When it comes to entertainment, kids these days are spoiled for choice. There are so many TV channels to watch as well as the internet to explore. Growing up, I, like most Bahrain-based kids at the time, had only Channel 55. How we waited for the cartoons that would air around 5pm each day. As an Indian kid, how I waited for that one Bollywood movie which was aired every Wednesday at 8pm; watching the movie while eating chicken tikka ordered from Charcoal Grill was a family tradition.
I fondly remember the Ramadan programmes that were aired as well – Farjan Lawal (read the old neighbourhood) and Al Bait Al Oud (read the family house). Showcasing rich Bahraini culture woven intricately into a short play, these were entertaining and informative to say the least. Each day, a new local tradition would be highlighted. And the best part, there were subtitles so that non Arabic speakers could also enjoy them. Unfortunately, they stopped being aired eons ago.
Today, Ramadan has, ironically, become all about food. Most TV channels air cookery shows and the buzz is usually about what to eat for Iftar. I love food and there’s nothing wrong in talking about it. But I also wish Ramadan in Bahrain would regain its lost charm. I wish there would be opportunities to learn about the local culture through a TV or web series.
While a few Ramadan traditions, like Gergaoun, have been highlighted by the mainstream media, there are many others that are less commonly known. For instance, the Mesaharaty who walks through the streets every morning, playing a drum and singing holy songs to wake people up for the final meal before the fast begins. If my memory serves me right, one of the yesteryear Ramadan TV series on Channel 55 had even aired an episode that beautifully captured the life of one such Mesaharaty.
There are some traditions with origins in other (predominantly) Muslim countries like lighting the Fanous Ramadan (read ethnic lanterns) – according to legend, Caliph Al-Muizz Lideenillah was greeted by the Egyptian people, holding lanterns to celebrate his arrival at Cairo during the Holy Month; and the Indonesian ritual of Padusan where Muslims immerse themselves in water believed to be holy or bathe in holy wells or springs to cleanse themselves spiritually and physically prior to Ramadan.
The Kingdom, being a melting pot of cultures, is home to Muslims from different parts of the world. It would be interesting to document the global cultural nuances of Ramadan. If you follow a unique family tradition that you’d like to share with Bahrain, I’d love to hear from you! After all, it’s these small details that encompass the true essence of the Holy Month.