Ramadan and Qarqayan: Between Gulf and Egyptian Heritage

HeritageForAll – Global Collaborations Program (2018)

By Ms. Shaimaa Matar (shaimaa_matar@yahoo.com)

She is a student of a master of art in Museum Studies, Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management, Helwan University. She has an extensive background as a museum curator in museological issues. She has participated various activities through her experience at the Egyptian governmental museums.


On the nights of the half of the Arab month of Ramadan, Major of the gulf states seek to revive their old popular customs, habits, and traditions which was called by “the Night of Girqeya’n, Karnakouh or Qarnqshouh”. These celebrations were usually started after praying the Maghrib pray that by gathering groups, they wear the traditional bright clothes and open their houses’ doors to deliver candy.

In addition, these celebrations have various titles that

  • In Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, it is called “Qarqayan”,
  • In Qatar and Bahrain, it is called “Karnaku”,
  • In Oman, it is “Qarnqshoh”,
  • In the United Arab Emirates, it is called “Haq al-Layla”,

In these six Gulf States, the rituals of Qarnqaho was transmitted from generation to generation, respectively the children inherited these traditions from their parents and grandfathers delivering the manifestations of this great celebration.

Interpreting the titles of these celebrations “Qarnqaho” or “Karkayan”, there are two common stories. The first one, the word of Karkayan is delivered from the Arabic word “Korat el-Ain”; and the second one is so closer to logic thinking that the word “Qarnqaho” or “Karkayan” is derived from the sound that children and those audience make from knocking and knocking on doors, drums and old kitchen utensils.

In this occasion, the girls wear the Khaki “a traditional headscarf” with gold threads- embroidered cloths, traditional gold jewelry, while the boys wear an embroidered white shirt. The children move from house to house chanting traditional songs by horns honking.

قرقاعون عادت عليكم بالصيام.. عطونا الله يعطيكم.. بيت مكة يوديكم.. يا مكة يا المعمورة

سلم ولدهم يا ألله.. خليه لأمه يا الله.. ‏‏يجيب المكده ويحطها.. بحضن إمه.. ياشفيع الأمة.. عسى البقعة ما إتخمه، ولا توازي على أمه.

قرقيعان وقرقيعان.. بين اقصير ورميضان..

عادت عليكم صيام.. كل سنة وكل عام.

Then, Gulf States’ families visit frequently the public places where they celebrate Qarnqaho. Those families are still preserving this authentic tradition that adults wait the children at home, those child knock the doors asking sweets and nuts. So, those adults put Qarnqaho in the yard “Juffair” and distribute it to the children.

Within the Egyptian historical timeline, Ramadan is a holy month for everyone either the ruler, the nobles or the public. Actually, the major of the current Egyptian traditions for Ramadan came back to Fatimid era when Fatimid caliph receipts this great month with a group of procedures. Traditionally, he orders to light the markets by candles; to hang lamps in streets and alleyways, and to sweep and prepare the roads to welcome the caliph and nobles. Additionally, starting with the phenomenon of lanterns, at the beginning of the Arab month Sha’baan, the Fawanees craftsmen start making the lanterns or traditional metal Fawanees and decorating it by a colourful glasses with Islamic decorations. These lanterns were traditionally lighted by the candles. During Ramadan, after getting a breakfast, children go through Fatimid Cairo streets repeating songs the popular singers

Continuing these authentic traditions, the current Egyptian people receipt this holy month putting a lantern at their houses; and buying dates, “Yamish” Ramadan and desserts such as el-Kunafa, Qatif and Kamaruddin as well as nuts.

Collecting much memories about Ramadan, Let’s share the traditional manifestations of celebrating Ramadan at your country or city worldwide under the hashtag of #Ramadan_Heritage.

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