Ramadan in Saudi Arabia ‘like nowhere else’

For residents of the Kingdom, Ramadan represents a period of calm as the rhythm of life slows down, providing opportunities to form new traditions and experience the spiritual month. (Supplied/Ramadan Season/Visit Saudi)
For residents of the Kingdom, Ramadan represents a period of calm as the rhythm of life slows down, providing opportunities to form new traditions and experience the spiritual month. (Supplied/Ramadan Season/Visit Saudi)
Short Url
Updated 24 March 2024
Follow

Ramadan in Saudi Arabia ‘like nowhere else’

Ramadan in Saudi Arabia ‘like nowhere else’
  • Expatriates share excitement and challenges of experiencing the holy month away from home

RIYADH: With twinkling lights turned on and the smell of freshly fried samosas in the air, Muslim and non-Muslim expat households across the Kingdom join in observing the holy month of Ramadan, marked by its spiritual nature and family-centric values

Expats share both their excitement and expected challenges as they observe Ramadan away from home.




For residents of the Kingdom, Ramadan represents a period of calm as the rhythm of life slows down, providing opportunities to form new traditions and experience the spiritual month. (Supplied/Ramadan Season/Visit Saudi)

Croatian designer Tina Sablic has made a gradual move to Riyadh over the past few years, which she described as an enriching experience. Now, as a Riyadh resident, she is finally experiencing her first Ramadan.

“While I don’t celebrate Ramadan through fasting, I deeply respect its significance and the cultural practices associated with it. However, I do plan to make adjustments to my own fasting plan during this time as a sign of solidarity and respect for the observance,” she told Arab News.




For residents of the Kingdom, Ramadan represents a period of calm as the rhythm of life slows down, providing opportunities to form new traditions and experience the spiritual month. (Supplied/Ramadan Season/Visit Saudi)

She acknowledged that the holy month is a time of self-reflection, self-awareness and self-discipline. In hectic, fast-paced daily schedules and lifestyle, it becomes a period of calm as the rhythm of life slows down.

“Since it is my first time experiencing Ramadan in Riyadh, I’m expecting to see vibrant night atmospheres with all of the festive lights, beautifully decorated streets and mosques and sounds of evening prayers. Sharing iftar meals with friends, colleagues and other expats will hopefully become a cherished tradition,” she said.




Tina Sablic, Croatian designer

As a non-Muslim celebrating Ramadan away from home, one of her primary challenges is adjusting to the changes in the local environment and daily routines. This may include adapting to altered business hours, meal schedules, and social activities during the fasting period.

“Social interactions and understanding the etiquette surrounding Ramadan customs and practices can also be a bit challenging. However, my amazing Saudi friends have guided me properly and their mentorship was so helpful in overcoming any cultural gaps,” she added.

Sharing iftar meals with friends, colleagues and other expats will hopefully become a cherished tradition.

Tina Sablic, Croatian designer

Pakistani resident Ifrah Mahmood has lived in Saudi Arabia since the ripe age of 9. After a difficult time adjusting, she is proud to now call it home. For her, the Ramadan period is a symbol of peace, tranquility, and a way to grow closer to Allah.

While she misses having iftar, sahoor, and indulging in the spirit with her family, she said that celebrating Ramadan in Saudi Arabia is unlike any other, and she cannot wait for the last 10 days in particular when Muslims immerse in deeper worship.




For residents of the Kingdom, Ramadan represents a period of calm as the rhythm of life slows down, providing opportunities to form new traditions and experience the spiritual month. (Supplied/Ramadan Season/Visit Saudi)

She said: “I have been celebrating Ramadan in Saudi Arabia for many years now. Ramadan here is like nowhere else. Everyone is kinder, the mosques are always open … night prayers and festivities make it so special.

“The change of routine is what I enjoy the most. The office timings are shortened which is a perk you can’t get in most of the non-Muslim countries. The markets are open all night long. It gives Eid vibes even before Eid.”




For residents of the Kingdom, Ramadan represents a period of calm as the rhythm of life slows down, providing opportunities to form new traditions and experience the spiritual month. (Supplied/Ramadan Season/Visit Saudi)

French creative Cecilia Pitre came to work in the Kingdom after the COVID-19 pandemic and was drawn to stay in the country mainly due to the hospitality of its people. “They’re very welcoming,” she said.

“What made me stay as well is the culture — it’s full of colors. There’s a lot of things to learn because this country was, at least for Europe, a little bit veiled and undiscovered. Not many people in Europe know about Saudi Arabia, but when we’re here we discover a country full of history, culture, art, fashion. There are so many things to do and to see!”




For residents of the Kingdom, Ramadan represents a period of calm as the rhythm of life slows down, providing opportunities to form new traditions and experience the spiritual month. (Supplied/Ramadan Season/Visit Saudi)

Pitre has celebrated a few Ramadan seasons before, but the creative plans to try a full fast this year. While she has been able to restrain from food, she has found it difficult to cut out water as well. She also plans to reduce other forbidden elements during Ramadan such as smoking, gossiping, and excessive screen time.

“As a foreigner and a non-Muslim, I’m taking the Ramadan period to actually learn more about the religion, read more about Islam, and understand what the fasting process is and what it brings to the people, whether Muslim or non-muslim … I’m trying to follow Ramadan at my speed, which is also something I think we should do more often.”

With abundant invitations from locals to share iftar and sahoor, Pitre plans to take this opportunity to indulge further into the culture and understand the significance of the dining practices.

Living on Tahlia Road, one of Riyadh’s most prominent dining streets, she witnesses the bustling crowd of families and friends making Ramadan memories as the night ascends.

“What I love about Ramadan is the decorations everywhere, the lights, the joy. Everybody’s happy and going out at night,” she said. “The vibe is unbelievable.”

Pitre says she does not face any challenges spending Ramadan away from France as Saudi Arabia has embraced the creative with open arms.

“If there’s any place to spend Ramadan in, it’s definitely Saudi Arabia, which I consider my second home,” she said.

 


Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj

Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj
Updated 11 sec ago
Follow

Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj

Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj
  • The procedure is meant to keep the cover, known as kiswa, free from getting soiled and tampered with as pilgrims performing Hajj circumabulate the Kaaba

RIYADH: In keeping with the annual tradition, officials raised the lower part of the kiswa — the elaborately designed black cloth covering the Kaaba — in Makkah on Wednesday ahead of this year's Hajj pilgrimage.

As approved by the General Authority for the Care of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, the exposed part was covered with a white cotton fabric, two-and-a-half meters wide and 54 meters long on all four sides, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Carrying out the procedure were 36 specialized technical personnel with the aid of 10 cranes.

As described in the SPA report, the kiswa is lifted in several stages: It starts with unscrewing the bottom of the cover from all sides, separating the corners, then untying the bottom rope and removing it from the fixing rings, after which the cloth is rolled upward. The lanterns are then dismantled and the white cloth are put in place, after which the lanters are installed over the white cloth until the final stage.

The procedure is repeated every year to protect the kiswa from getting damaged as pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba.

The annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia is considered the world's largest human gathering, with year 2012 marking the biggest number of participants at 3.16 million.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saudi authorities allowed only a symbolic observance of Hajj with just a thousand pilgrims. The numbers were gradually raised the numbers as the health crisis was placed under control worldwide. Last year, almost 1.84 million pilgrims performed the "once in a lifetime" journey and the figure is expected to go higher this year.

Every year, on the ninth day of the Islamic month of Dul Hijjah, the black silk cloth is removed and a new kiswa is draped in its place.


Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders
Updated 23 May 2024
Follow

Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior announced that visit visa holders are not allowed to enter or stay in Makkah during May 23-June 21 as access to the city will be limited to Hajj visa holders.

The ministry stressed that all types of visit visa are not a permit to perform Hajj, adding that violators will be subject to penalties according to Saudi laws and regulations.


Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death
Updated 23 May 2024
Follow

Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

RIYADH: Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, conveyed the condolences of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to top Iranian officials in Tehran on Wednesday on the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions.

Prince Mansour bin Muteb bin Abdulaziz, Adviser to King Salman and Minister of State, and Prince Faisal were received by Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs to Iran President Mohammad Jamshidi and Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani.

Saudi ambassador to Iran Abdullah Al-Enazi attended the reception.


Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’

Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’
Updated 22 May 2024
Follow

Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’

Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’
  • Accreditation follows evaluation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve by the international organization Key Biodiversity Areas

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve has been granted accreditation as “the first major biodiversity site in the Kingdom.”

The organization Key Biodiversity Areas confirmed the accreditation, after an evaluation based on international standards, on its website on Wednesday. It said the reserve meets three global standards, including the presence of endangered species, and so qualifies for inclusion. The announcement coincided with International Day for Biological Diversity, which takes place on May 22 each year.

KBA works to monitor and preserve approved sites of great importance as part of its efforts to sustain biological diversity on a global level, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Saudi reserve is managed by the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve Development Authority with the aim of protecting endangered species, developing natural habitats, raising environmental awareness among the public, and reducing natural and human threats to the area. It is considered the largest nature reserve in the Middle East, covering a total area of 130,700 square kilometers.


Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting

Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting
Updated 22 May 2024
Follow

Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting

Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting

Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb headed the Kingdom’s delegation at the UN World Tourism Organization’s 50th meeting of the regional committee for the Middle East, on Wednesday in Muscat.

During his speech, the Saudi minister stressed the Kingdom’s openness to cooperate with member states to adopt joint regional tourism projects to attract international visitors to the region. 

Al-Khateeb thanked the Omani Minister of Heritage and Tourism Salem Al-Mahrouqi for the hospitality and extended his appreciation to the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili and other officials for their efforts to advance the tourism sector globally.