How Saudis celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with their own blend of beloved local traditions

Special How Saudis celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with their own blend of beloved local traditions
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Millions of Saudis celebrate Eid Al- Fitr every year, along with half a billion Muslims worldwide. (SPA)
Special How Saudis celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with their own blend of beloved local traditions
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Millions of Saudis celebrate Eid Al- Fitr every year, along with half a billion Muslims worldwide. (SPA)
Special How Saudis celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with their own blend of beloved local traditions
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Traditions and cultures have meshed to create something best suited for each community, distinguished by one common theme — celebration. (SPA)
Special How Saudis celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with their own blend of beloved local traditions
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Updated 22 April 2023
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How Saudis celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with their own blend of beloved local traditions

How Saudis celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with their own blend of beloved local traditions
  • The Kingdom is marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan with gifts, family gatherings, and worship
  • From brand new outfits to sumptuous meals, Saudis describe their own family traditions for Eid Al-Fitr

JEDDAH: With chocolates, sweets and gifts galore, Saudis are celebrating Eid Al-Fitr, reviving age-old traditions, renewing kinship, and reuniting with family and friends over elaborate festive gatherings marking the end of Ramadan.

More than a billion Muslims across the world are taking part in the annual celebration, which has been observed for more than 1,400 years. 

Eid Al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, abstaining from food, water and other physical needs, focusing instead on prayer and supplication throughout the day. 




"Diriyah Gate" in Riyadh celebrates Eid Al-Fitr with its residents and visitors. (SPA)


The celebration, which signifies the breaking of the fast, is the first of two official festivals of Islam — the latter being Eid Al-Adha — and is a day of joy, thanksgiving, worship, brotherhood, solidarity and morality.

Similar to local Ramadan traditions, Eid Al-Fitr is marked differently across the world. Traditions and cultures have meshed to create something best suited for each community, distinguished by one common theme — celebration. 

In some regions, Eid Al-Fitr is an elaborate occasion. Instead of a single day of festivities, some cultures celebrate for as many as three or five days, with plenty of friends and family gatherings, gifts and eidiyas (envelopes containing money) distributed. 
 




Eid Al-Fitr is an opportunity for people across the Kingdom to enjoy themselves with family and friends after a month of fasting and prayer. (SPA)

Meanwhile, other cultures prefer a more subdued affair, focusing instead on close-knit family and friends. In Saudi Arabia, many choose to go all-out. 

In the final days of Ramadan, shoppers anticipating Eid Al-Fitr celebrations rush out to buy last-minute outfits, gifts, decorations and sweets. A new outfit, in particular, is seen as an absolute must.

Thousands of shoppers crowd shopping malls and markets across the Kingdom in search of balloons, bargain buys and clothing, as it is considered sunnah (or tradition) for those celebrating to adorn themselves in their best.
 




Eid is also a time to shop, with markets across the Kingdom giving offering bargain buys. (SPA)

With the malls open almost around the clock during the final seven to 10 days of Ramadan, women head to the stores in search of the perfect outfit for the planned social gatherings.

As for the men, the hunt is on for the perfectly tailored thobe with a matching ghutra or shemagh (headdress). Final touches often include cufflinks, shoes, slippers or vests.

“As kids, we were innocent and didn’t demand much,” Rehaf A. from Madinah told Arab News, remembering Eid celebrations while growing up. “If I wore the same dress as my cousin, we would act like twins and have fun. 
 




Young boys shop for new attire at a mall in Riyadh. (SPA)

“Today, I still find the same outfits as my cousin, as the options are usually very limited when shopping at the last minute. I made the same mistake, year in and year out. But a trip to Italy earlier this year allowed me to shop, so I had no excuse.”

She recalled scenes from early Eid prayers at Madinah’s holy mosque, with everyone decked out smartly in new thobes and dresses, and a few people dressed the same. “Last-minute shoppers — it can’t be helped,” she added.
 




Eid is an exciting time for adults and children alike, who receive treats and sweets. (Supplied)

Although new clothes and glitzy gatherings are a highlight of the festival, it is the first hours of the day following early morning Eid prayers that are the most profound for many. 

Others savor that first sip of coffee and a return to their usual morning routines after a month-long fast.

For Saudis, it all starts when the crescent moon of Shawwal (the 10th month in the Islamic calendar) is observed. 
 




A Saudi man joins a group at an observation site on April 20, 2023, in search for the crescent moon, which would signal the start of Eid. (SPA)

At around 5 a.m., after Fajr prayers, the rituals of Eid prayer begin. The actual Eid prayers are conducted a little after sunrise. 

The mosques will be filled with people of all ages, and nearby plazas — and sometimes even pavements and car parks — will be prepared with carpets to cater for the large number of worshippers.

After the Eid prayer is over, people greet each other at the mosque, saying “Kul Aam wa Antum Bekhair,” which means “May you be well and blessed every year,” or Eid Mubarak, meaning blessed festival. 

When leaving the mosque and prayer areas, many people take a different path home to the one by which they arrived, a tradition said to date back to the Prophet Muhammad.
 




Families flock to attend Eid activities in the northern province of Hail on Friday. (SPA)

In family homes, the scent of burning bakhoor incense fills the air, with some playing Umm Kulthum’s epic song “Ya Leilet El Eid” on loudspeakers — a tradition on the night before Eid for many. 

Lanterns and decorations are hung, dishes and coffee cups arranged, and clothes ironed and fragranced with favorite perfumes.

“Every family has their own traditions, each one unique,” Sameera Hammad, a caterer based in Jeddah, told Arab News. “In some households, cheese platters and bread are placed neatly next to traditional dishes to accommodate every person’s taste. 
 




Eid is an exciting time for adults and children alike, who receive treats and sweets. (SPA)

“But one thing you’ll always find in common is breaking bread together. It’s the good food mixed with smiles and laughter that matters most, reliving traditions passed on by an earlier generation that might now be with them today.

“It’s that beautiful mix of new and old traditions that keep them alive.” 

No Eid would be complete without plates of chocolates, maamoul pastries stuffed with dates, and sweets presented to guests, while children wait impatiently for money and gifts. 




To many Saudis, no Eid would be complete without chocolates, maamoul pastries stuffed with dates, and sweets. (SPA)

“You could sense the urgency in their movements. It’s the best part of every gathering,” Maher Bahamdain from Jeddah told Arab News. 

“As the youngest uncle, I get to sit and watch them squirm as they peek at the little envelopes of cash in my pocket. It’s a fun-uncle thing. Innocent bribes are involved, but soon forgotten. I blame the sugar rush.

“The nieces, nephews and younger cousins all line up in front of every adult and wait for the magic word, and a flurry of frilly dresses and flying white thobes jump from one person to the next. It’s the best part of the day.”




Eid is an exciting time for adults and children alike, who receive treats and sweets. (Supplied)

Although a shared breakfast is one of the most common events during the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, sumptuous lunches and dinners are popular, too. Restaurants and cafes prepare for the Eid rush with meal offers.

But “nothing beats a family gathering dressed in your best at home,” said Rehaf. 

For families planning to celebrate outside the home, the Saudi Ministry of Culture and General Entertainment Authority has launched an Eid festivity calendar filled with firework displays, musical performances, comedy shows and plays.

There is something for everyone this Eid Al-Fitr in Saudi Arabia. 

 


Beijing to host China-Saudi Investment Conference on Tuesday

Beijing to host China-Saudi Investment Conference on Tuesday
Updated 10 December 2023
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Beijing to host China-Saudi Investment Conference on Tuesday

Beijing to host China-Saudi Investment Conference on Tuesday
  • The conference aims to enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries in investment, trade and the economy
  • Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih will also visit several Chinese cities to meet with business leaders

RIYADH: Beijing will host the China-Saudi Investment Conference on Tuesday on the sidelines of a visit by Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.
The conference aims to enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries in investment, trade and the economy, and to support China’s Belt and Road Initiative to connect Asia with Africa and Europe.
More than 700 attendees are expected, including senior officials, CEOs, investors and entrepreneurs. 
They will review and discuss investment opportunities and initiatives aimed at fostering increased cooperation between the two countries.

The conference agenda includes dialogue sessions covering topics such as clean energy, finance, investment, mining, metals, tourism, entertainment, food security, agriculture, logistics services, shipping, supply chains, the digital economy, artificial intelligence, modern manufacturing industries, and advanced technology through workshops.

Al-Falih will also visit several Chinese cities to meet with business leaders. Technical teams from his ministry will conduct workshops and field visits to explore cooperation opportunities, with participation expected from representatives in both the government and private sectors.

During the recent Asia Future Investment Initiative Priority Summit in Hong Kong, Al-Falih took part in a symposium where he emphasized the Middle East’s pivotal role in fostering prosperity among Southern countries.
He stressed the significance of energy and digital transformation as tools for achieving development.

Diplomatic ties between the two countries span over 30 years, with China currently Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner. Bilateral trade and investment have grown significantly in recent years.


Saudi Arabia to attend 10th UN anti-corruption conference in Atlanta on Monday

Saudi Arabia to attend 10th UN anti-corruption conference in Atlanta on Monday
Updated 10 December 2023
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Saudi Arabia to attend 10th UN anti-corruption conference in Atlanta on Monday

Saudi Arabia to attend 10th UN anti-corruption conference in Atlanta on Monday

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will participate in the 10th Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption on Monday in Atlanta, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.
The delegation will be headed by Mazin Al-Kahmous, president of the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha), and will comprise members from various ministries, as well as the Presidency of State Security, and the Bureau of Experts at the Council of Ministers.
Officials and experts will discuss integrity protection and anti-corruption efforts, as well as advancing commitments, policy priorities, monitoring implementation and sharing expertise.
The agenda will cover asset recovery, fostering international cooperation and adopting resolutions.
The Kingdom will propose studying methodologies and indicators for measuring corruption rates and the effectiveness of anti-corruption frameworks.
Alongside the conference, Saudi Arabia will host an exhibition highlighting its local and international anti-corruption initiatives.
It will also organize a high-level event entitled “Nazaha’s Global Initiative for Measuring Corruption,” featuring participation from relevant international organizations and civil society institutions.


AlUla to set majestic stage for Drone Champions League Super Final

AlUla to set majestic stage for Drone Champions League Super Final
Updated 09 December 2023
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AlUla to set majestic stage for Drone Champions League Super Final

AlUla to set majestic stage for Drone Champions League Super Final
  • The Kingdom’s historic city will be first in GCC to host a major DCL event

JEDDAH: The Drone Champions League — billed as the “world championship for professional drone racing” — will hold its first Super Final in the heart of AlUla’s Old Town on Dec. 20.

AlUla will be the first location in the GCC to host a major DCL event, and although no physical drones will be flying there, the league said in a statement: “It will be a chance for drone sports enthusiasts to enjoy the stunning and diverse landscapes of AlUla, varying between golden canyons, lush green oasis or spectacular geological marvels.”

The league’s organizers describe it as a “global pioneer in professional virtual and real-life drone racing. With a mission to combine cutting-edge technology and stunning locations, it has created a one-of-a-kind racing series that has captivated millions around the world.”

The Drone Champions League Super Final will be held in AlUla Old Town on Dec. 20 and will converge ‘technology, athleticism, and AlUla’s vision for sports and adventure.’ (Supplied)

The DCL has rapidly gained popularity since its launch in 2016. Originally rooted in physical drone racing, DCL has evolved into a predominantly virtual format, blending hi-tec drones with the immersive world of gaming.

The annual DCL Drone Prix season features 10 teams. The competition reaches its climax with the top six teams engaging in split finals employing an elimination-style format, culminating in the DCL Super Final.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The annual DCL Drone Prix season features 10 teams.

• The league is exploring a return to real-life drone racing alongside virtual events.

The DCL has staged races in iconic locations worldwide, from the historic streets of Paris to the frozen landscapes of Norway, providing visual spectacles for the audience and challenging courses for the pilots.

“The convergence of technology, athleticism, and AlUla’s vision for sports and adventure will make this Super Final a truly exceptional and unforgettable experience,” the statement said.

Margarete Schramboeck, Aramco Digital board member

The idea to stage the Super Final in AlUla came from Margarete Schramboeck, Austria’s former minister of economy and digital affairs and a board member of Aramco Digital. Recognizing the popularity of esports in contemporary youth culture, Schramboeck felt that Saudi Arabia, more than any other nation, exemplifies this trend.

“When the DCL team approached me, presenting their world-class drone racing league and its capabilities, I immediately saw the potential for Saudi Arabia … I envisioned it as something truly exceptional,” she told Arab News.

Drones and gaming play such an important role for our next generation — they are part of digital transformation and contribute to Saudi Vision 2030.

Margarete Schramboeck, Aramco Digital board member

Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih provided immediate support for the idea when it was presented to him at the French-Saudi Business Forum earlier this year, she added, and put her in touch with Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla.

“I was so happy my idea was supported by both. I want to thank them for making it possible,” Schramboeck added.

Markus Stampfer, DCL owner

With over 50 million viewers around the world in 2023, the DCL’s appearance in AlUla will attract attention from across the globe for the UNESCO World Heritage site, giving the tech-savvy younger generation the opportunity to delve into AlUla’s cultural heritage through their passion for gaming.

“Drones and gaming play such an important role for our next generation — they are part of digital transformation and contribute to Saudi Vision 2030. I only want to do projects which provide a clear value-add to the Kingdom on multiple levels,” Schramboeck said.

By choosing AlUla, we aim to bring the essence of this extraordinary location to a global audience, shining a spotlight on its cultural and historical importance.

Markus Stampfer, DCL owner

DCL owner Markus Stampfer told Arab News in an exclusive interview: “Our roots lie in physical drone racing and engineering, but, over time, we’ve evolved into a globally accessible esports title. This transformation aligns with the trend of Tourism 3.0, where cities and regions are visualized and digitized.

“This shift has allowed a young audience to be digitally close to World Heritage sites such as the remarkable example in AlUla,” he added. “We’ve achieved our development milestones during the past years to drive this transformation and are proud to be making DCL a global sensation.”

Stampfer also revealed that the league is exploring a return to real-life drone racing alongside virtual events. Several cities have already signed on for this initiative, and there are plans to introduce physical drone racing in Saudi Arabia in 2024.

“This marks a significant step toward achieving the ultimate goal of a hybrid global racing series, seamlessly integrating both digital and real-life experiences,” he said.

Why AlUla?
AlUla has been at the forefront of sustainable development in the Kingdom through its prestigious sports and adventure offerings, hosting numerous events including the AlUla Camel Cup, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup, the Saudi Tour, and, more recently, AlUla Desert Blaze.

AlUla Old Town was recognized by the United Nations World Tourism Organization as one of the world’s Best Tourism Villages in 2022.

Stampfer emphasized that AlUla’s unique backdrop aligns perfectly with DCL’s vision: “It is a special honor to be in a place that is a World Heritage site, offering a unique backdrop that showcases the historical significance of the region. The league places great importance on cultural resonance and AlUla fits perfectly with our vision for creating a memorable and impactful event.

“By choosing AlUla, we aim to bring the essence of this extraordinary location to a global audience, shining a spotlight on its cultural and historical importance,” he added.

 

 


Saudi authority showcases AI advancement at Singapore conference

Saudi authority showcases AI advancement at Singapore conference
Updated 09 December 2023
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Saudi authority showcases AI advancement at Singapore conference

Saudi authority showcases AI advancement at Singapore conference
  • Areeb Al-Owisheq, the AI adviser representing the authority, took part in a workshop titled “Arabic Language Models: Challenges and Opportunities”

RIYADH: The Saudi Data and AI Authority participated in the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing in Singapore, highlighting its groundbreaking advancements in large-language-model development.

Areeb Al-Owisheq, the AI adviser representing the authority, took part in a workshop titled “Arabic Language Models: Challenges and Opportunities” during the five-day conference, which runs until Dec. 10.

She showcased the authority’s ambitious initiatives, including the construction of expansive language models, the curation of extensive Arabic datasets, and the development of linguistic models tailored for the Arabic language.

Al-Owisheq underscored the pivotal role of safety considerations in the development of these AI models and noted that “large language models are sophisticated deep-learning constructs trained on vast datasets. Natural Language Processing, a pivotal aspect of artificial intelligence, empowers computers to comprehend, generate, and process human language, allowing effective querying of data using natural language text or speech.”

SDAIA’s participation in the conference reflects its commitment to showcasing Saudi Arabia’s advancements in data and artificial intelligence. The authority aims to position itself as a global leader in these cutting-edge technologies.

These efforts align with SDAIA’S initiatives to transfer, localize, and generate knowledge in the field of artificial intelligence, and to integrate it into the Kingdom’s digital transformation endeavors outlined in Saudi Vision 2030.

SDAIA also unveiled the Sawtak (Your Voice) system during the event. Sawtak employs generative AI techniques to convert speech into text, and, the authority says, “boasts unparalleled precision in recognizing various local dialects and surpassing existing applications in the market.”


Saudi aid chief meets World Bank Group delegation in Riyadh

Saudi aid chief meets World Bank Group delegation in Riyadh
Updated 10 December 2023
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Saudi aid chief meets World Bank Group delegation in Riyadh

Saudi aid chief meets World Bank Group delegation in Riyadh
  • KSrelief signs global volunteer program agreement to achieve the goals of Saudi Vision 2030

RIYADH: Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), met with a delegation from the Executive Board of the World Bank Group in Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.
Al-Rabeeah, who is also the adviser at the Royal Court, briefed the visiting delegation about the relief and humanitarian efforts undertaken by the Kingdom through KSrelief in various parts of the world.
He said that the center had implemented 2,625 humanitarian and relief projects in 94 countries worldwide, exceeding $6.483 billion in food security, health, education, shelter, support, and coordination of humanitarian operations, water, environmental sanitation, and protection sectors.
It has also cooperated with 175 international, regional, and local partners, he added.
Al-Rabeeah highlighted some of KSrelief’s specific projects, such as the “Masam” project to clear land mines in Yemen, the prosthetic limbs program, and the rehabilitation project for Yemeni children conscripted into war.
He discussed some implemented initiatives, such as relief and volunteer platforms and international documentation and registration, such as the Saudi aid platform, the aid platform provided to refugees in the Kingdom, the external volunteering platform, and the electronic donation platform “Sahem.”
He reviewed the efforts undertaken by Saudi Arabia in volunteer work through the center, which has conducted 514 programs in 38 countries, with more than 139,000 surgical operations performed.
The visiting delegation praised the mechanism used by the center to implement its humanitarian and relief work and its support for the work of the needy and affected people worldwide.

Meanwhile, KSrelief has signed a joint cooperation agreement with the Al-Ramdi Association in Dammam to implement volunteer programs outside the Kingdom.

The agreement was signed at the KSrelief headquarters in Riyadh, by its assistant supervisor general director for planning and development Aqeel Al-Ghamdi and Ziyad bin Abdullah Al-Suwaidan, chairman of Al-Ramdi’s board of directors.

The agreement is part of KSrelief’s efforts to support volunteer programs in a number of countries around the world, and to achieve the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, which calls for integration between various national authorities.