Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar. Beginning in March 22 or 23, depending on the observation of the crescent, Muslims around the world will fast from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. There are many traditions in Saudi Arabia which people observe involving food and drinks, decorations, TV shows, and clothes, which make Ramadan the most anticipated month of the year. Here are some of the most unique traditions:
Food and Drinks
It is no surprise that food and drinks are a central part of Ramadan. There are certain food and drinks that are made exclusively in Ramadan and are essential in Saudi households. First, to break their fast, Saudis typically start with a few dates and Saudi coffee before delving into heavier meals. For appetizers, most Saudis indulge in sambusa, which is a strand of dough stuffed with various mixtures such as meat, vegetables, and cheese and folded to make a triangle. The main course usually consists of a rice dish such as kabsa or maqluba. For cold drinks, juices like Vimto, lumi, and qamar al-din are essential. Vimto is a sweet-berry syrup, lumi is a sweet and sour dried lime juice, and qamar al-din is dried apricot juice. Dessert is everyone’s favorite part of Ramadan meals. Middle Eastern sweets such as qatayef, knafa, luqaimat, and mahalabiya are popular. The common ingredients in these desserts and most Middle Eastern sweets are rose water, nuts, and sugar-based syrup called qatter. Many restaurants will add these food and drinks to their menus exclusively for Ramadan. Make sure you do not miss out on trying and enjoying the history and tradition behind the various dishes.
To feel the Ramadan vibes, many Saudis will decorate their homes. The decorations typically consist of many lights and religious symbols such as the crescent and the star. Another common decoration used in Ramadan are lanterns that come in many varied sizes and colors. Some people focus their decorations on the dining room given the significance of food during the month of Ramadan and would buy new dinnerware and add mini lanterns next to the plates.
Ramadan TV Shows
After fulfilling their religious obligations such as praying and reading the Quran, Saudi families gather to watch popular TV shows exclusively aired during Ramadan. Ramadan has become a season where channels, producers, and artists work all year round to present their productions during the holy month. Nearly 30 to 40 productions are prepared every year and the Saudi and Arab audience pick and choose what to watch. A highly anticipated show is is Tash ma Tash which will be available with English subtitles on Shahid platform. The Saudi satirical comedy show comes back this year with its 19th season after its discontinuance in 2011 and is a focal point for many conversations during the month.
Many Saudi women wear neo-traditional clothes during Ramadan like jalabiyas and abaya dresses. Clothing stores will provide more of these dresses in preparation for Ramadan and Eid al-Fiter. The jalabiyas and abaya dresses come in many distinct colors and styles and are a beautiful fashionable addition to the holy month.
Ramadan and Eid Greetings
There are many sayings that one can use as a greeting in Ramadan. One can say “Ramadan Mubarak” which translates to “blessed Ramadan” and the response to that would be “’alina wa ‘alik” which translates to “for us and for you.” One can also say “Ramadan Kareem” which translates to “generous Ramadan” and the response to that would be “Allahu Akram” which translates to “God is more generous.”