The holy month of Ramadan has finally arrived, millions of Muslims from around the world have already began the process of fasting from sunrise to sunset. It’s that time of the year where there’s a thoughtful and spiritual reflection, as well as charitable gestures and actions. Spending time with your family, and friends, is always encouraged in Ramadan, and personally, having Iftar or Suhor with my family is literally the highlight of the month!
Although the concept of fasting during Ramadan is similar in all of the Muslim-majority countries, however, the holy month is more than just fasting. Countries across the Arab world approach it in their own ways, reflecting their own cultural twists in spiritual, vibrant, and unique celebrations that are passed on through generations.
So without further ado, here’s how different countries from around the region welcome and celebrate the holy month of Ramadan.
Egypt is definitely the most extra when it comes to celebrating Ramadan! Egyptians take Ramadan celebrations very seriously; from food extravaganzas to lighting up the streets, houses, mosques, and cafes, giving the Egyptian cities a truly magical feel to it.
And don’t forget the fanous (lantern). The fanous is one of Ramadan’s greatest symbols for Egyptians. Although this tradition is more cultural rather than religious, it has come to be strongly associated with the spiritual significance of the holy month; just like a Christmas tree is associated with Christmas.
This month is considered the time for big family gatherings! And with large get-togethers comes large food layouts! In Morocco, Iftar is commonly called Fotour; it’s the same word as breakfast. And so dates, milk juices, and sweets are served to provide you with the sugar needed after a long day of fasting.
A huge tajine is usually prepared, served with a crusty Moroccan bread called Khobz, along with fresh fruits and tea with mint.
Ramadan is different in
That’s all thanks to to the mixed religious background in the Lebanese society, of course. So, whether you’re fasting or not, Lebanon is the perfect choice for Ramadan travels to literally get the best of both worlds!
Before conflict devastated Syria, families used to gather and share traditional food throughout the month of Ramadan. Across Syrian cities, mosques not only used to be sites for worship but also held huge iftar meals featuring Islamic chantings.
In Damascus, different religions were encouraged to interact. Performances of Christians’ hymns along with Muslims’ chants used to take place annually at Azem Palace during Ramadan, reflecting social solidarity and charitable giving that overcomes class and religion. The image of Syria displaying its great generosity during Ramadan is sadly one that has been unfortunately lost since poverty and violence still have a great impact over the country.
During the early hours of the night, after breaking their fast, generations of people across Iraq all come together for the traditional game, Mheibes (the ring). It’s dominantly played by men during Ramadan. The game involves two groups of people, of about 40 to 250 players taking turns to reveal the mheibes!
Although the origins of the game remain unknown, it has a cultural and historical value. The Iraqi government would actually organize community-wide games, inviting hundreds of participants from across the nation to play.
Ramadan traditions in the UAE start mid-month of Sha’ban, the month preceding Ramadan, on a day known as Hag El-Leila. This tradition is close to trick or treating but the Arab version of it.
It’s basically where Emirati children dress up and go to houses around their neighboring areas; they start reciting songs and poems and in exchange, their neighbors would welcome them with sweets and nuts.
On the first day of Ramadan, Saudis follow this tradition along with many of the GCC countries actually. It’s where families gather for an Iftar meal at the house of the male head of the family, who’s usually the grandfather.
Also, a number of educational cultural activities take place during the holy month, aiming to educate the public on what the month of Ramadan is all about. In fact, the Holy Quran recital competitions take place annually for students, as well as adults, where the final winners would earn cash prizes and more!
Ramadan in Kuwait is celebrated through certain customs and traditions, in a way that reflects the colorful past of the Kuwaiti people. Aside from fasting, Kuwaitis get very excited during Ramadan; they celebrate it by wearing beautiful traditional clothes and start preparing some of the most delicious traditional dishes.
One of the traditional events that people of Kuwait still follow is Al-Kareesh. It’s where all the family gathers for lunch on the last day before the beginning Ramadan. It’s a meal that’s shared with all the family members, welcoming the beginning of the holy month.