Dark­ness falls, and the kids go nuts for a Ra­madaan tra­di­tion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

“AREN’T you glad you took a nap this af­ter­noon? Now you can spend the whole night fill­ing up your bags with nuts and sweets.”

Aqeel and Saabi­rah nod their wise lit­tle heads in agree­ment, as they take in the won­der of the Katara Cul­tural Vil­lage on this night of Garangao.

It’s their first ex­pe­ri­ence of Garangao, an event cel­e­brated on the 14th day of Ra­madaan and unique to the Gulf re­gion and Qatar in par­tic­u­lar.

The ori­gin of the word Garangao (pro­nounced Ga-ran-ga-oh) is the word “Gara”, which is the sound of things knock­ing to­gether. In terms of the cel­e­bra­tion, it sym­bol­ises the sound of nuts and sweets knock­ing to­gether in the bags chil­dren carry around their necks, or the sound of the knock­ing on doors by treat­seek­ers roam­ing the neigh­bour­hood while singing tra­di­tional songs.

If Aqeel and Saabi­rah were to knock on the doors of the pre­dom­i­nantly Western ex­pat neigh­bours in our com­pound, though, they might well be met with con­fused stares and ex­cla­ma­tions of “but I’m sure it’s not Hal­loween to­day”.

So Shi­haam and I have de­cided to ven­ture out, and it hasn’t been hard to find a spot where the kids can par­take in the rev­elry of the oc­ca­sion. Most malls, restau­rants, parks, mu­se­ums, ho­tels and ed­u­ca­tional, cul­tural and sport­ing hubs are of­fer­ing Garangao-themed events.

The only catch is that fes­tiv­i­ties at most of the venues are slated to start only af­ter 9pm and to go on un­til midnight, in keep­ing with the late-night Gulf cul­ture, es­pe­cially dur­ing Ra­madaan. For­tu­nately, we dis­cover that Katara is start­ing the party ear­lier, around 7pm, shortly af­ter if­tar and the Maghrib prayer.

And Katara is a beau­ti­ful place to stroll around at night, re­gard­less of the 39ºC heat and high hu­mid­ity due to its prox­im­ity to the sea.

The Katara Cul­tural Vil­lage, be­tween the down­town West Bay area and the up­mar­ket Pearl la­goon de­vel­op­ment, is home to the Doha Film In­sti­tute and an im­pres­sive am­phithe­atre that has hosted artists such as South Africa’s Johnny Clegg.

But tonight, Katara is all about the kids. The cel­e­bra­tions in­clude ac­tiv­i­ties for the chil­dren such as a pup­pet theatre, a read­ing cor­ner and an art work­shop. The main rea­son the kids have come out in their num­bers to Katara tonight, though, is for one thing and one thing only – the prom­ise of enough sweets to fill their Garangao gift bags.

At least, that’s why my kids are here. “Over there, over there,” says an ex­cited Aqeel. “They’re hand­ing out sweets over there. Let’s go.” And off he runs, fol­lowed in hot pur­suit by his sis­ter.

Thank­fully Yaqeen, their younger brother, is fast asleep at home. Chas­ing af­ter them through throngs of other kids and in sti­fling heat is hard enough as it is – I can­not imag­ine do­ing it while hold­ing an eight-month-old.

We just about catch up with them when they spot the next col­lec­tion point and off they go again. And that’s how the next hour goes, punc­tu­ated by pe­ri­odic stops to grate­fully ac­cept the com­pli­men­tary bot­tles of wa­ter be­ing handed out.

Even­tu­ally, their bags bulging with treats, we set­tle on a bench to catch our breath and as­sess the night’s tak­ings.

Saabi­rah seems like she’s ready to pass out and is more ea­ger to use the bench as a bed than as an area to un­load their goods. Aqeel, though, is show­ing no signs of slow­ing down. “You know that you’re not hav­ing any of this tonight, right? It’s far too late, you can have some to­mor­row,” I tell him.

“But dad, just one sweet – pleeease?” Try­ing to avoid his mother’s steely gaze, I cave and say: “Okay, I’ll make you a deal. You can put your hand in the bag and the first thing you pull out, you can eat.”

“Yay! Thanks dad.” Aqeel’s face lights up, but what he doesn’t know is that I’ve been watch­ing what the Katara staff have been dish­ing out, and I’m pretty sure it’s me who’s about to pull some­thing out of the Garangao bag.

Aqeel dips his hand in slowly, feels around and tri­umphantly pulls it out. And his next words say it all: “Aw, nuts.”

Fol­low Bawa on Twit­ter @rid­waan­bawa

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