Ramadan holds a very special place in the hearts of Saudis. A month of religious assembly, it is a time for Saudis to come together in faith and devotion. Growing up in Saudi Arabia, I have many fond memories of this holy month that I hold dear.
One of the things I loved about Ramadan was the sense of community that permeated the entire country during this time. As the month approached, the streets, houses, and shops would come alive with lights and decorations, reminding everyone of the arrival of this holy time. Supermarkets would start offering special deals on Ramadan food and household items, and bazaars would open up in the month before Ramadan and during Ramadan to sell traditional clothing and delicious Ramadan food.
For my sisters and me, the bazaars were a particular highlight. Like many Saudi women, we loved the chance to pick up designs from female designers around the city. There was a bazaar for every taste and budget, and they were a special joy as they helped to bring the spirit of Ramadan to life.
Announcement of Ramadan:
On the night before Ramadan, after the Maghreb prayer, the whole country would be waiting with bated breath for the official announcement of the start of the holy month. National TV stations would announce the sighting of the Hilal (the crescent moon) which marks the beginning of Ramadan, and then family members would call each other to congratulate one another on the arrival of this blessed month. In the past, it was common practice to rely on individuals to keep an eye out for the sighting of the crescent moon, but now modern technology has made this process easier and more reliable.
Fasting and Togetherness
Fasting is widely considered to be the most challenging of the five pillars of Islam, and this sentiment is shared among Saudis and other Muslims alike. During Ramadan, people often find themselves moving at a slower pace during the day, with pale faces, slower thinking, and reduced physical movements. While some individuals in Saudi Arabia are able to function normally while fasting, others find it quite difficult and prefer to spend their fasting time sleeping, if possible.
To help people adjust to the challenges of fasting, the government announces official school, work, and shop hours a few days before the start of Ramadan. During this month, schools and offices start later than usual, and lessons and working hours are shorter to accommodate people’s lower energy levels. Daily routines are adjusted to accommodate the fasting rhythm, with special attention given to the times of Iftar (breaking the fast) and Suhur (eating the last meal before starting the fast).
Despite the difficulties of fasting during Ramadan, the sense of community and the joy of sharing meals and traditions with family and friends make it a special and cherished time for all Saudis and Muslims around the world. The month of Ramadan is a time for spiritual growth and reflection, and it is truly a unique and beautiful experience.
Although Ramadan is often associated with food, the month is about much more than just eating and fasting. It’s a time for spiritual reflection, prayer, and community.
One of the most important parts of Ramadan is Iftar, the first meal that breaks the fast. It’s a time for gathering and being together, as no one likes to have Iftar alone. Even those who don’t have a big family will go to their parents or grandparents to join them for Iftar. The first moment of Iftar is very special, as it’s a feeling of satisfaction and achievement for having managed to fast.
There are some common food and drink items that are a must on every Iftar table, including juices like Qamar Aldin, dates of all sorts, Hab Soup made of white crops, falafel, and different kinds of Sambousa. After breaking the fast, Maghreb prayer is done, followed by the big meal which includes lots of food. An Iftar table is never little, always full of all kinds of food. If it’s an Iftar invitation, the table will be even more abundant, making it difficult for a person to move off the table afterwards.
After Iftar, people get ready for Taraweeh prayers, which are Sunnah prayers only done during Ramadan following Prophet Muhammad’s example. The aim of these prayers is to finish reading the Quran during the month. Men and women can pray at the mosque or at home. Taraweeh prayers are divided into Tahajud prayers in the last 10 days of Ramadan and they begin around midnight. In the past, many little children used to come to the mosques, but this practice has been banned this year due to safety concerns.
After Taraweeh time, people go out for shopping and gatherings, enjoying the joyful feeling after achieving another day of fasting. Suhur is taken between midnight and 2:00 am and should contain food that provides energy for fasting. Many invitations happen for Suhur, and lots of food is consumed, leaving a feeling of being full for another day of fasting.
The most important tasks in Ramadan are completing the reading of the Quran, praying Taraweeh and Tahajud, and remembering God through prayers. Ramadan is divided into three parts: the first 10 days are for forgiveness, the second 10 days are for mercy, and the last 10 days are for praying to get to heaven. All media outlets direct their programs towards religious issues and affairs to educate people, create awareness, and share information.
Many Saudis at least have one Umrah during Ramadan, some during the fast and some after. After the 30 days of fasting, Saudis look forward to the joyous celebration of Eid al-Fitr. This festival marks the end of Ramadan and is celebrated for four days, with family gatherings, gifts, and special foods. Overall, Ramadan is a month filled with spiritual growth, community, and joy.
Ramadan is a time of religious feelings and togetherness in Saudi Arabia. Fasting during the day, breaking the fast with family and friends at sunset, and participating in religious observances are the hallmarks of this important month. Through these practices, Saudis renew their faith, strengthen their relationships, and reflect on their values, while also experiencing the joy of sharing meals and good company with loved ones.