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How do the People of Riyadh celebrate Ramadan?

LifestyleHow do the People of Riyadh celebrate Ramadan?

The city of Riyadh during Ramadan is an incredible experience of local life and culture.

It’s an opportunity to experience the Saudi culture during a month that is unlike any other in the social and religious life of the Kingdom.

Whether it be the flicker from the copper chandeliers, the sweet smells of burning Oud, or the beat of a Musaharati’s drum to awaken the citizens for their pre-dawn Ramadan meal Suhoor.

Riyadh’s Ramadan celebrations are a mixture of traditions from the length and the breadth of the Kingdom, from Hijaz to the Eastern Province, and even further afield from many Arabian traditions.

Here are some of the capital’s highlights.  

Ramadan- how is it different from the rest of the year? 

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The beginning of this sacred month starts with the new moon’s sighting, followed by a month of fasting, one of the five tenets of Islam that marks the first revelation of the Quran to the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

Here, during their ‘fast,’ Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise till sunset. The ‘fast’ is a time to exercise spiritual discipline and reflect on one’s life.

As a part of the spiritual month, there is a great focus on charity and spending time with the family; here, Muslims traditionally tend to spend more time with their families and friends.  

Ramadan’s first is the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, which is a public holiday with most businesses and, indeed, schools closed for the festivities. 

A typical Ramadan day  

The visitors to the Kingdom are encouraged to imbibe the atmosphere and traditions.

However, it would be a good idea to plan a trip considering how daily life in the city changes during this holy month. 

Sawm, the ‘fast’ in Arabic, is observed between sunrise and sunset; a fast begins at the first faint light of pre-dawn and lasts until the sun sets over the horizon, ending the day.

During this month, the typical Riyadhi routines are changed.

Working hours at all businesses tend to be shorter than during other months – starting later than usual and ending the day earlier.

Most restaurants are closed for business during the day. Non-Muslims visiting Saudi Arabia are certainly not expected to fast, and restaurants within hotels will be serving food.

However, smoking, eating, or drinking in public should be avoided strictly between dawn and dusk concerning those fasting during this time.   

These sleepy days are followed up with a burst of activity upon nightfall. The muezzin’s sunset call to prayer prompts the end of the day’s fast and indulging in a well-laid-out iftar meal.

This Ramadan and iftars are when Riyadh comes alive with neighborhood festivities and delights in its culinary diversity.   

The busiest roads of Riyadh can be seen just minutes before the Maghrib prayer, with people rushing to reach their homes or restaurants to break the fast.

Visitors need to ensure restaurant reservations are made well in advance to avoid last-minute disappointments.   

Ramadhan – The Month of Charity

Ramadan is a period of greater charity and sharing with the family and community. You often see Riyadhi’s going by the droves to mosques with home-prepared meals to share with the community.

Then, some will not host family or friends on a particular day and spill to the cafes, restaurants, and Ramadan tents.

The younger generation has popularized the istiraha, a rented chalet where friends come together to eat, drink, and have a few laughs.  

Festivities during Ramadan

Visitors should hold their nocturnal selves to experience what Riyadh has to offer during Ramadan.

Restaurants and shopping malls like the Riyadh Gallery Mall and Al Nakheel Mall generally open in the early evening.

They remain busy into the early hours of the morning, closing in time for Suhoor. Suhoor is the pre-dawn meal, which marks the start of the fast for the day.   

Shopping

The festive mood is best felt under the twinkling white lights of lanterns at Riyadh’s famous Souks, all bursting with colorful flags.

Like the Al Thumari Souq, located in the center of old Riyadh near the  Al Masmak Fortress.

This souk is bustling with shoppers and stocked with gifts, clothing, and ingredients meant especially for Eid celebrations that mark the end of Ramadan.

Hawkers and shopkeepers greet their customers with ‘Ramadan Mubarak (happy’ Ramadan), bringing smiles to their faces.

Dining

Sampling the traditional Saudi favorites is a must: camel meat, samosa, and shorba soup. All these can be found in the dozens of Ramadan tents throughout the city.

This fare is available at many hotels and resorts, including Marriot, Hilton, Al Faisaliah, Movenpick, Four Seasons, and the Fairmont.   

The neon lights of Tahlia Street are the haunt of Riyadh’s younger generation.

With a greater variety of dining options, this place offers younger people the experience of breaking their fast with various international options. These include American, European, Pakistani, Afghan, and other Asian cuisines.   

Another experience one must not miss during Ramadan is a visit to the historic town of  Diriyah and its Al Bujairi Heritage Park, lying to the west of Riyadh.

Its spacious green parks, soft-lit palm trees, and majestic views of the palace and ruins are a popular spot for families to enjoy Ramadan evenings together.

Al Bujairi Heritage Park is also the best place in Riyadh to watch the Eid fireworks, soaking up the friendly and festive atmosphere.   

The 6 best iftars in town

This Ramadan, you may need a guide to the best options of Iftars available in town. So, we’ve compiled a shortlist of some of the best options available in Riyadh. This list is based on food and ambiance.  

Unlike the buffet, as was common in pre-COVID days, restaurants now offer a family-style service. Guests enjoy their meals with their loved ones safely and with all the dishes served together at your table.

The Ritz-Carlton- Riyadh

  • A definition of luxury, the Ritz-Carlton hotel offers its annual Ramadan iftar around a beautiful indoor pool. 
  • The iftar has three menus with multiple options. These consist of traditional favorites such as grilled kabobs, jareesh, mandi options, and kufta