All photos by Chantelle D’mello
Scores of excited children gathered at the esplanade and picked up their cloth bags before circling the interior of the amphitheatre to collect what appeared to be in some cases almost a year’s supply of sweets and nuts.
Most were dressed in traditional Garangao attire – gold-colored head and neckpieces, veils and richly embroidered caftans and skirts for the girls, and white thobes with gold lining, miniature bishts, and crisp ghutras for the boys.
Accompanied by their families, the children amassed at several candy stations staffed by Qatari women around the perimeter of the amphitheatre interior.
Dressed in colourful jalabiyas, batulas and niqabs, the women distributed bowls of nuts, candy and chocolates to the children’s outstretched arms and overflowing bags from straw bushels, stopping only to refill the baskets with more goodies.
Traditional garangao songs were played on a loudspeaker, while children sang along in loud voices as they ran from station to station.
Many were stopped by curious spectators, tourists and local television channels eager to photograph their vibrant costumes and capture their smiles. Others, exhausted from the day’s celebrations, remained fast asleep in the arms of the mothers or in their strollers, still clutching bags of candy.
When Doha News visited, several expats and their children could also be seen participating in the events.
“This is our first time celebrating Garangao, and though it is traditionally an Arab event, we wanted to try it out. We were surprised to see other expats also participating … there were even some adults! It’s a great experience, and you can feel how happy all the children are to dress up and collect candy,” said a British mother of two who was participating in the evening’s events.
Though immensely popular, the exact origins of the term “Garangao” and the reason behind the tradition remain a matter of debate.
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.
While known by different names across the GCC – 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 – the essence of the celebration remains the same throughout the region.