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Festivals and Major Events

Garangao Children Festival

18 March 2019

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 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).

Garangao Children Festival

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 2018

In the year 2018, Qatar Foundation celebrated the Garangao at the Al Shaqab Education City, with a range of fun and exciting games and cultural activities. Generally, this popular children’s festival is celebrated across the Arabian Gulf region, midway through Ramadan. In the night, children sing the special ‘Garangao Song’, wear traditional clothes and collect nuts and sweets. The young visitors at Al Shaqab’s indoor arena had the opportunity to meet their favourite characters from ‘Siraj’, namely Rashed and Nora, the animated educational TV series of Qatar Foundation that teaches the Arabic alphabets in a fun, educational way.

Various other centres of QF marked the celebrations by organizing activities such as pony rides, sack races, 3D jigsaw puzzles, storytelling sessions, football games and children had the opportunity to make their own paper lanterns.

The Garangao celebrations form part of the commitment by Qatar to preserve its culture and heritage. The event forms part of a wider year-round calendar of exciting activities that are meant to instil Qatari traditions in younger generations and foster social engagement throughout the whole community.

The Mall of Qatar organized fun event full of surporises for kids from 7.30pm to 8.30pm on 8th June, with a free entry to the event.

A Garangao celebration was held at The Royal Avenue, Porto Arabia at The Pearl, with the kids being able to participate in a bunch of fun stuff for free.

The Doha Festival City also hosted the Garangao Night on 9th June from 7.30pm to 10.30pm, with kids collecting candy from across the mall, and participating in the drum-making workshop. All the events were free.

Robin Vinod

Writer/blogger who writes on topics such as travel, real estate, employment and everyday life on GCC countries.