By Sally Bosson
What it’s like to celebrate Ramadan in Bahrain.
The summer lies in wait here in Bahrain, with the days getting longer, hotter, dustier and more humid. Water will soon no longer run cool from the tap and the days of wandering through the villages and souqs will be over.
Above all else though, a festive anticipation for Ramadan is already bubbling away – childish excitement tempered by a slight solemnity. This month is for spending time with family and friends, reflecting on life and devoting extra time to faith.
The tiny island of Bahrain is a large melting pot of cultures, and it’s a true testament to the tolerance and acceptance of its people that everyone can truly feel a part of this holy month.
For many of the expatriate Muslim population here, celebrations begin fifteen days before Ramadan, with Shab-e-Baraat. This day marks the coming of thousands of angels descending to Earth and taking everyone’s good deeds up to Allah. People believe that on this day, decisions are made about life, death and luck, so people get together to share food and gifts and offer dua, which often lasts well in to the night.
When the month begins, the fasting begins. Restaurants close and the whole island takes on a sleepy feel. Everything slows down as people spend more time at home and with family. Fasts are broken at sunset, often with dates, laban and water, followed by a good meal that usually include harees or thareed – hearty dishes made with beef or lamb.
Halfway through the month, children have their own festive event with Gargee’an, a night where they dress up in traditional jalabiyas and thobes and walk from home to home to get sweets and treats. Nowadays, a lot of indoor parties are held instead and shops are full of treats to dish out at this time.
As Ramadan is a time for giving, many people here in Bahrain – whatever their culture – participate in charitable work. There are many fundraising ghabgas (gatherings) and a lot of people donate whatever they can, be it food, money or time to those less fortunate than themselves.
However, the most beautiful thing about this month is the feeling of acceptance. Locals and expatriates alike fast together, pray together and share their lives together. The non-Muslim community are often invited to iftar feasts and Eid celebrations; giving them a chance to learn more about the people they are living with and their rich heritage and culture, and to understand more about the faith that brings so many people together.
BIO: Sally is an English expatriate living in Bahrain. She enjoys writing, food and music in any combination!
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rasha Yousif is a Bahraini documentary and travel photographer.