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Garangao Children Festival

Garangao children festival is traditionally celebrated throughout the Middle East after breaking of the fast on the 14th of Ramadan and will be marked in Qatar with weeklong festivities. The festival is known by different names in each region: Garangao or Garangaou in Bahrain and Qatar, Qariqaan or Karkee'aan in Saudi Arabia, Al-Majeena Karkiaan in Iraq, Gargee'aan in Kuwait, Hag Al Leylah in UAE and Garangashoch, Qarnakosh or At-Tablah in Oman.

Garangao Children Festival

Garangao is so special to the Gulf region, particularly Qatar, and is assumed to have its roots in the pearl-diving tradition of the region. Over the years, the festival has gained more recognition with several expats joining the celebrations. Garangao is all about the kids and is reminiscent of Halloween in the West (except the spooky bits).

During the festival, Children get dressed up in bright, customary Qatari clothes; take a cloth bag and visit the houses in their vicinity, collecting nuts and sweets from their neighbors. They have a special cotton bags, hanging loosely around their necks in which they collect goodies. Kids will be seen enjoying around the streets until late into the night singing the special Garangao song. Nowadays people are not just interested in buying the goodies, but they opt for the specially designed bags and packets decorated with popular cartoon characters and other symbols liked by the children. According to the size and varieties of the goodies, the prices of these bags range from QR5 to QR50.

The actual meaning of Garangao is vague. Some consider the word is onomatopoeic, and comes either from the sound of clanging stones or the sound of the nuts and sweets rumbling collectively in large baskets.

What is Garangao?

The Qatari people and government are more rigid in preserving the tradition and one of these things is the Qatari tradition of Garangaou during the holy month of Ramadan. Garanagou is essentially a children's tradition, for those aged twelve and under. In many ways it is reminiscent of the tradition of Halloween Trick 'n' Treat.

Qatari children celebrate this centuries-old Gulf tradition every year, on the 13th, 14th and 15th of Ramadan, in which they wear dressy traditional Qatari clothes, and after having finished their Iftaar meal at Maghrib, leave together in small groups around their neighborhood or Fareej, singing the Garangao folk song. They visit the houses and ask for their Garangaou "halaawa"(candies and sweets in Arabic).

Children wear special cotton bags around their necks which in earlier days their mothers used to sew them but now it can be purchased in shops during the festival.

The Origins of Garangaou

Garangaou folklore carries many different names and the folk songs that the children sing also differ from country to country. According to the Legend, Garangaou started off in the middle of Ramadan in the third year AH (after hijra) when the Prophet Mohammed's grandson Hassan was born. In fact, the Prophet Mohammed and his family were so delighted by the birth of Hassan in the sacred month, that the Prophet's daughter and Hassan's mother, Fatima, distributed colored sweets to all their neighbors and relatives. Meanwhile, there has been some row over the legitimacy of this legend, with many religious experts observe that Garangaou has no roots in Islam and is merely a cultural tradition.

However, the most important thing about Garangaou is that it dates back as far as the Abbasid period. The origin of the word "Gargee'aan" or "Garangaou" has its roots from the Gulf word "Gara' ", which is like the sound of the knocking of the children at people's gates and doors or like the sound of the nuts and sweets in the bag as a child carries it around their neck.

Garangaou Today

Although Garangaou tradition continues to be practiced in Qatar even today, it has changed with time like many aspects of tradition and culture. In the olden times, it was completely safe for kids to walk together from house to house in their fareej at night; however today, with the danger of strangers and speeding cars, many Qatari children are accompanied by their housemaids or older siblings and cousins.

Many community centers and schools around Qatar have started to conduct special annual Garangaou events during and after school time. There are some international schools in Doha celebrating Garangaou, allowing kids to come into school in their traditional clothes and exchanging sweets and nuts with their friends (although some schools disallow nuts as some children may have nut allergies). Aristocratic and high class families hold private Garangaou parties for their children and their children's friends and neighbours.

Garangaou is a tradition which reminds the Qatari community of their cultural past, brings the community and the children together, and celebrates children, the bliss of childhood and its purity, and the delight and happiness of Ramadan.

Fatefully, the tradition of Garangaou also has not been left undamaged by the materialism and commercialization of modern world. Today, there are gift shops and supermarkets around Qatar selling ready-made Garangaou party bags with Harry Potter, Barbie and Hannah Montana themes. This leads to children competing with each other to see who gives out the best and most expensive-looking party bags, resulting in feelings of jealousy and of being left out. This spoils the exact reason why the festival is being celebrated.

Garangao in 2014

At present, Garangao has become a common festivity in malls and several community as well as government organizations where special events are organized during the festival. Children are given an opportunity to participate in many events and activities and are given various gifts besides the traditional nuts and candies.

National Museum of Qatar

Children between the ages of 3 and 11 years were specially invited to celebrate Garangao on 11 July at Al Riwaq Building, MIA Park. The celebration included a variety of, fun and hands-on activities for children and families.

Doha Film Institute and Education

During the festival, there was a special free screening of 'On the Way to School' (Pascal Plission’s documentary) in the Katara Drama Theatre at The Cultural Village Foundation.

The poignant and inspiring film follows children from India, Argentina, Kenya and Morocco as well as the gallant attempts they are doing in order to get to school.

There were also a host of fun and exciting activities conducted for children, including traditional henna art, face painting, a special-effects green screen experience and free giveaways.

The Gate Mall

The Gate Mall celebrated this year's Garangao by hosting a Family Fun Zone at its multi-purpose hall. Kids showcased their creative side through an array of activities arranged every day from 8 pm to 1 am, for an unforgettable experience.

Katara Cultural Village

The cultural village Celebrated this occasion with giveaway sweet treats alongside exciting activities and surprises for the kids.

The children celebrated with their fun spirit elevated on this unique night which became more beautiful under the starry and twinkling sky of Katara. Parents who accompanied their children recalled the innocent and beautiful memories of their childhood with their loved ones at Katara.

Aspire Zone Foundation

Aspire Zone Foundation (AZF) organized Garangao celebrations on July 11 as part of its Ramadan Festival. Children were served sweets and nuts by women dressed in traditional outfits. The children collected the treats in carefully designed cotton bags, while singing the Garangao song.

The Garangao celebrations now in its third edition, is in line with AZF’s commitment to providing year-round activities to the local community.

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