When we talk about Ramadan, many people tend to think that it is all about fasting, in reality, this holy month, is rooted in culture, faith, and history. The start of Ramadan fluctuates as the lunar Islamic calendar is based on the phases of the moon. This year it will start on April 12. Every year, millions of Muslims across the globe wait for the sight of the new crescent moon that will mark the official start of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During this month, Muslims practice the principles of abstinence, but there are also many more practices that are still kept alive by different Muslim communities.
If you happen to be in Albania during the month of Ramadan, you might be lucky to spot the Roma Muslim community marching up and down the streets playing ballads using a traditional lodra (a drum covered in sheep or goat skin) to announce the start and end of fasting.
Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan
It is a tradition in Bangladesh to mark the last eve of Ramadan, Chaand Raat (night of the moon) by exchanging sweet treats and desserts.
Women and girls also make their way to local bazaars to buy new bangles and apply intricate henna designs on their hands in anticipation of the following day, Eid al Fitr.
One of the most colorful celebrations, Muslim communities in Egypt celebrate Ramadan by lighting fanous (colorful metal and glass lanterns) as a symbol of unity and joy. Children will then walk the streets carrying their fanous and asking for gifts and sweets.
Muslim communities in Indonesia practice Padusan (to bathe) an act of cleansing and purification. The day before the start of Ramadan, Muslims bathe, from head to toe, in natural pools and springs to cleanse their body and souls.
Men in Iraq like to get together in the early hours of the morning, after breaking fast, to play Mheibes (ring). Two groups, each between 40 and 250 players, will take turns finding a ring, hidden by one of the members within their fists tight on their laps. Guesses can be made by studying body language alone!
One of the most important parts of Ramadan in Kuwait is to instill the importance of the holy month into young minds. Kids will wear traditional garments and sing songs which often would include special words aimed at the person they are singing the song for.
In Lebanon, cannons are fired every day to signal the end of the daily fast. This tradition called midfa al iftar is said to have started in Egypt over 200 years ago, but it has since made its way across many Middle Eastern countries.
Nafars (town criers) walk around the Moroccan neighborhoods, wearing traditional garments, slippers, and hats. They blow a horn to mark the beginning of suhoor (the meal consumed early in the morning before fasting).
Similar to Morocco, Muslim communities in Turkey like to mark the beginning of suhoor. Turkish drummers, wearing traditional garments and playing their Davul (a double-sided drum) take to the streets in the middle of the night to wake up everyone in time for suhoor.
United Arab Emirates
In the UAE celebrations start on the eve of Sha’ban 15, the Islamic month before Ramadan, with Haq Al Laila. In a way to spread awareness about the holy month, kids dress in bright clothes and go around the neighborhoods singing songs and collecting sweets.
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