Eid al Fitr in Salalah

February 21, 2011

To be honest, I find it hard to believe that Ramadan is over. Once you get into the routine of quiet fasting, the shock of Eid is quite hard to handle.

Despite the fact that we did not eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset for an entire month, I have to admit that fasting was much easier this year in Dhofar due to the cool weather and monsoon rains. In fact, many people claim it has been the easiest Ramadan in over three decades.

For most of us, the last week of Ramadan was a blur of fasting, cleaning, shopping, baking and preparing for Eid. During the few days bef-ore Eid, shops were open until the wee hours to accommodate the needs of thousands of frantic last minute shoppers.

On Thursday evening, everyone ate iftar with their eyes glued to Oman TV, waiting for the big ann-ouncement about whether or not we were fasting one more day or celebrating Eid the next morning. An hour after sunset, the crescent moon had been sighted, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid.

I'm sad that Ramadan is over, but at the same time happy that I can eat and drink again at regular times. My morning cups of freshly brewed coffee at work were sorely missed.

The morning of Eid al Fitr is always awkward. We have all readjusted our body clocks, and have made new habits. Many may find they are wide awake at 4.30 in the
morning, thinking they must get up and eat the pre-dawn meal (also known as suhoor).

After a couple of hours more of sleep, everyone wakes up and heads guiltily to the kitchen to eat their first breakfast in a month. Eating in broad daylight can take some getting used to, that's for sure.

As the men head to the mosque for early morning Eid prayers, the women hurriedly prepare the majlis for guests. Each house has a spread of sweets, fruit, drinks, Omani coffee and halwa, a traditional Omani sweet.

By nine o'clock in the morning, children have already started visiting every house in the neighbourhood dressed in their new clothes, and soon their pockets are bulging with candy and Eidia (small change given to children during Eid).

By the end of the morning, they're all on a sugar high (adults included) and head home to rest before their second round of visits in the afternoon.

The next few days are dedicated solely to visiting family and relatives. In Salalah, women usually stay at home and receive children and male relatives on the first day of Eid and do most of their visiting on the second or third day, or even after that. In the last 72 hours, I'm pretty sure I received and visited at least one hundred relatives.

Each conversation blended into the next, so I am finding it hard to remember everyone's news. It can be quite overwhelming, and it doesn't help knowing I have yet another four days of visiting to do.

In Salalah, visiting isn't confined to the first three or four days of Eid, like most of the rest of Oman. It can go on for well over a week. I suppose this might be related to the fact that families in the south of Oman are larger than in other areas of the sultanate.

Eid in Salalah feels special this year due to the unusually prolonged monsoon rains, the beautiful green mountains just beginning to appear out of the mist, and the presence of tourists from the GCC and other parts of Oman who have come to Salalah just for the holidays.

The presence of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos in Dhofar for Ramadan and Eid this year made it even more special. Everyone was cheerful just knowing His Majesty was in town and that he performed Eid al Fitr prayers at Al Hisn Mosque on the ocean.

At the same time, however, Eid marks the end of the three month 'slump' that Oman gets into with the summer holidays, Ramadan, and in Salalah's case, the monsoon.

On Saturday, Oman can wake up from its very long nap and hopefully begin to get some real work done. Children and college students head back to school, work timings go back to normal and everything becomes a blur of activity again. It's about time! But...we are already looking forward to next Ramadan.