Ramadan in Yemen: Crowded Mosques, Empty Streets, and Habits

National Yemen

An old man reads Quaran at the grand mosque

By NY Staff

Ramadan in Yemen has a unique flavor and distinctive traditions. It is the month of mercy, forgiveness, and emancipation from hell.  Every Islamic country has different manifestations of receiving the holy month of Ramadan. In Yemen, Yemenis spend time waiting for the announcement of the sighting of the crescent of Ramadan and preach its arrival over the minarets of mosques, on the radio, and on television as well.

People receive the news with a smile on their faces. Men buy all Ramadan needs and women compete to prepare special dishes the family used to have in Ramadan.

Food in Ramadan:

The table of Ramadan is festooned with Yemeni foods and drinks. Ramadan embodies the highest degree of good and generosity of the Yemeni people in mosques through the provision of Iftar. Most Yemenis have their Iftar in the mosque to share with others. Then they do the evening prayers. After prayers, they return to the house to have the most delicious dishes.

The Ramadan table contains different kind of dishes but there are two meals that can’t be missing from any table: Shafoot and Soup. Shafoot is made from Allhouh and milk, while soup is made from wheat after mixing it with milk meat soup according to people’s desires.  There is also Kabsa, Saltah, Assiad, and Soussi.

Sweets in Ramadan are a mixture of Yemeni and Indian sweets such as Bint alsahn, Rawani, Konafa, Basbousa, Baklawa and Shoabiat .  Most of these dishes came to Yemen from India through trade between the two countries.

The Days of Ramadan:

Streets and markets during the days of Ramadan are almost empty. It is the opposite in the nights of Ramadan, where the shops are open and the streets are crowded. Traders decorate their malls in a very attractive way for people go to shopping. Restaurants and cafes are also open to serve different kinds of food.

Work During Ramadan:

Yemenis spend their time in Ramadan at work and worshiping. Work time is starts at ten in the morning and ends at three in the afternoon, but those who have full time working hours have two periods; the second period starts at nine o’clock in the evening until one o’clock in the morning, and often working at night is more productive than the day.

Many Yemeni families prefer to spend the month of Ramadan in villages and rural areas from which they belong, and some companies offer vacations in the month of Ramadan for employees to travel with their families to spend the month away.

Children in Ramadan:

One of the most passionate groups waiting for Ramadan’s arrival are children. There is a tradition among children where the strongest child is the one who can fast throughout Ramadan. Yemeni families encourage their children to fast..

Ramadan’s nights:

After Taraweeh prayers, Yemenis go to Qat markets where then they meet in front of their friends’ houses. They sit in a room called a Diwan to chew Qat and discuss social, religious, political, and cultural issues.

Occasions in Ramadan:

Social events such as weddings and parties are nonexistent because Ramadan is a month of repentance and forgiveness and it is not allowed to be accompanied by luxury, fun, and singing. Most Yemenis prefer to spend their time reading the holy Quran.

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