Ramadan is the most wonderful time of the year for many, it is when people get more spiritual, streets get more colorful, TV broadcast gets more interesting and food gets more brilliant. If this is your first Ramadan in Bahrain prepare to be amazed as the kingdom takes this holy month very seriously.
The most beautiful thing about Ramadan in Bahrain is the atmosphere of utter serenity that takes over the whole kingdom, people are more relaxed and take things at a slower pace.
Ramadan is also a time to reconnect with family and friends, to be friendly with everyone and enjoy social gatherings. The greeting with which everyone starts the month is Ramadan Kareem, which basically means Ramadan is generous, and it is truly a month of generosity.
Here is a guide for spending a magical Ramadan in Bahrain, with many blessed returns.
Ramadan food: Iftar, Ghabga and Suhoor
Iftar is the meal with which Muslims break their fast after sunset. People most often break their fast by eating dates or drinking water and Ramadan juices and then take their meal after praying.
Usually people have Iftar with their families, and sometimes this affair includes extended family, friends and neighbors, Ramadan is a very social month.
Suhoor is the meal people eat just before sunrise, or before they start fasting. It is often a very light meal that includes yogurt or Laban (a yogurt drink) to help people curb their thirst during the long fasting hours.
In Bahrain and other GCC countries, there is another meal in Ramadan called Ghabga, the word itself means gatherings. This is a special meal that is only eaten when people have a special event. In this case, they only break their fast by drinking and eating a very light snack, perform their evening prayers, and then either head out for Ghabga or have people over. A Ghabga is more of a social event, but one that includes very generous amounts of food.
Bahraini food in Ramadan
Food preparation starts more than a week before the holy month, that is when people start crowding the markets to buy ingredients, and also when they start rolling Samosa and freezing it for daily use.
Ramadan is a traditional season in which people usually prefer cooking authentic dishes from their local cuisine, this goes for almost all Muslim countries, and Bahrain is no exception. People feel more comfortable eating a hearty meal that they are familiar with after a long day of fasting than trying something new.
The menu changes from day to day of course, but Bahraini people almost always start Iftar with soup and samosa.
Another staple on Ramadan menu is Machboos, the most popular Bahraini dish. Machboos is a very versatile rice dish that can be cooked with chicken, beef, lamb or shrimp. Another dish that is often found present on Ramadan table is Saloona, which is a very popular Bahraini stew.
The star of the evenings is usually the traditional Arabic coffee, it is often accompanied by dates, some sort of traditional dessert or Bahraini Halwa.
Girgaon in Bahrain
If you are not familiar with the word, Girgaon is a festival that people celebrate in the 14th night of Ramadan across the Gulf region.
This festival bears some resemblance with Halloween as kids often wear costumes and go from door to door collecting candy. In Girgaon however, kids wear traditional costumes and carry embroidered bags to collect their candy in, they also sing traditional songs.
The event may not be observed the same way it was many years ago, but it is still celebrated nonetheless. You will even find that many supermarkets have special offers on sweets during the time of the festival. You will also find that local markets and souks display traditional costumes for kids around that time.
Work in Ramadan
Like all muslim countries, work hours are shorter during the month of Ramadan in Bahrain. School hours are often shorter as well if Ramadan coincides with the school year.
In addition to that, many shops and almost all restaurants and cafes change their work hours during the month of Ramadan.
A change in rush hours follows this change of work hours of course, you will find that streets get crowded around 2pm as this is when most companies finish work during the month. You will also find that streets get a bit vacant during Iftar time, however, drivers tend to speed around that time so be careful.
On a different note, most companies assign designated areas for non-fasting employees who want to eat or drink during work hours, as eating in front of fasting people is considered immensely rude during Ramadan.
Also, women are advised to dress modestly during Ramadan, especially around the workplace. At the very least shoulders and knees must be covered.