DOHA: In the days before the oil discovery, people in Al Shamal in the north used to break their fast during Ramadan after hearing the sound (of a cannon?) coming from Bahrain, says a Qatari who is in his eighties.
Bahrain is close to Al Shamal and just across the sea. “We used to go to Manama in our dhows to buy essentials during the fasting month,” said Hassan Bu Sabir Al Kubaisi.
“Among the things we brought from Bahrain were sugar, wheat flour, cooking oil, coffee, cardamom and lentils,” Al Kubaisi told Al Sharq in an interview published yesterday.
He said he spent his childhood in Al Shamal and remembered how he and others observed Ramadan when he was eight.
He said people used to rely on oil lamps fired by kerosene at night to read the Holy Quran. The lamp used to be called ‘Al Faner’ (from the Arabic word ‘fanar’ meaning lighthouse).
Ironically, Al Shamal is the hub of Qatar’s upstream energy industry which provides LNG (the cleanest of fuels) to the world today.
With the flour brought from Bahrain, women would bake the traditional bread that used to be round in shape. “We were a simple people. Our life was easy and simple. By around dawn, men would be ready to leave for work,” he reminisced. Catching fish was the main occupation. Women would also leave home pretty early to fetch drinking water from a spring in the nearby Al Sidriya. They would go in groups on donkeys and fill water in metallic vessels. On the way back, they would also collect firewood. Women were quite hard-working and it was shameful for a woman in those days to return empty-handed, he said. People used to be very happy and excited when Ramadan was about to begin. During the holy month, people from a Fereej (area) would gather in a mosque to read the Holy Quran.
They would fast and break it with dates and water. They would then go for the evening prayers and later have dinner, after which they would again go for the late evening and nightly prayers.
There were no cars, no watches in those days. To break the fast, people would wait for the sun to set and for the sound to come from Bahrain.
They would watch the stars early in the morning to guess the time of ‘Suhoor’, which used to be a community affair as people would sit and have it together.
There were no schools either, said Al Kubaisi (pictured). So people would learn the Holy Quran or go fishing. There used to be a cleric in the locality who would lead prayers and make people read the Holy Book.
“We used to celebrate ‘Garangao’ on the 15th of Ramadan. There were no dry fruits in those days, so we used to give sugar to children. Richer people would give cupfuls of sugar.”
A girl would not venture out of home after she was seven. She would leave home only to go to her groom’s home after marriage.
Things have changed now, said Al Kubaisi. “Our traditions and customs are fast disappearing. Community living is fast becoming history. Our social life is dominated by nuclear families now,” rued Al Kubaisi.