A guide to celebrating Garangao children’s festival in Qatar (2015)

Ramadan (Omar Chatriwala)

Omar Chatriwala

Ramadan

Venues all around town are revving up to host a slew of activities in time for their annual Garangao festivals in what promises to be a night of song, colorful traditional clothing and, of course, candy.

The event, typically celebrated on the 14th night of the holy month of Ramadan, is known by different names across the region.

Children wearing traditional clothes and singing a special Garango song will knock on their neighbors’ doors to receive sweet treats in a tradition not unlike Halloween in the West (but without ghouls and goblins).

The children’s celebration is known as Garangao or Garangaou in Qatar and Bahrain, Karkee’aan or Qariqaan in Saudi Arabia, Gargee’aan in Kuwait, Garangashoch, At-Tablah or Qarnakosh in Oman and Hag Al Leylah in UAE.

Though immensely popular, the exact origins of the term are unknown. Some believe the onomatopoeic term is an allusion to the rumbling of sweets and nuts in large traditional baskets, while others say it hails from the sound made by clanging of stones.

According to famed local storyteller Um Khalaf, the event may have originated as a sort of celebratory reward for young boys and girls who memorize 15 chapters of the Qu’ran.

This year, families have their pick of celebrations hosted by several organizations, each marking the occasion in their own unique ways.

Qatar Foundation & Qatar National Library

In collaboration with the Qatar National Library, Qatar Foundation is slated to hold one of the larger Garangao events around the country tonight, June 29, from 8pm to midnight at the Al Shaqab Stadium. Estimated to attract some 4,000 guests, this free and open-to-the-public event will feature several kid and family-oriented activities.

National Library Garangao poster.

Qatar National Library / Facebook

QF & Qatar National Library Garangao poster.

Taking inspiration from traditional souqs, tonight’s event – held several days before the actual Garangao date – will offer children the opportunity to listen to traditional stories and readings from the Qu’ran in a souq-like setting. Other attractions include henna and face painting stations, pony rides and inflatable castles.

Attendees will also be able to participate in traditional games of Gaiss (hopscotch), Tagyah, (tug-of-war), Dahouri (wheel pushing) Gallinah and Natou as families and taste authentic Qatari dishes like haris, luqaimat, khanfaroush and jarish.

Children will also be provided with sweets, nuts and Garangao goodie bags.

Aspire Zone

The Aspire Zone is also scheduled to host a night of Garangao fun and games on Wednesday, July 1 from 9pm until midnight at its Ramadan tent.

Dubbed “Freej” or “neighbor,” the air-conditioned tent is open daily and has games and kids’ sports, entertainment, folklore activities and other interactive Ramadan events including storytelling sessions, a food court as well as a handicraft markets with vendors selling traditional crafts and merchandise.

Ponyo

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea poster / Wikipedia

Ponyo

For Garangao, Aspire is planning to include a music and magician show as well as traditional Qatari games and a special movie screening by the Doha Film Institute.

Ponyo is an animated fantasy and comedy film created by well-known Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. It follows the story of a goldfish named Ponyo who befriends a five-year-old boy on her journey to becoming human.

According to local events magazine Marhaba, Freej Aspire will also hold a competition to honor the best traditional dress and award winners with iPhones and iPads.

Embrace Doha

Local cultural awareness group Embrace Doha is also hosting a Garangao and Ramadan-themed activity this Wednesday, July 1, from 5-7pm beside the Souq Waqif police station.

The event, which costs QR100 to attend, is mostly geared towards introducing adults to the mid-Ramadan festival. The two-hour session includes a discussion on Ramadan, a Qatari Iftar, henna designers and a traditional Garangao gift.

Interested attendees can reserve a seat online or visit the group’s Facebook page for more information.

Katara

As part of their ongoing Ramadan festivities, the Katara Cultural Village is also hosting a Garangao activity on Wednesday, July 1, from 8-11 pm.

Katara Ramadan decorations

Omar Chatriwala

Katara Ramadan decorations

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at a designated path around the Katara amphitheatre. Volunteers will distribute empty gift bags to children at the start of the event, after which kids are welcome to stop at various stations around the amphitheatre perimeter to fill up their bags with sweets, nuts, and other goodies.

Refreshments will be provided, along with entertainment at the nearby Ramadan Market set up on the Katara Esplanade.

Please let us know if we’ve missed any events, so we can keep the list up-to-date. Do you plan to take your kids anywhere to celebrate? Thoughts?

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