Saturday, July 18, 2015

Eid al-Fitr in al Balad

During Ramadan, the daily fast is broken nightly with an Iftar. When the month of Ramadan ends, there is a multi-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr or the "Feast of Breaking the Fast" to mark the end of Ramadan. Since everything closes down like the West between Christmas and New Year's, a lot of people leave town during Eid. Those that stay can go to the old town (al Balad) to enjoy some of the Eid festivities and give the greeting "Eid Mubarak."
The buildings in al Balad are in the traditional Hijazi style, which I find fascinating for a number of reasons (check that link for the details). During this time of year, the houses are also decorated with thousands of lights.
RRR attempts to blend in.
A map of al-Balad
Boys in traditional Hijazi headdress
 One of the most interesting things I learned while researching this festival was how significantly different the people in this part of Saudi Arabia (the Hejazi) are from the rest of the country (the Najdi). This article compares several aspects where the Hejazi and Najdi differ, but the big take away is that Saudi Arabia isn't as culturally homogeneous as most of us would initially think.

Advertisement

By wrapping their heads in these orange-toned headdresses instead of donning the red-checkered keffeiyeh that is typically associated with traditional Saudi (najdi) dress, the Hejazi are actually engaging in a subtle, yet clearly visible, act of cultural defiance occurring in the name of heritage. I think that's pretty cool, and if I had to take sides, I'd probably side with the Hejazis.
Map of the Kingdom of Hejaz
There's just something about the colors, textures, geometry, and overall design of these houses that makes me want to come back in the daytime...despite the 100F+ temperatures. In the meantime, I'll just have to settle for looking at more pictures that someone else took.





Bab Jadeed - lit in Green
After I walked through the festival area, I strolled through the souqs (markets) looking at their textiles. Lots to buy, if you're looking to buy. I wasn't. But I was thirsty and got a mango smoothie from one of the street vendors that I drank on the way back to the car. Once back at the car, when the air conditioning came on, I realized just how hot it had been and I sat parked there until I felt ready to deal with the Jeddah traffic on the drive home.

Advertisement

While the traffic was terrible getting to al Balad, it wasn't so bad the way I did it (I used some back roads and parked just before things got really bad). But driving through any downtown area during a festival is just a bad idea. What was mind-boggling to me was that the drive home, away from the festival, took twice as long. Most of that was due to Jeddah's "interesting" traffic system, and the lane lines are more of a suggestion than anything else. Also, the left two lanes for the better part of 20 km drive home were all trying to make a u-turn utilizing Jeddah's less-than-perfect traffic system. But I made it home safe and sound.

Related Posts:

Advertisement
Share:

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Featured Post

End Of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

We spent two and a half years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on our second tour in the Foreign Service with the US Department of State. As you migh...

Honest Post Reports