In Indonesia, Muslims engage in a ritual called ‘Padusan’ before Ramadan starts. This involves bathing in natural pools to purify themselves, physically and spiritually. People also honour those who have passed on by cleaning the graves of relatives. Indonesian Muslims also practise ‘Meugang’- sharing meals with the poor.
In Iran, the traditions vary from region to region. For example, people in the northern province of Mazandaran start fasting at the end of Shabaan, three days before Ramadan commences. So, effectively they fast for 33 days!
In Azerbaijan, on the last Friday of Ramadan, the women and girls get together and sew a bag. Money is added to the bag which is kept until the next Ramadan. This practice is called ‘Barkat Kisasi’ -meaning a bag of blessings.
In Morocco, drummers, dressed in traditional garb, walk through the streets before dawn, banging on their drums to wake people up for Suhoor. This tradition also exists in Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Palestine and many other North African and Middle Eastern countries.
In the United Arab Emirates, people celebrate ‘Haq Al Laila’ from the 15th of Shabaan. This is a fun activity for the children especially. Emirati children dress in their best clothes and go to houses in the neighbouring areas reciting songs and poems. The neighbours welcome them with sweets and nuts, which are collected by children in traditional cloth bags. People use this time to remind themselves about the significance of Ramadan and to prepare themselves physically and spiritually.
Ramadan in Egypt is truly beautiful as people adorn their homes and public spaces with ‘fanous’ – brightly-coloured glass and metal lanterns, that have now become a symbol of Ramadan. A tradition believed to have originated during the Fatimid Caliphate, the fanous has become a symbol of Ramadan across many Middle Eastern countries.
‘Midfa al Iftar’ is an ancient Lebanese tradition. A cannon is fired at sunset indicating the end of the day-long fast. Lebanon has special Midfa al Iftar cannons from the nineteenth century, that are used only in Ramadan. Turkey and many other Arab countries also practice this tradition, which is believed to have originated in Egypt during the Mamluk period.
In India, Pakistan and Bangladesh the last night of Ramadan is known as ‘Chaand Raath’ – Night of the Moon. The Eid celebrations start as soon as the new moon of Shawaal is sighted. People exchange gifts and sweet treats and go shopping for last-minute Eid items. The women and girls also get mendhi (henna) designs drawn onto their hands in preparation for the next day – Eid.