Saturday 28 April 2018

Marriage in Syria

In Syria the marriage proposal can be sent by the groom to the parents of the girl requesting for her hand in marriage. Before yes or no, there can be series of negotiations over the various conditions of marriage like bride money called mehr, which are part of pre-marriage conditions from the groom to bride, and some money set aside for her in continuation of her education particularly if she is still a student and so on.

After all the preliminaries the date is fixed for the nikah, which is called wedding ceremony.

The Wedding

The groom along with his nears and dears are welcomed with the beating of drums and huge cheer in the area meant for ceremony. Though the marriage ceremony is held in masjid or a community hall, beginning with the recitation of the Holy Quran, and hymns praising the prophet .Then after the sermon is recited with the terms and conditions of matrimonial contract, the acceptance of it concludes the ceremony though the celebrations go on. The whole expenditure is met by the bridegroom including the wedding party and the dowry to be spent on clothing for the bride.

Even though all this decision happens in the absence of the bride her consent must have been taken beforehand.


The bride is prepared with beautiful attire which is a flowing garment fully designed with beautiful intricate patters at the borders. Over it, she wears a full wedding cloak covered with a hood. Men wear their long flowing traditional robes with light color.
Alternatively, they may wear western suits which suit the wedding occasions just fine nowadays.


The great treat awaits all the guests. if one happens be in attendance during the celebration, then wining and dining are memorable experience. With special recipes like kabab of lambs or beef, baklawa, which is a kind of dessert of baked dough with walnut fillings, eggplant cooked with variety of sauces, spinach pies and much more are the variety of cuisines specially prepared for the event. Reception for the feast may be held at some venues like hotels or halls huge enough to accommodate the guests.The newly weds are cheered as they dance with each other. While all the guests in attendance go home with small packs of traditional "mulabbas" called "almond" covered with sugar or some sweet.

Conclusion Of The Wedding Ceremony

The wedding and partying are concluded as the bride is being escorted by her in-laws to her new home.There is great enthusiasm as the people, friends and all well-wishers join the bride and the groom in prayers for a happy matrimonial life.

Reconstructed by Olalekan Oduntan

Friday 27 April 2018

Syria Holidays and Festivals

Syria holidays include a calendar full of events to be enjoyed by all who are lucky enough to be in the region at the right time. While the current political situation may curtail certain celebrations there are a few like the annual Cotton Festival and certain religious holidays like Eid al-Fitr which will go on as planned.

Independence Day

Kicking off the Syrian events calendar in April is the National Independence day. Traditionally this day is marked with great displays of national unity and pride. Parades are held in most of the major city centers, locals fly the Syrian flag on high and national songs can be heard coming from homes and local stores around the country. Since the outbreak of the civil war, however, all festivities seem to have cooled down considerably.

Cotton Festival

Every year in July, Aleppo shows the rest of the country just what it has to offer. The region produces almost all of Syria's cotton exports and during the annual Cotton Festival, factories open their doors to boast their wares and their skills. Locals from all over the country attend the event, not only to learn new and valuable skills but also to buy 100 percent cotton goods at a fraction of the usual price.

Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)

Followers of the Islamic faith make up 87 percent of the Syrian population which means that Islamic holidays in the country are a big deal. One of the most well known events is Eid al-Fitr which takes place in August every year. Eid marks the end of the month of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. The event is characterized by family and friends gathering for a great feast, the exchanging of gifts, the wearing of new clothes and of course, attending mosque.

Arabic Book Fair

Held in Damascus every September, the Arabic Book fair is newly incepted but has proved to be quite popular. The fair's main aim is to promote Arabic literature and showcase local writers, both established and up-and-coming. Many international authors are also showcased in this event. The festival includes many events including book launches, signings, and discussions with the authors.

Silk Road Festival

Also in September is the Silk Road Festival, an interesting event which aims to celebrate and commemorate the diversity and unity of Syria's many nationalities. The capital city, Damascus is taken on a journey into the past and transformed into what it once looked like when it was a meeting place for Silk Road caverns. The festival also reaches other cities which are bathed in vibrant colors and host many cultural activities.

Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)

Another Islamic holiday, this time held in October, is the Feast of the sacrifice. An important in Islamic country's world wide, this festival lasts for two-to-three days and commemorates the decision of Ibrahim to sacrifice his first-born son to God. Locals slaughter a sheep to this effect and together, as families and friends, hold great feasts all over the region.

*culled from

Food, Dining & Drinks in Saudi Arabia

Historic Diet Much of the land Saudi Arabia occupies is desert so the number of foods locally available is somewhat limited. In much of easternand southern Saudi Arabia the historic diet consisted of little more than dates, camel milk, and occasionally camel meat. However in other areas the historic diet is much more varied. In many parts of Saudi Arabia numerous foods were easily grown, including wheat, rice, beans, and dates. Animals were also present, including camel, sheep, goat, and chicken. Along the coasts were awide variety of sea animals, including grouper, mackerel, nagroor, shrimp, crab, and lobster among others. Due to this diversity in region and in wildlife, the historic diet in Saudi Arabia varies, but is based on the local foods and animals available. 

Culinary Influences
Arabian chicken and rice 

For most of history there were few
alterations to the diet of Saudi Arabia , as the people lived off the land and many of the people, especially in the desert, were nearly isolated so no outside influences could penetrate the desert borders. Later in history, as traders arrived on the coasts and people entered the region by land, the diet was substantially changed. With the rise of Islam came the rise of power in Damascus (modern day Syria ) and soon their spread of influence brought new foods to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. This food, called Levantine (also known as Lebanese) cuisine arrived and vastly altered the local diet. This influx brought hummus, tabbouleh, and spices thatare now common in Saudi Arabia and throughout much of the Middle East.

The region later changed its food due to outside influences from the seas as well, particularly as the Europeans sought to control trade in the Persian Gulf. The Persians, Indians ,and even the Europeans arrived with new ingredients and ideas that changed the cuisine. This led to the greater prevalence of certain foods, the introduction of others, and new spices that arrived. Although Saudi Arabia is somewhat isolated in numerous ways, food has not been one of those ways as foreign foods have arrived to Saudi Arabia in great numbers and today America food is easy to find in every large city. Despite this outside influence, most traditional dishes remain the same, but ethnic foods are now more common and available, especially American food as well-known American chain restaurants are easy to find.

Staple Foods Bread: there are numerous varieties of bread in the country including a flat bread called fatir, a spiced bread called hawayij, and arikah Hummus: adip consisting of mashed chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini, garlic, and lemon Rice: numerous types of rice exist and it tends to be either a side or a base for many dishes.
Tabbouleh : a "salad" generally made of parsley, bulgur, tomatoes, garlic, and lemon.

Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes

Kapsa : the national dish is chicken and rice with vegetables Kebab: numerous styles exist, but usually with a base of roasted lamb or chicken and vegetables in pita bread.

Dining Etiquette

When eating in the home of Islam, Saudi Arabia , there are a couple etiquette rules related to Islam you must know and follow. First, dress very conservatively, which means your entire legs and arms should be covered; for women all skin should be covered with the exception of your eyes (although legally you can show your face, few women do so). Second, it is generally not accepted to eat with a person of the opposite sex unless it is your child, sibling, or spouse. Due to this, many restaurants are divided into a "Men Only" section and a "family section." This makes traveling with anyone of the opposite sex other than immediate family difficult, if not impossible in Saudi Arabia. If you are with someone of the opposite sex who is not in your family (a co-worker for example), don't eat together. If you get by those first two rules (much easier for men than for women), try to arrive on time for a meal and if eating in alocal's home remove your shoes at the door if others have done so. Greet the elders first, but men should not touch the hand of a woman, although you should greet and acknowledge everyone. Prior to sitting down, everyone will likely wash their hands and you should follow them as you will likely beusing your hand to eat. Let your host seat you and when sitting be sure to keep your feet flat on the floor or pointed behind you as pointing the soles of your feet at another can be offensive. Once the food is served, and you will likely be served first as the guest or second, after the elders, your host will indicate you may begin eating with the word " sahtain "or " Bismillah ." Try a bit of everything offered as turning down food is rude. 
Eat as the locals eat; in some settings this means eating directly with your right hand (and your right hand only, in fact your left hand should remain out of sight if not in use), but in other settings you may be offered dining utensils (cutlery), in which case eat in the continental style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left). If a knife is not present, most locals will hold the spoon in their right hand and eat primarily from the spoon. No matter which utensil you hold in which hand, be sure to only bringfood to your mouth with the utensil in your right hand. As you finish your food, leave a bit on your plate to show there was more than enough then place your fork and knife together in the 5:00 position. After everyone gets up from the table, you should again follow the lead of others and wash your hands once more. After this you may be asked to stay for coffee or tea, an invitation you should accept to avoid offending your host. If dining in a restaurant be sure to check the bill for a service charge. Many hotel restaurants include a service charge that will replace the tip, but if no service charge is included and you're in a nice restaurant or a hotel restaurant, leave a tip of 10%. 

Celebrations & Events

The Saudis celebrate weddings, reunions, and the arrival of a special guest in nearly the same way. 
Historically the arrival of a guest was a rare occasion and due to that encouraged the slaughter of a sheep, camel, or goat. Today this is still the case for weddings and other large gatherings, but for most occasions, the event only requires that a meat is served; today that meat is most commonly chicken or meat from a sheep (lamb or mutton). These meats are traditionally boiled and served with rice and soup. The two religious festivals are celebrated in much the same way. Eid al Fitr is an event filled with numerous foods, which differ from family to family, but always includes dates and generally also consists of various meats or fish, grains, and vegetables. This celebration occurs immediately after Ramadan, a religious holiday that requires fasting for 30days. 
The second major food celebration is Eid al Adha , which is only celebrated after a pilgrim returns from haj, the mandatory journey for every able Muslim to go to Mecca. Again, this festival contains a large number of rice and meat dishes, including many of those served during Eid al Fitr. 


The most traditional drinks in Saudi Arabia are coffee and tea, which are also the most commonly offered drinks to guests. Coffee comes in numerous styles, but Arabian coffee and Turkish coffee are the most popular. Juices, milk, and soft drinks are also readily available so no matter your tastes, there will be plenty of options. As a Muslim country, Saudi Arabia has no alcohol available and it is illegal to consume or transport alcohol in the country. The tap water is generally safe to drink in Saudi Arabia . If you do drink the water (or the ice or salads washed in the tap water), many people may have trouble adjusting to the local tap water as it will most certainly be different from what your system isused to if you are not from the region.

Thursday 26 April 2018

Glimpses Of Saudi Wedding Traditions

Saudi weddings are getting more social these days. Over the years, Saudi Arabian weddings are celebrated in certain restrictions. They didn't share their traditions and private functions in past, but now the trends are changed there. They start sharing their traditions openly with other communities as well. Here are some glimpses of a splendid Saudi wedding, accompanying some old and contemporary rituals.

Shawfa – Unveiling ceremony

It's basically an event in which both the families from the prospective groom and bride's side meet up and talk about the proposal. 'Shawfa' means seeing each other. Once the boy and girl see each other, they further tell their parents if they are ready to tie a knot. If they strike to each other, the further meeting sessions are arranged. However, more religious families don't follow this tradition. Repeated meetings can also be organized by both the sides in order to discuss further concerns related to the marriage.

Milkah/Nikah (Signing marriage contract)

This is a small scale event in which generally, very close relatives confirm their presence. In this ceremony, fathers of both the bride and groom along with two witnesses from each party signatures the marriage contract. 

Once both the bride and groom agree to enter to the relationship, the Mimlik
recites few verses from the Holy Quran and says prophetical sayings about the importance of marriage. Later on, he prays for long lasting relationship, happiness, and prosperity of the couple. Also, he receives a fee in exchange of his services before leaving.


Shabka is an event which takes place on the same day of Milkah. The groom presents dowry, engagement ring and various jewels to the bride. The dowry is based on the financial status of the groom and it is paid in cash instead of accepting expensive gifts. Dowry is a non-negotiable gift from the groom's side and paid off right after Milkah.

Khatub, Makhuti or Makhtubayn

In this event, all the dates of the wedding occasions are decided by both the families. Here, the objective is to fix and announce the dates of each occasion in a formal manner.

Ghumra or Haflat-Al-Henna

It is a traditional henna party which is arranged by all the friends of the bride. Beautiful henna designs are applied on the bride's hand, wrist and feet. Also, other women present at the moment adorned their hands with some great patterns of henna. Generally, professional henna artists are invited to perform this old tradition.

Hiflat-Al-Zaffaf (Wedding day)

The wedding day is celebrated in two separate forms. The men's party have done before the day of wedding whereas, women celebrate this event in a distinguished manner. In men's party, traditional sword dances, and drumming increase the festivity in the environment, providing with real entertainment to all the guests. Moreover, a grand dinner including different delicious main courses, appetizers, sweets, and beverages is served to add more prominence to the event.

On the wedding day, when all the women are gathered to celebrate this big event, groom and his side joins the party. Here, all the women cover themselves to observe Pardah (veil). Groom takes pictures with his wife and then, the groom's side leave to meet their relatives, where they arrange a separate gathering. Then, women remove their veils and enjoy dancing wholeheartedly. They embellish themselves with jewels and fill colors by practicing traditional Arabic dances. 

Later on, the groom's side arrive to have dinner together. Also, they take part in cutting a brilliantly decorated wedding cake. The dinner is announced then. Roasted Lamb or baby Camel is served over the rice which is a traditional Saudi dish. Various other dishes are also the included in dinner, but roasted dishes are the main attractions of Saudi wedding dinner.

Weddings in Saudi Arabia lasts till late night from 10 pm to 4 am. Mix weddings are seen rare because of their reserve cultural values. With a lot of prayers, blessings, celebrations and joys, this wonderful event reaches to end.


It's a post-wedding ritual and followed by all the newly married Saudi couples. Rich people usually go to European or American regions, whereas, middle class prefer to visit Egypt or Singapore. Couples from poor section celebrate their honeymoon within the state.

Saudi Arabian weddings represent the majesty of their rich cultural traditions. Although, they are conducted in bit reserve atmosphere, but there is no doubt that they are extremely lavish, well-decorated and properly organized.

Saudi Arabia Holidays and Festivals

On the surface, Saudi Arabia may not seem to be a very festive place. The country's only official holidays are the Muslim holy days of Eid ul-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, and the lesser-known holiday of Eid al-Adha, held roughly 70 days after Ramadan. Unification of the Kingdom Day, the anniversary of modern Saudi Arabia's 1932 founding, is among the few Saudi Arabia holidays held on a set day on the Western calendar instead of the Islamic calendar. The two-week Janadriyah National Festival, held each February, is about as lively as Saudi festivals get.

Janadriyah National Festival

Saudi Arabia's biggest folk and cultural festival takes place for two weeks each February in Janadriyah, about 30 miles from Riyadh. Thrilling horse and camel races are among the highlights of what may be Saudi Arabia's liveliest non-religious public gathering. Artisans from across the country sell and display their crafts, while some of Saudi Arabia's most talented poets recite their latest compositions.

Milad al-Nabi

All Saudi Muslims celebrate the birthday of their Prophet, Mohammad, by elaborately decorating their homes and mosques. Children recite poems about the Prophet, while older Saudis tell stories about Mohammad's life and accomplishments. Large feasts and street processions are among Milad al-Nabi's other traditional activities. The date of Milad al-Nabi varies from year to year according to the Islamic calendar.

Jeddah Festival

Perhaps no other Saudi festival is as tourist-friendly as the one which takes place in the port city of Jeddah between June and July. The first Jeddah Festival was held in 2000 to attract more tourists to Saudi Arabia's second-largest city, but the festival has now grown to include over 200 exciting events. Visitors can sample traditional Saudi dishes, purchase local handicrafts, or watch the opening fireworks display over Jeddah's stunning Corniche.

Unification of the Kingdom Day

The country's only secular public holiday takes place each September 23 on the anniversary of Saudi Arabia's 1932 founding. Although many Saudis still choose to quietly celebrate this formerly low-key holiday at home, growing numbers of young Saudis have chosen to express their national pride more overtly by singing, dancing, honking car horns, and waving Saudi flags.

Eid ul-Fitr

Like their Muslim counterparts in other nations, Saudis mark the final day of the fasting month of Ramadan with this three-day religious festival. Eid ul-Fitr begins with a small morning meal and quiet prayers, and continues with larger feasts and livelier celebrations among family and friends. Saudi children receive money and elaborately decorated gift bags from adults, several shopkeepers add free gifts to all purchases, and Saudi men secretly leave large bags of food on strangers' doorsteps during this festive time of year.

Eid al-Adha

This important Muslim festival lasts four days and marks the moment when Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice Ismael, his son, for Allah. Today, most Saudi families celebrate Eid al-Adha by dressing up in their finest clothing, saying special prayers, and slaughtering lambs to share their meat with everyone.

*culled from

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Traditional Marriages in Qatar

When it comes to weddings in the Peninsula, a foreigner's imagination goes immediately to the fabled '1001 Arabian nights'.
Often poetically called Farhat al Hayat, or life's joy in Arabic, marriage is the crucial event that signals the end of a stage in a person's life and the beginning of a new one.

The book Marraige in Qatar beautifully describes the regulations, customs and traditions surrounding nuptials in the country.

The mediation, the acceptance and announcement, the engagement, the bride's trousseau, the spouses' house, the banquet and wedding night, the entry of the groom to the Khella, the bedroom of the new couple, first morning and embellishing the bride, reward for the groom to Ajjafa, hairdresser, each step before the marriage ceremony requires preparation and includes taking care of many details, elements and cultural patterns.

But times are changing. In earlier days, while the criteria and preferences of families to choose the bride or the groom were shyness and decency, they have since got replaced by beauty and education. The concern is that compatibility and attraction will work to build a strong and happy family.

'If he is educated and has a job, he will be able to safeguard the girl's interests and protect her,' is the common thought when choosing a boy.

Ethnographic material shows that the bride is to be embellished only the day after the ceremony. It was a custom for certain families in urban areas not to inform the girl of her marriage until one day prior to the wedding, or may not even inform her at all.

In such case, no preparations for the wedding used to take place. The same would apply to Bedouin areas where the bride was brought to the groom's house in a procession without embellishments.

Once married, traditions would give her permission to use kohl (eye make-up) and perfume. Yet, the morning after the wedding night, the bride is taken, bathed, beautified and dressed.

'They wake up in the morning, and enter her room one after another, this is when the bride looks her best, as beautiful as a full moon,' the book describes.

In the past, the Qatari bride's embellishment rituals were Warss (Curcuma), Mashmoom (Basil), Henna, rose water and perfumes.

The groom is perfumed by his mother.
Till recently, the Qatari community was accustomed to holding more than one celebration on the wedding day. For instance, a celebration for women only used to be held at the bride's house, where women folk bands would perform. On the day following the wedding, another celebration would be held at the bride's house that begins in the afternoon and lasts until sunset.

The other part of celebrations was held at the groom's house in two stages, the first would be one night before the wedding, in which men sing Samiri, Liwa, Habban or Tamboura all old dances performed at weddings before dinner is served.

"On the wedding day, a Zarif dance, dancing with swords, is performed in front of the groom's house, and after dinner, members of the band walk with him in procession if the house is close until they reach the bride's house," the book describes.

It is noted that the groom's celebration is held in an open area outside the house, where sword-dancing, rifle and trumpet performances can be seen.
Depending upon the weather and social status, the duration of the wedding ceremonies can take a week or according to Bedouin tradition, three days.

In Bedouin areas, men gather in the Majlis and clap their hands and sing and dance to a song that says:
Oh God, may it be blessed and joyful
The boy and girl's wedding
May she have a child
And be guided left and right.

The following morning, called Sabahiyya, is considered the effective start of the marriage parties and the bride embellishments.

There is a consensus referring to the gift the groom is offering to the bride before exiting the room after the wedding night. The gift tradition is registering offers like precious watches, gold and diamonds, pearls, artifacts, cars and cash of course.

After this moment, the first morning the couple will have a traditional breakfast with balaleet and traditional dishes. Then, the groom goes out to prayer where his father asks"if things went well."

By Elsa Exarhu

*culled from

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Qatar Holidays and Festivals

There are many Qatar holidays and events throughout the year. Some of these are religiously influenced, while others depict the growing stature of Qatar as a globally recognized destination. Eid is probably the most renowned religious event each year, seeing off the fasting period known as Ramadan. Highlighting Qatar's modern development is the Tribeca Film Festival, which pulls in thousands of international visitors annually.


This is the festival that immediately follows Ramadan. It usually falls in the month of August or September, and is celebrated across the country. However, Doha certainly offers the more festive atmosphere. Feasts, dancing, and performances are usually held during the event.


The Islamic month of fasting, called Ramadan, is an important time of the year in Qatar. During the daylight hours, the country is relatively quiet. However, when the sun goes down, fasting is put aside, and locals enjoy a celebratory atmosphere almost every night of the week. Families are often eating feasts, and several areas around the capital city, Doha, are important spots for celebrations. Ramadan usually falls between mid-August and early September.

Art Festival of Qatar

Local artists are extremely talented, so Qatar puts on the Art Festival each December. Many of the art galleries and museums hold exhibitions during the event to showcase local artistic talent. The event also includes artists from nearby Arabic nations, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Doha Cultural Festival

During the month of March each year, the capital city of Qatar is home to the Cultural Festival. Attracting thousands of visitors annually, this important festival showcases the cultural uniqueness of the area. Traditional music, dance, costumes, and cuisine are mostly found throughout the event.

Doha Tribeca Film Festival

The Doha Tribeca Film Festival is one of the Middle East's most impressive international events. Film enthusiasts, actors, critics, and directors come from across the globe to enjoy this yearly event, which is held in the month of October across Doha. It lasts for a total of five days and only began in 2009. Nevertheless, it has quickly grown into a reputable global film festival.

Qatar Marine Festival

Beginning in 2010, the Qatar Marine Festival occurs in the month of March each year. It is held at the famous Katara Cultural Village along the Doha seafront. Musical performances, seal shows, aquatic animal displays, and many other features are found at the event. Every year, this interesting festival keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Qatar Masters Golf Tournament

In February, the Doha Golf Club plays host to the Qatar Masters Golf Tournament. Many of the world's best professional golfers flock to Doha to compete in this tournament, which has been operating since 1998. Thousands of visitors come to the capital of Qatar for this event too. Doha accommodation should be booked in advance, as the Masters Tournament is quite a reputable event drawing in many thousands of spectators.

Qatar Open Tennis Tournament

Played at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, the Qatar Open Tennis Tournament is a popular tennis event, held in January. Many of the sport's biggest names come to Doha to compete in the event, which means thousands of tennis-lovers also make their way to the Qatari capital. Roger Federer is a yearly competitor at the Qatar Tennis Open.

*culled from

The Traditional Palestinian Wedding

Lu-lu-lu-lee! Ululation (Zaghareet) is a unique sound that is created by touching the tongue either to the side of the mouth or teeth in rapid succession. The most prominent time women in Palestine zaghareet, is to announce the establishment of a son or daughter's wedding in a way to express their happiness. An authentic Palestinian wedding starts with the pre-marriage phases, which involve the families' of both the bride and the groom. Typically the mother and the sister of the groom will go over to the home of the bride's family, to discuss the proposed marriage, which entails the future ties between the two families. If all details of the couple's marriage are settled upon, the ceremonial planning proceeds.

All of the pre-ceremonial rituals can last up to a week. Though, upon the days leading up to the wedding ceremony, the family and friends from both sides of the marriage, gather together night after night for what is called a 'sahra'. In Arabic, a sahra is a late night get together. The men and the women of the couple's families, exchange conversations and get to know one another, as they are soon to become family. Dancing and singing is also involved. Specifically a type of traditional dance called the dabke. 
The dabke, mostly performed during joyous occasions, most commonly involves all of the men linking hands in celebration and presenting quick and synchronized footwork and stamping, while rotating in a circular movement. During the dancing, the women would usually sing traditional Palestinian songs all together. In the night before the wedding, the bride as well as all of the women, would gather together for a henna night involving dancing, food and henna applications of the hands. 
The henna night is an ancient tradition, which was not only a chance to make last minute arrangements and decorations but also an opportunity for the families of both sides to celebrate and bond together before the wedding ceremony.

All of the members within the village are aware that a wedding is about to take place, as all of them have been invited, including those of nearby villages and even travelers. Since the family of the groom pays for and arranges the entire wedding, they are responsible for traveling from home to home throughout the village personally inviting each of the guests to the ceremony. In the most literal sense, an entire village of people is invited. Thus, on the day of the wedding the women of the groom's family can be found busily preparing a huge quantity of food in order to feed all of the guests invited to the large gathering. One of the most prominent dishes served was 'asida' a type of dumpling made from cracked wheat flour and boiled in water. It was served with a layer of rice and large pieces of lamb. This was a very simple yet rich dish that was very filling and mainly eaten during occasions.

'Mansaf' is another traditional dish that is typically served during all large gatherings in Palestine, especially weddings. Mansaf is made of lamb cooked in a sauce made of dried fermented yogurt, typically served with rice or bulgur on top of a thin piece of 'shrak' bread. The name mansaf originates from the term for "large tray", which is exactly how this dish is served to guests at large gatherings. The large tray dishes typically around 36 inches in diameter would be spread out on top of white sheets on the floor in which groups of six to eight guests would be seated in a circle around the dish. Each of the guests would share and indulge in the dish, each eating with only their right hand and grabbing from the portion directly in front of them. In addition, the immediate family members of both the bride and the groom do not eat until all of the guests have eaten.

On the day of the wedding, the groom's family will have already sent dinner to the bride's family at their home. In the meantime the bride and her family will have been eagerly awaiting her departure to the groom's home. When the actual ceremony begins, 'al-zaffeh' takes place. Al-zaffeh is perhaps the most anticipated part of the ceremony, which loudly announces that the marriage celebration is about to begin. This is an ancient tradition that involves a procession of the bride seated sideways on a horse, while paraded alongside family members whom are ululating while playing Arabic drums (tablahs) and dancing through the streets of their village chanting phrases of praise. Up until reaching the groom's home, members of the village will have stopped the bride to offer her gifts and to personally express their best wishes.

Once the bride arrives to the groom's home she will be seated on a chair that is usually elevated on top of a platform. The bride will be wearing a traditional Palestinian costume called a thobe. The thobe is a long gown with long sleeves and is most prominent for its hand-embroidered designs known as 'tatreez'. The intricate tatreez incorporates colorful patterns, which are specific to the region of Palestine in which the bride is from. However on her wedding day, her bridal thobe may specifically include angular sleeves with gold or red embroidery. Along with the thobe, the bride also wears a traditional headdress called, al-suffeh, which is lined with gold coins all around the head. As for the groom, he will join her while seated by her side wearing a traditional outfit incorporating a men's custom white thobe and headdress called a hatta. In some village customs, the groom will have received a fresh facial shave by a close friend or family member in public preparation on the day of the wedding.

Throughout the night, the families of both the bride and groom celebrate together into the late hours while eating, dancing and enjoying each other's company. There is no exchange of wedding rings in a traditional Palestinian wedding. Though, towards the end of the ceremony, a scarf is placed onto the lap of the bride, as additional gifts of money or gold are given along with further wishes of extended health, happiness and prosperity. It is a Palestinian tradition that all of the relatives from both sides of the bride and groom present gifts in order to help the newly married couple in establishing their new life together.

Today most Palestinian wedding ceremonies mix in modern Western elements along with traditional authentic customs. Yet no matter which Palestinian wedding you attend, two traditions will always remain prominent across the line. These two traditions are the importance of family and the strong emphasis of hospitality. Features of these qualities can be sensed prominently throughout any Palestinian wedding ceremony one might attend. While change of traditions over time has proven inevitable, today there are many young Palestinians whom have been seeking to restore all of the traditional rituals within their own weddings in order to preserve the authenticity that makes a Palestinian wedding, truly authentic.

By Summer Kanj

*culled from

Monday 23 April 2018

Palestinian National Authority Holidays and Festivals

Palestinian National Authority (PNA) holidays and events are numerous. This is sometimes hard to believe since the area is constantly in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, there are some spectacular events here. The Palestine International Festival is the largest of the celebrations in the territories. However, even the smaller festivals, like the Taybeh Oktoberfest, should not be overlooked. The Oktoberfest celebrates the gathering of locals and foreigners over Taybeh beer.
Artas Lettuce Festival

One of the most adorable festivals in the region is the Artas Lettuce Festival. Even though it doesn't sound too enticing, this event brings thousands of locals and international tourists to the Artas region of the PNA. The event, which celebrates the life of peasants, is usually held in April.

Birzeit Heritage Week

During the summer month of July, Birzeit opens its arms to the surrounding Palestinian community for the Birzeit Heritage Week. Thousands flock to the settlement each year as a celebration of the area's unique music, dance, cuisine, film, and theatrical heritage takes place. This is also a very stunning Old City, so touring the town is recommended.

Palestine International Festival

The West Bank festival with the farthest global reach is the Palestine International Festival. It is held in many towns across the PNA, including Bethlehem, Nazareth, Ramallah, and other smaller villages during the month of July. It hosts more than just Palestinian cultural displays though, as dance and music groups from all over the Mediterranean come to the party too.


During the months of August and September (the ninth month of the lunar calendar), Ramadan is celebrated by the Islamic communities in the PNA. Tourists should experience this magnificent event. During the day, the cities and towns are relatively quiet. However, after the sun goes down, tourists can find plenty of places hosting feasts. After Ramadan finishes, the Eid al Fitr festival celebrates the end of Ramadan fast for several days.

Taybeh Oktoberfest

On every other day of the year, the village of Taybeh is a sleepy little place that rarely gets any attention from the outside world. However, On October 6 and October 7, the village becomes a bustling bastion of beer-swilling tourists, who come for the Taybeh Oktoberfest. Taybeh brews the only local beer in Palestine, which is actually quite a good beverage. Book accommodations early, as the village is always brimming with travelers.

Jerusalem Music Festival

The Jerusalem Music Festival, held in the month of October, portrays the best that local culture PNA to offer. Tourists will need to book accommodation in advance for this event, as many thousands come for this celebration. Arts, folklore, dance, theatre, and cuisine from the region are also celebrated.

Christmas Bazaar

The Christian community in the West Bank flocks to central Bethlehem around Christmas time each year to experience the Christmas Bazaar. Held in December, the bazaar is awash in activity, with dozens of different booths selling products and food from around the globe. The takes place in Manger Square in the heart of Bethlehem.

*culled from

Sunday 22 April 2018

Traditions of Oman : The Omani Wedding

A wedding is always one of the happiest moments in a couple's life, but in Oman it is never just about bringing two people together to start their lives anew, it is about bring two families and sometimes two villages together and binding them in one of the strongest bonds ever known for a lifetime!

In Oman even the engagement takes quite a bit of preparation. When the groom visits his bride-to-be's house, it is inappropriate for him to come alone but with his entire family. From there once the two families have agreed on the union and the bride says yes, it is becomes a long celebration of life until the marriage is taken place.

First off, the two families have to agree upon the dowry to be paid by the
groom's family , normally given to bride directly (to start her new life). The dowry can either be in cash or kind and is considered the sole property of the bride to use as she sees fit.

This ceremony is attended by family members only, and on this special day, the groom and his family arrive at her house with the appropriate gifts in trays decorated with bars and covered with fabrics, special songs are sung for this occasion as it is on this day that the wedding contract is signed.

After that, Mulkah is conducted in the mosque and is attended by the groom and his male friends and family. The couple is now technically considered married and thus culturally acceptable for them to be seen together publicly and talk on the phone unsupervised.
Now the celebration of wedding itself takes place in two houses, the groom's, and the brides, where each of the families celebrate before the groom and his family leave their house to come and pick up the blushing bride. At each of the homes the men celebrate outside with the women inside.

There is music, dancing and an abundance of food, even with excess of 400 people that will visit both the homes on this special day!! Outside the men dance with wooden canes called assas and are regally dressed with their dishdashas, sayf (straight swords) and of course the Omani Khanjars .

Inside, the women away from the prying eyes of men, dance and feast unencumbered in their finest jewellery, with their hands painted in intricate mehndi designs particular to the region (one can easily learn where a women is from based on the designs of the mehndi on her hands)
After three days like the actual
wedding takes place. The groom's family and his guests pile on into busses and cars, honking, singing and clapping in a cacophony of festive noises, the men wait while the women bring out the beautiful bride, blushing at the thought of going to her new home and from there the festivities continue at what now becomes their home.

Oman Holidays and Festivals

There are a number of Oman holidays and events to boost tourism in the country. Many of these feature its rich culture and arts. The Muscat Festival held during its peak tourist season of January is the largest festival held in the capital showcasing the best in culture and the arts. Salalah has its own version held during its own peak season, Khareef season (mid-year).

Muscat Festival

The Muscat Festival is one of the biggest events, perhaps the biggest, in the country's tourism and cultural calendar. Held every January and February, the festival showcases Omani culture and heritage through artistic and cultural activities. There is also a circus and a large concert featuring local and international musical artists.

Traditional Boat Races

Also happening early in the year are boat races and sailing competitions to celebrate Oman's seafaring traditions. A Dubai–Muscat Regatta is held every January which see boats sailing from Dubai through the Straits of Hormuz toward Muscat. Boat races are also held in February wherein traditional boats such as dhows compete for a prize.

Sinbad Classic

A much awaited event organized by the International Game Fish Association is the Sindbad Classic. This event sees game fishing enthusiasts from all over the globe battle it out in a deep sea fishing contest in the waters of Oman.

Salalah Tourism Festival

While July and August may be too hot for a visit in northern Oman, these months are great for Salalah and the surrounding areas. During this time of the year, the region experiences Khareef season, a time when monsoon rains bring in life to the land, making for stunning tropical landscapes. This high tourist season is the time when cultural celebrations and parades are held in and around town to entertain both locals and tourists.

Cultural Theater Program

The Cultural Theater Program is an arts and culture festival organized by the Ministry of Tourism. Various performances such as folkloric music and dancing are held from December through to March at the Al Flayj Castle Theater and the Al Morooj Theater, both in Salalah.

*culled from

Saturday 21 April 2018

The Lebanese Wedding

Traditional marriage between a man and a woman has been a cornerstone of our society for centuries. This union celebrated from ancient times brings two people together under an array of customs and traditions that bring a certain flavor to our weddings.

If there is something the Lebanese love to do is celebrate. We celebrate practically everything, yet there is one event that we celebrate that is given more importance then any other, il 3iriss (the wedding).

On the wedding day, the groom "el 3ariss" and groomsmen stay behind at church or at the party venue to await everyone. The future-in-laws present the bride "el 3arouss" at her home a gift (like a dowry) usually it is a gold necklace for her to wear on the day. The gift is presented in front of everyone. As they are leaving her home, the women from both families will give her their blessings with chants and jubilation sounds called zalghouta.

Also known as the act of ululating, the zalghouta is practiced all the over the Middle East and in some parts of Africa. An ululation is a high-pitched tongue trill, a physical skill that involves the throat and tongue. It is a distinct ability and not many people can hit such high notes. The Lebanese zalghouta is different from the others because it is not limited to the act of ululating. 

Instead, there are a few verses before the loud cry. These verses usually compliment the bride and groom, highlighting their beauty, family and good manners. The bride will leave her home with the joyous chants of "Ah Weeeee-ha," and "Lilililililililililililili" as the elations fills the air crowning the bride with happiness.

With streets closed-off by the presence of villagers, on-lookers from balconies and porches, entire neighbor hoods become part of the celebration by throwing rice, candy-coated almonds and flower petals on the bride and groom's accompanying family, as a symbol of good health and prosperity for the couple. Rice is a symbol of fertility and a wish for prosperity and a full pantry.

One of the Middle Ages wedding traditions was to bang pots, ring cowbells and generally make a lot of disturbing noise after the marriage ceremony in order to ward off evil spirits. This custom has been replaced in Lebanon with honking of the procession of cars following the bride to the reception. To our days you can hear the honking of the convoy of cars in the streets of Lebanon as family and friends escort the bride to her groom.

The zaffé, a Middle-Eastern trademark, dating back to the 14th century, is the customary way in which the bride and groom are escorted from their respective family homes to the ceremony location. It represents a celebratory event in which music, dance and public participation are at its core. While the zaffé has been used to escort very important figures in all types of social and political domains, the most memorable zaffés are those that create an ambiance of joy and unison experienced during weddings. 

The wedding starts with two parties, one in the groom's home and one in the bride's home and ends at the venue where the bride and groom walk behind the zaffé for the first time in front of everyone as husband and wife. If the wedding lacks a Zaffé, which is never the case, a wedding is still not considered complete.

Classical Lebanese belly dancing is often performed at the wedding reception and is part of the entertainment. It symbolizes transformation of the bride into a sensual woman.

The wedding cake tradition goes back many centuries to ancient times, originally representing fertility. Ancient Romans would make cake of wheat or barley (both present in Lebanon). Though the actual procedure is unclear, the custom was to break it over the bride's head as a symbol of her fertility, which has been replaced with the bride and groom cutting a wedding cake. 

They cut the cake together, his hand over hers, symbolizing unity, their shared future, and their life together as one. The wheat used to bake the cake was symbolic of fertility, and sweetness of the cake was believed to bring sweetness to the couple's new life.

In our culture the marriage ceremony ends with the bride and groom exchanging a kiss after the cutting of the cake. From ancient times to the modern day, the wedding kiss symbolizes for all people everywhere the physical uniting of two souls. One interpretation is that when the couple kisses, they exchanges spirits with their breath and part of each ones soul left to abide in the other affirming their being soul mates.

After the wedding, the groom's family invites the bride's family for a big lunch or dinner. After that dinner, the bride's family invites them back, all in all more opportunities to have a good time.

If the bride steps on a single girl's foot it is believed that it will bring her luck and that she is going to marry soon. From the earliest times, brides have worn flowers in their hair and carried bunches of flowers. Flowers symbolize fertility, purity, new life, and never ending love.

Finally, It is widely believed that the first examples of wedding rings were found in ancient Egypt. Relics dating back as far as 6,000 years ago, including papyrus scrolls, show evidence of braided rings of hemp or reeds being exchanged among a wedded couple. 

Egypt viewed the circle as a symbol of eternity, and the ring served to signify the never-ending love between the couple.

In this land we celebrate all those traditions, not only because they are part of a worldwide trend, but are part of our history and culture. With the Romans, Egyptians, Phoenicians all leaving their marks we have learned to embrace and keepsake those symbolic traditions that unite two humans together.

It is the beginning of the wedding season here in Lebanon. Lebanese weddings make celebrations elsewhere in the world look like casual house parties.

To us, to our traditions, and to the way we do things!

Friday 20 April 2018

Lebanon Holidays and Festivals

Art lovers will be happy to know that Lebanese holidays are heavily focused on culture. From classical music at the Al Bustan International Festival to displays of dance and poetry in the Tyre and South Festival, Lebanon sure does know how to showcases its talent.

Al Bustan International Festival of Music and the Arts

Kicking off the year's festivities with a bang is the Al Bustan International Festival of Music and the Arts. Held annually in Beirut in February, this Lebanese event is a musical celebration that takes over the entire month. Spanning five weeks, everything from orchestral concerts, opera performances and ballet shows are on offer for the enjoyment of the public.

Workers' Day

May 1 sees the observation of this public holiday which is recognized as Labor Day elsewhere.

Byblos Festival

Every year in July, the usually sleepy town of Byblos hosts one of the most popular music festivals in Lebanon. Bringing together a diverse range of international and local artists, including the likes of Moby and jazz musician Jamie Cullum, the festival appeals to all genres. Over the course of a few weeks, concerts are held in venues all over the town.

Baalbeck International Festival

Located in the breathtaking Roman Baalbeck ruins, the Baalbeck International Festival is yet another music festival held in July centered around jazz. Both Lebanese and international artists perform for a few weeks in the unrivalled. During evening shows, the ruins are lit up to create a truly magical atmosphere.

Zouk Mikael International Festival

Also in July is another international music festival which takes place at the spectacular amphitheater in the charming town of Zouk Mikael. Everything from classical and opera to blues and jazz can be heard drifting from the stage. While the event is not as heavily publicized as some other musical events in Lebanon, the atmosphere is electric, with most concerts starting at sunset to enjoy music under the stars.

Tyre and South Festival

In a celebration of Southern Lebanese culture, the Tyre and South Festival is held annually in July at and around the ruins of Tyre. Activities include dance shows, poetry readings, musical performances, crafts fairs, and lectures on the region's culture and history.

Beiteddine Arts Festival

July is a busy month in Lebanon, festival-wise, and one of the most anticipated events in the country is the Beiteddine Arts Festival. Set against a backdrop of the Beiteddine castle, the festival spans three months and is a feast of music, drama and art.

Eid al-Fitr

Taking place annually around August and September – the exact date is determined by the lunar calendar – Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the end of the Islamic fast. This public holiday is characterized by food, gift exchanges and shopping for new clothes.

Lebanese Independence Day

Observed November 22, Independence Day marks the date in 1943 when the country gained freedom from France after a 23-year period of rule. This nation-wide celebration sees most people enjoy a day off work, military parades, and locals displaying the Lebanese flag outside their homes.

*culled from

Thursday 19 April 2018

Kuwaiti Cuisine

Kuwaiti cuisine is very important to the culture of Kuwait. A very significant part of the Kuwaiti diet is fish and other seafood, the main fish eaten by Kuwaitis is the Zobaidi.

Another fish is the Hamour (grouper) , typically served grilled, fried, best for Biryani, it has thick flesh and a distinctive taste. Other popular local fish include Safi (rabbitfish), Chanad, and Sobaity (see bream). Most of the time, fish is eaten with rice.

Kuwaiti cuisine is an infusion of Indian, Persian, Mediterranean, and Najdi cuisines.
A prominent dish in Kuwait is known as
Machboos , a rice-based dish made with spices, rice (usually basmati) and chicken, mutton, fish, eggs, or vegetables.

There are lots of other available cuisines due to the international workforce in Kuwait.

Kuwait's traditional flatbread is called
Khubz . It is a large flatbread baked in a special oven. Numerous Khubz bakeries dot the country. It is often served with mahyawa fish sauce.


Harees , (Arabic: ﻫﺮﻳﺲ ) wheat cooked with meat then mashed, usually topped with cinnamon sugar.

Mahyawa , a tangy sauce made out of fish. Gers Ogaily, (Arabic: ﻗﺮﺹ ﻋﻘﻴﻠﻲ ) a traditional cake made with eggs, flour, sugar, cardamom, and saffron. Traditionally served with tea.

Labneh (Arabic: ﻟﺒﻦ ) (yogurt milk)
Biryani , (Arabic: ﺑﺮﻳﺎﻧﻲ ) a very common dish, which consists of heavily seasoned rice cooked with chicken or lamb. Originally from the Indian sub-continent.

Ghuraiba , brittle cookies made from flour, butter, powdered sugar and cardamom. It's usually served with Arabic coffee.

Zalabia , fried dough soaked in syrup (sugar, lemon, and saffron, it has a distinctive swirly shape.

Lugaimat , (Arabic: ﻟﻘﻴﻤﺎﺕ) fried yeast dumplings soaked in saffron syrup (sugar, lemon, and saffron).

Bayth elgita , (Arabic: ﺑﻴﺾ ﺍﻟﻘﻄﺎ ) a fried cookie filled with a mixture of ground nuts and tossed in powdered sugar.It was named after the egg of the Crowned Sandgrouse (common to the area) due to its similar shape.

Khabees , sweet dish made of flour and oil margoog, (Arabic: ﻣﺮﻗﻮﻕ ) vegetable stew, usually containing squash and eggplant, cooked with thin pieces of rolled out dough
Mumawwash , (Arabic: ﻣﻤﻮﺵ ) rice cooked with black lentils and topped with dry shrimp.

Balaleet , (Arabic: ﺑﻼﻟﻴﻂ) sweet saffron noodles served with savory omelet on top.

Qouzi , (Arabic: ﻗﻮﺯﻱ) Kuwaiti dish consisting of a roasted lamb stuffed with rice, meat, eggs, and other ingredients.

Machboos , (Arabic: ﻣﺠﺒﻮﺱ ) a dish made with mutton, chicken, or fish accompanied over fragrant rice that has been cooked in chicken/mutton well spiced broth.

Mutabbaq samak , (Arabic: ﻣﻄﺒﻖ ﺳﻤﻚ ) fish served over rice. Rice is cooked in well spiced fish stock.

Jireesh (yireesh) (Arabic: ﻳﺮﻳﺶ ), a mash of cooked spelt with chicken or lamb, tomatoes, and some spices. Gabout (gabboot) (Arabic: ﻗﺒﻮﻁ ), stuffed flour dumplings in a thick meat stew.

*culled from

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Traditional Instruments and Music of the Philippines

Everyone loves music, regardless of what culture we are from. We all have at least one song that evokes emotions when we listen to it; it either boosts our mood at that particular moment or transports us back to a challenging period in our life. Filipinos are very fond of music and hardly ever say no to singing, which makes everyone seem born with a song in their hearts.

Long before the Spaniards arrived in the country, indigenous peoples have already possessed their own native music. It functioned as a form of entertainment during occasions such as weddings, festivals, inaugurations, as well as funerals. Musical styles vary among regions, as each of the more than a hundred ethnic groups scattered in the islands of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao produces its own lyrics and music.

Indigenous or traditional music is accompanied by musical instruments like string, wind, and percussion, which are typically made of bamboo, wood, or metal. Flutes, pipes, and panpipes are wooden or bamboo-finished products, while gongs or gangsa are constructed from metal. Different singing techniques are applied between the people up north and inhabitants of the south, the former with more rhythmic expressions and the latter with long melodic phrases.

Among the most common traditional music instruments used are kudyapi, kulintang, gimbal, kubing, and tongali. Kudyapi is a two-stringed lute native to the Lumads in Mindanao. It is made out of a single piece of wood and used by the Manobo, T'boli, Maguindanao, and Maranao.

Kulintang or the gong ensemble is composed of different sets of knobbed gongs aligned horizontally and arranged according to pitch. It is used by the Tausug, Maranao, and Maguindanao for entertainment during festivals and weddings. The widespread practice of kulintang in the Southern Philippines came before the influence of Islam or Christianity in the archipelago.

Headhunting activities are associated with gimbal, or war drums created from a hollow tree trunk and covered with animal skin on both ends. Several ethnic groups in eastern Mindanao, such as the Mansaka and Mandaya, also used the same exact instruments. It is played at dances as a complement to gongs. A comparable instrument is also used up north in the Cordilleran region and is called sulibao by the Ibalois and kimbal by the Bontoc.

Kubing, a type of bamboo jew's harp, is famous around the Philippines and is used for courtship or when trying to convey a message to one's family and loved ones. It is placed between the lips and produces various sounds when its bamboo tongue is plucked. It is known as barmbaw among the Tagalogs, kinaban among the Hanunoo Mangyans, and kollibaw among the Negritos.

A three- or four-holed nose flute called tongali is a traditional instrument used particularly in the mountains of northern Luzon. It is made of bamboo and played by blowing air through the nose. This instrument was believed to help rice grow, as the rice plants are said to be attracted to the soft sound of the flute. It is known as unguing among the Ifugaos, basil among the Kapampangans, and kaleleng among the Bontoc.

Two years ago, a group representing the Philippines was awarded in the Asean Cultural Fair in Burma after performing a series of melodic traditional songs. Nonoy Lanzanas and his Sinika, which is an acronym for Sining ng Katutubo, has long composed Philippine ethnic music. A native of Puerto Princesa, Lanzanas has written compositions that promotes traditional music made with tribal instruments.

Conservation of the Philippines' traditional music and instruments is essential for the succeeding generations, as it is proof of our beautiful culture and traditions. Support by the government and cultural institutions are crucial to preserve our traditional music.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...