“Come before sunset,” advises Mohamed our host and long time friend. Mohamed has  invited us to join the family as they break their fast on the fourteenth day of the month of Ramadan 1434 AH. This year the holy month started in the first week of July and will end with the festival of Eid in early August. The temperatures in Muscat are in the high thirties and in other parts of Oman in the forties. It is a difficult time to fast but there are no choices and the faithful observe the fast that starts before sunrise and ends with sunset. “This year we are fasting for around fifteen hours every day,” explains Mohamed.

A food mat is spread on the carpet in the majlis[i] and the simple items for breaking the fast are placed on it – there are two varieties of fresh dates, fruits, water and kahwa[ii]. We sit around and after the fast comes to an end, join the family as they eat the dates and quench their thirst. Within minutes the men in the family are out of the house and off to the mosque. Later after they have had their meal they will go back to the mosque for the magrib[iii] prayer.

When Mohamed returns after prayers he tells us that fasting as a part of prayer was a practice that was adopted in earlier religions. “My children are still not old enough to fast but they will be gradually initiated into fasting and will be ready to fast when they are fourteen.”

Parents begin by encouraging children to fast for a few hours, then half a day and gradually a full day. Then the children improve on their efforts and fast for a few days at a stretch. By fourteen they are all ready to join the millions of the faithful all over the world who observe the fast.

In Oman, children who are initiated into fasting are encouraged and rewarded on Qaranqasho – a day mid-way in the month of Ramadan. The observance of Qaranqasho goes back centuries. There is a belief that the practice pre-dates the advent of Islam but there is little evidence of how the practice evolved. Similar practices are observed in several of the other countries in the Middle East but they have different names.

 On Qaranqasho evening, children carry a lantern, sing songs and go around their neighbourhood knocking on the doors of friends and relatives. The children are welcomed in every home and rewarded with sweets and gifts. In recent years, Qaranqasho has been successfully hijacked by commercial enterprises and marketing companies and is today announced with prominent advertising and sponsored events for children.

Two of Mohamed’s children attend a Quran school. Lukman needs little prompting to put the IPad down and recite “Bismillah ir Rahman ir Rahim…. In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful….” This year they are not a part of the Qaranqasho procession but in a few years they will join other children and announce to the world that they have joined the community in fasting during the month of Ramadan.




[i] The sitting room

[ii] Cardamom flavoured coffee

[iii] Fourth of five daily prayers