saudis often joke about the exhaustion that sets in after a full day traveling from one set of relatives to another, gorging on mabshoor grilled meats, mountains of sweets, and lashings of sugary coffee.

But first comes breakfast.

In the Kingdom’s western Hijazi region, the scent of burning incense wafts through the typical family home as relatives gather at a large table set with ta’teema, a mix of sweet and savory finger foods and traditional breakfast dishes.

Sameera Hammad, a Jeddah-based caterer who specializes in traditional Hijazi dishes, has been serving residents of the city for more than 20 years.

Her belief in preserving the authentic recipes that she learned from her mother has allowed a new generation to experience culinary traditions that fill their parents and grandparents with nostalgia.

“I learned everything from my mother. These recipes are more than 50 years old,” she told Arab News.

Although every family has its own tastes and traditions, several features of the ta’teema are common throughout the Hijazi region.

Hammad said: “Every household is different, but a Hijazi ta’teema is made of different types of bread like shuraik, tamees, suhaila, and futoot. There is an assortment of cheeses and fermented foods with pickles as condiments, shakshouka, fava beans, falafel, and sweet dishes such as masoob, labaniya, and jams to end the meal.

“One of the most important features of Eid is keeping tradition alive by having the whole family over for breakfast, taking days to prepare and assemble just like how our ancestors did. I still use clay pots to serve my ta’teema exactly the way my mother did. And that’s a tradition that will live on.”

Even though times are changing, many of the dishes, some of which originated in Egypt, Turkey, Iran, India, and Yemen, have made their way onto the Hijazi table, and have remained, keeping the authentic flavors alive year after year.

“The only difference now is that it is placed atop a table, unlike how it was before on the floor,” Hammad added.

In Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, the women mark Eid Al-Fitr by flaunting their henna-dyed hands and their finest dresses, while the children excitedly anticipate gifts of money and candy.

After the men finish their round of greetings at neighboring homes, they make their way to the family matriarch’s house for a breakfast of mashed wheat and barley stew with fresh lamb cooked in a clay pot.

For families in the north, food is not the only tradition that brings households together at Eid. A folk dance known as Al-Deheyeh, a variant of the Ardah dance, is an integral part of local festivities.

As for the Kingdom’s southern regions, Eid is not just a social affair reserved for close family. In many neighborhoods, a collective meal is prepared and served on tables that stretch the length of the street, adorned with some of the region’s favorite dishes.

In the Eastern Province, salons are booked out by women for henna tattoos. (Shutterstock)

Ingredients such as ghee, honey, fish, flour, barley, dates, lamb, and locally grown vegetables are essential elements for their savory stews.

Among the local favorites are an okra stew; a sourdough bread made with dried onions and milk; salted dry striped mackerel native to the Red Sea, which is considered a delicacy; a lamb stew with potatoes; and mashed banana cooked with ghee, honey, and pieces of brown flatbread.

Nahlah Zamim, a native of Jazan, told Arab News: “Customs of the south are deeply rooted in family traditions. We’ve resisted the changing of times and kept our family values and traditions alive every year because we understand their importance.

“Though it might seem that food is the most important thing, that’s how it is in every tightly knit society. Breaking bread with friends, family, and neighbors keeps that community close and happy.”

Festivities in Jazan are often accompanied by traditional dances performed by local men. “A celebration of song and dance always precedes their breakfast,” Zamim said.

Meanwhile, local children race from house to house collecting Eid gifts of candy and money. “It’s their playground,” she added.

Until investments in tourism, heritage projects, and the arts began to shine a light on Saudi Arabia’s diverse cultures and traditions, not a lot was known about them beyond the borders of each region.

For many Saudis, the Eid holidays this year are an opportunity to highlight their unique local traditions, carefully preserved and handed down over generations.

Saudi National Center for Wildlife reveals species protected from hunting

Saudi National Center for Wildlife reveals species protected from hunting
Updated 03 October 2022

Saudi National Center for Wildlife reveals species protected from hunting

Saudi National Center for Wildlife reveals species protected from hunting

MAKKAH: The Saudi National Center for Wildlife revealed types of wildlife officially and permanently protected from hunting.

The NCW presented an infographic pointing out Article 4 of the Executive Regulations for Wildlife Hunting, which prohibits hunting predators such as the Arabian leopard, hyenas, wolves, jackals, lynxes, sand cats, common genets, and honey badgers.

Hunting endemic birds in the Kingdom is also prohibited, in addition to ungulates, including the Arabian oryx, the sandy-colored goitered antelope, the mountain gazelle (whether found in mountains or on the Farasan Islands), and the Nubian ibex.

“NCW has developed a hunting system which has been globally praised by environmental authorities,” stated Dr. Mohammed bin Yaslam Shobrak, a bird and wildlife expert, who stressed “it is a special and organized system designed to protect and maintain the balance of the environment.

“This system takes into account the sustainability of the endangered species. The development of the system is based on four main pillars to contribute to the development of the hunting control standards,” he told Arab News.

He stated that the first pillar is the Shariah law, as the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah prohibit the hunting of hoopoes and typical shrikes, as well as hunting in the vicinity of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. 

“The Prophet Muhammad has also prohibited taking baby birds from their nest when he witnessed a lark flying over his head and asked: ‘Who grieved this for its young ones? Return its young ones to it.’ He believes that taking baby birds and eggs away is harmful to the mother,” Shobrak said. 

“In addition, Islam forbids burning animals, even if they were predators which have caused harm to citizens. Regardless, this does not legalize hunting, burning, and wiping out such species, including those distributed in limited geographical areas where hunting might lead to their extinction,” he added.

Shobrak added that scientific research and specialized academic studies constitute the second pillar of the system. He said that the list is based on research presenting the endangered species of animals and birds, which are also listed under the global Red List specifying the close-to-extinction species. 

“Therefore, it is essential to exert all the required efforts to (prevent) their extinction. I wonder why people are still hunting some species when it has, later on, backfired at them. Not only this, but it has also disrupted the ecosystem balance,” he said. 

“Hunting predators, such as tigers, hyenas, and wolves, has allowed other animals to expand their area, such as monkeys, which are currently causing environmental issues requiring utmost emergency, as they constitute a direct threat to farms and properties. In addition, they have become a diseases spreading tool,” he added. 

According to Shobrak, the third pillar is what comes under the international treaties and memoranda of understanding signed by the Kingdom.

Shobrak added that the fourth pillar relies on protecting human beings and their properties through the publications made by the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Water in relation with the species prohibited from being hunted, which may negatively affect the country and its citizens. 

“The ministry and NCW have exerted great efforts to preserve the environment — the Kingdom is witnessing comprehensive and complete development shifts at all levels through the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

“We aim to render the Kingdom a role model for all the countries in this concern. The applicable laws should be an example and a proof of the greatness of the Kingdom in all fields.”

He said that some people still violate the regulations by hunting with nets, where some animals suffocate to be later sold and consumed. Some sell animals alive and transport them to other regions. 

“Major environmental problems arise (as a result of these activities) which will require large sums of money to be solved. The most accurate example is that of monkeys in the southeast of Riyadh, namely in the Dirab area, home of house crows. These monkeys are native to India and expanded to reach other regions worldwide. Even here, in the Kingdom, monkeys are spreading across the majority of the coastal cities, and wiping them out will cost us large sums of money,” he concluded.

AlUla Wellness Festival invites the world to find peace within

AlUla Wellness Festival invites the world to find peace within
Updated 03 October 2022

AlUla Wellness Festival invites the world to find peace within

AlUla Wellness Festival invites the world to find peace within
  • The festival offers a variety of sessions for people to try different things, focusing on offering mental and physical well-being

ALULA: The mystical land of AlUla has become a major attraction for wellness-seekers, with AlUla Wellness Festival 2022 in full swing.

The festival offers a variety of sessions for people to try different things, focusing on offering mental and physical well-being.

Khalid Nahfawi, a yoga and meditation instructor and sound healer at the festival, told Arab News he discovered yoga in India. “Yoga was my first introduction to meditation — yoga being the pillar of meditation, it helps you go into a meditative state,” he said. 

“When I went to India, I just practiced it, and I noticed that it is really helping to calm me down, and one thing led to another, and now I am a certified instructor.”

Nahfawi added that people who have never meditated will never understand what it feels like until they try it. “It is like trying to explain the taste of sugar to an alien,” he said.

The festival was established so that visitors would feel peace, with the sound of running water and calm music enveloping them. Greenery, pleasing to the eye, sprouted from the velvety AlUla sands, and the architecture was soft and homely; there were no harsh buildings, with wood being the dominant element.

The Five Senses Sanctuary returned for its second edition, and Nahfawi said it featured a rich program of talented instructors and practitioners. “I highly encourage everyone to come and visit and experience for themselves,” he added.

For a more peculiar kind of meditation, sound-healer Valentina Adveeva sat on the roof of a building with a circular musical instrument, a handpan, played with just one finger.

The echoing music it produced helped attendees connect to one another and create music in harmony. Adveeva said that the handpan is a very young instrument, and when played it creates the same frequency as water and the heart.

“When you play with this instrument you will release your feelings and your emotions and feel very open — it doesn’t need to be just for meditation, you can just play it because of the music,” she said.

“You are focused on yourself, you enjoy the harmony, you are just enjoying your life, and in general you are okay. That is what we aim for in meditation.”

Valentina Adveeva taught the visitors how to play the handpan instrument. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Binshalhoub)

Another workshop that stood out was a spoken word session that brought together three types of art forms: Music, dancing, and poetry.

Raghad Fatahadeen wrote the poems and then read them to an audience while her friend Bilal Allaf performed an elaborate interpretive dance.

The poems talked about the meaning of life, finding your place in the world, and much more as Allaf encapsulated the emotions being conveyed rather than the words that were being spoken.

Fatahadeen said: “I wouldn’t say it is a coincidence — because nothing is a coincidence — but that is what it felt like to me. The pieces that I wrote didn’t go through the process of writing. I did not sit down and write. It just came to me; I felt like I received it.”

She then shared the poetry with her friend Allaf, and he volunteered to perform and dance for each one. When others heard them, they went silent, pushing the pair to work together and share with more people.

Raghad Fatahadeen wrote poems and then read them to an audience while her friend Bilal Allaf performed an elaborate interpretive dance. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Binshalhoub)

“We connect to things differently; sometimes words might be too heavy for people, maybe it is something you haven’t heard before,” Fatahadeen said. “Maybe if the words are too complicated, you can still listen to the music and feel something or look at the moves.

“Bringing that together makes for a holistic experience. We are trying to create a space for people that will invite people to reach into a specific state and connect on a higher level.”

Five Senses Sanctuary will keep its gates open for visitors until Oct. 8, with the festival continuing until Oct. 16.

Saudi coffee forum speakers brew up fresh thinking in sustainability

Saudi coffee forum speakers brew up fresh thinking in sustainability
Updated 02 October 2022

Saudi coffee forum speakers brew up fresh thinking in sustainability

Saudi coffee forum speakers brew up fresh thinking in sustainability
  • Expert emphasizes the importance of teaching coffee farming to the next generation

JAZAN: The second day of the Saudi Coffee Sustainability Forum welcomed some of the Kingdom’s experts in medicine, research and agriculture to shed light on Saudi Arabia’s expanding coffee industry.

Organized by the Ministry of Culture and held at the Grand Millennium Jazan, the second day of the forum took a deeper look into joint cooperation in the agricultural sector as well as the positive and negative effects of caffeine.

During the first session, the panelists highlighted ways to promote research cooperation on a global basis and the current obstacles faced within the local coffee industry limiting international progress.

The speakers highlighted the important role the government and research agencies can play in the coffee sector. They also covered the specifics of farming coffee such as the types of beans, climate conditions, and the growing customer demand.

Bandar Al-Fifi, director of the National Coffee Component Food and Agriculture Organization, said: “Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide, and the average daily consumption of coffee is increasing year after year. The consumption of coffee (is) increasing worldwide and with it so is this demand.”

He stressed that this increase in consumption requires a rise in production to meet demand. He emphasized the importance of teaching the next generation about farming to secure growth for the industry.

Industry leaders need to teach “the importance of applying good practices of farming techniques, and strategies to protect the coffee from diseases and pests, in addition to knowing the varieties that must be grown in order to achieve high productivity and reduce crop losses,” he stressed.

During the same session, Radi Al-Faridi, deputy director general of the National Research and Development Center for Sustainable Agriculture, discussed the importance of cooperation of all authorities in agricultural integration.

“The definition of agricultural sustainability includes all environmental, social and economic aspects,” Al- Faridi said.

“Currently coffee is considered the second-largest traded commodity in the world after oil, with the global coffee market value reaching $102 billion in 2020. It is expected that the coffee market will continue to grow to reach a rate of 4.28 percent during the period 2022-2026, as we find that the expansion in the coffee market increases so will the pressure on coffee supply chains,” he said.

The second session of​​ the Saudi Coffee Sustainability Forum welcomed a panel of medical specialists to highlight their research on the effects associated with the consumption of caffeine.

Dr. Amzaina Al-Naimi kicked off the final session of the forum, discussing a scientific paper on the effects of caffeine on mental health.

She highlighted the way caffeine contributes to the improvement of physical and cognitive performance of individuals. Al-Naimi said that a moderate (40 mg) to medium (300 mg) consumption of caffeine was a healthy way to improve alertness.

Rania Bogis, standards and regulations specialist of the Saudi Food and Drug Association, highlighted the various components in the different types of coffee that are present in the Kingdom and the safety measures and the proper storing methods that will prevent them from producing any harmful or poisonous elements.

“Supportive dates should be written on all products, the type of beans must be written, the types of roasting included even the types of grinding,” Bogis stressed.

“For instant Arabic coffee, it must be written on the packaging and the mix label, the additives must also always be clearly written as an additive,” she said.

The forum concluded on Sunday afternoon, with the Ministry of Culture highlighting 10 achievements the gathering accomplished.

The forum was designed to examine the challenges related to Saudi coffee in the value chain, the insight of farmers, obstacles they are facing as well as the ways to support and spark the entrepreneurship industry contributing to Saudi coffee on an international scale.

Closing the forum, Raed Alsufyani, the director of data management at the Ministry of Culture, highlighted 10 concepts discussed during the two-day event that will contribute to the sector.

1. Considering the accession of Saudi Arabia to the International Coffee Organization to exchange experiences.

2- Cooperating with international organizations related to research and promoting the field of scientific research for coffee.

3- Holding a special annual forum to discuss the advantages, aspirations and achievements of coffee.

4- Studying the launch of specialized indicators in cooperation with stakeholders to monitor support for the industry in this sector.

5- A day dedicated to celebrating coffee in the Kingdom.

6- Enhancing the role of farmers to improve production and sector sustainability.

7- Supporting the innovation and entrepreneurship industry to support the value and sustainability of Saudi coffee.

8. The presence of potential in the Kingdom to be in the first place for the manufacture and trade of coffee with unique specifications, including the coffee fruit and its strategic location.

9- The consideration of establishing an electronic magazine for Saudi coffee.

10 - Allocating an annual award for the best efforts, in all its diversity and in the media and culture, to contribute to the Saudi coffee sector.

Saudi Hajj minister meets Uzbek president in Tashkent

Saudi Hajj minister meets Uzbek president in Tashkent
Updated 03 October 2022

Saudi Hajj minister meets Uzbek president in Tashkent

Saudi Hajj minister meets Uzbek president in Tashkent
  • Officials discussed the possibility of increasing the number of flights between the Kingdom, Uzbekistan amid Hajj and Umrah reforms

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah met President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan in the capital Tashkent, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.

During his two-day visit, the Saudi minister conveyed the greetings of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the president, the Uzbek government and the people, conferring their wishes for further growth and prosperity for Uzbekistan in light of the ongoing reforms that the republic is witnessing.

He stressed that the visit is an extension of distinguished historical relations between the two countries. The meeting resulted in several cooperation agreements in various fields, such as the Hajj and Umrah, which reflects the great efforts of the leadership in serving Islam and Muslims and facilitating procedures for pilgrims and Umrah performs.

The minister added that the recent Hajj season saw the participation of some 12,000 Uzbek pilgrims after authorities increased the numbers of pilgrims following the ease of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that more than 36,000 people from Uzbekistan have performed Umrah during the last two months, the majority of whom managed to visit Madinah and pray at Al-Rawdah Al-Sharifah and travel to religious and historical sites in Madinah.

Al-Rabiah’s visit included the holding of several meetings with various officials to discuss means of enhancing cooperation and developing distinguished ties between the two countries.

Hajj and Umrah services and programs for Uzbek pilgrims have improved as they are now offered electronically through the Nusuk platform, quickly issuing visit and Umrah visas. Al-Rabiah pointed out that the Umrah visa has been extended from one to three months for all Umrah performers of all nationalities.

The minister met with several Uzbek officials as part of boosting cooperation between the two countries and stressing the deep-rooted bilateral relations.

The two officials also reviewed means to enhance strategic bilateral cooperation to enhance the quality of services provided to Uzbek Umrah performers, in addition to discussions on the possibility of increasing the activities of joint committees in several aspects, including increasing the number of flights between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia to develop training material for cultural sites

Saudi Arabia to develop training material for cultural sites
Updated 03 October 2022

Saudi Arabia to develop training material for cultural sites

Saudi Arabia to develop training material for cultural sites

RIYADH: In cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Tourism has developed 28 training materials for cultural heritage sites and cultural tourism paths in the Kingdom.

This aims to improve the training of tourist guides, helping them to create a distinctive tourism experience by improving their efficiency and providing them with accurate information about the Kingdom’s cultural heritage sites.

It comes in the context of the role of the Culture Ministry, represented by the Heritage Authority and the Museum Commission, to support national heritage based on its resources and responsibilities toward preserving this heritage and raising awareness about its importance and civilizational value.

The training material includes rich, reliable information that help tourist guides perform their tasks.

It is expected to benefit more than 2,000 (male and female) trainees in the first phase, as the Tourism Ministry aims to keep pace with the prosperity expected for the tourism guidance profession in the Kingdom.