Sweet Spirit of Ramadan

Chants of Qaranqasho yo nas, atoni shwayat halwa...doos doos fi almandoos, hara hara fi a’sahara (O people, Qaranqasho time, give us some sweets please) echoed in the air, as children dressed in traditional finery marched their way around at several places across Muscat. It was the 14th night of the holy month of Ramadan and was marked by merriment and festivity.

As the Maghrib prayers came to an end, children eagerly awaited the moment when they could parade through the streets, adorned in traditional regalia. They went knocking from door to door singing songs, as kind souls who met them filled their baskets with candy and sweets. “Trick or treat?” the children posed to those who opened their doors to them. Asking for sweets, the little ones scared the elders with the idea of a jinn behind their doors if they did not stuff their boxes with some sweet treat.

The age-old practice came about as a mark of commendation and encouragement from the elders to the children who fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Children are made to understand the significance of fasting daily throughout the month. And at the end of two weeks, on the 14th day, they are rewarded for theirefforts. Qaranqasho is celebrated to boost their dedication and motivate them further to fast for the remaining period.

Also known as Gergayan in other parts of the Arab world, Qaranqasho is observed both in cities as well as villages. The name Qaranqasho is said to be derived from the jingling sounds created by the sweets and candies that clash together in children’s baskets. Children and adults alike get together with much fanfare and revelry. Preparations for the evening take place throughout the day as mothers prepare sweets and candies for children at home. In Muscat, the occasion was celebrated on Monday night at several places, such as in malls, hotels, parks, hypermarkets and the Muttrah Souq.

The Shangri-La Barr al Jissah Resort and Spa, in partnership with Dar al Atta’a, hosted Qaranqasho as part of their Ramadan special programme called ‘Hand in Hand’. Bags of candies and sweets awaited children at the entrance of the Al Mazaar Souq, which the little girls and boys were seen toting around later at night. Families gathered together for an evening of fun and games, as the little ones, clad in glittering apparel, chimed along to traditional songs. Popular classic cartoon characters such as Minnie and Micky Mouse, Spiderman and Batman entertained the children by dancing and posing for photographs with them. Other fun activities included henna art, face panting and loads of shopping options for women.

Rasha al Madani, restaurants marketing manager at Shangri-La, who spearheaded the Hand in Hand event, said the programme focused on the spirit of giving, as characterised by the holy month. She said the event, which is in its fourth year at the hotel, has been immensely successful in drawing both crowds and funds. The money raised through the event is donated entirely to Dar al Atta’a. The spirit of Ramadan transcended all boundaries, as children and families belonging to different nationalities were seen taking part in the Qaranqasho activities. The enthusiasm for Qaranqasho has not faded over the generations, said Rasha, as she recollected the celebrations from her childhood. The merrymaking has only surged in popularity with time, she said. It is likened to the Halloween festival in the West, sans the ghostly costumes.

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