Special Invitations: Celebrations through Food and Drinks
The second part of the exhibition, highlights different traditions associated with Qatari cuisine including the way food is prepared and its role in celebrations.
In the first part of Qatar's Culinary Journey, you can learn about the ingredients, influences and ways of preparing Qatari dishes.
As part of Qatar's Culinary Journey series, you can also learn how to make and serve gahwa in four easy steps.
Special Invitation to a Majlis
In a majlis, gahwa (Arabic coffee) and trays of food such as dates are served with considerable ritual and tradition.
Man Preparing Gahwa (Coffee) (20th century) by UnkownNational Museum of Qatar
As a sign of respect, coffee is prepared in the presence of the guest.
The social customs associated with preparing and serving coffee are still practiced today and are representative of hospitality and respect towards one’s guest.
Al-Kaff (Glove) (Around 1950-1970) by UnkownNational Museum of Qatar
Special Invitation to a Wedding
Wedding preparations took time as every aspect of the celebration had to be carefully considered. A Qatari wedding consists of two separate celebrations; one for men and another for the women and children.
Music and food were central to the celebrations, which would traditionally last for three days. Singing and drumming would announce that a wedding was taking place, and would play on and off throughout the wedding day. People would wear their finest clothes to the event.
Food at Weddings
Najla Al Humaidi talks about how in the past, the entire fareej (neighborhood) would know about a marriage. On the morning of a wedding, all members from the neighborhood gathered at the mother of the bride's house for breakfast.
The meal included dishes such as balaleet, al khabees, al aseed, al zalabiyah, al rahash and al halwa. Traditionally, rice was selected and prepared two weeks prior to the wedding. In the past, rice was usually very dirty and required more time and effort to prepare, whereas today it's found ready and relatively clean in plastic bags.
Remembering Past Weddings
Shareefa Al Mohannadi remembers the role of food in celebration, and how food was prepared and distributed across the entire neighborhood for weddings.
In the 1960s and 1970s, structured office hours began to dominate jobs and life in the semi-settled population, and the main celebrations were held on the weekend specifically on Fridays.
On that day, the women guests were hosted at lunchtime. The women sat on the floor under a large tent, leaning on comfortable cushions and enjoying gahwa (Arabic coffee). Later, jewellery and other valuable gifts from the groom to the bride were passed from lap to lap and admired by family members and guests alike.
The food would be served on trays– the main dish was typically goat on a pile of rice– and guests would form informal groups around each tray. Afterwards, some more gahwa (Arabic coffee) and oudh (sandalwood incense) were passed round, signifying the festivities have ended for the day.
Special Invitation to Al-Naflah
Al-Naflah (the voluntary) occurs in the month of Sha'ban (the month preceding Ramadan) and is a blessed night in-which people spend the evening in prayer and preparation for Ramadan. It is also the occasion where food and ingredients for the coming month are prepared.
Lolwa el Badi discussing how in the month before Ramadan, women from the fareej, or neighborhood, would gather at the "big house" of the neighborhood, and begin preparing the ingredients needed for Ramdan dishes, such as grains and flour. Grains were bought fresh from the souq. Together, women would clean the grains, wash them in water, then place them in a special container called munahayz, in which there was a long stick used for grinding grain.
On the night of Al-Naflah, Qataris prayed and then opened their homes to neighbors and distributed food. The children received cooked rice, dates and sweets. Then, they gathered in public places singing while playing a game of catching treats from the other children’s plates.
One of those ingredients was flour. It was made from grains after being washed and ground in the rahaa (quern) around which groups of two or three women sat; one putting the grain into the grinder and the others turning the grinder using a small pole inserted into the grinder. Dishes prepared from this flour for Ramadan include harees, khubs rgag, luqaimat and assidah.
Special Invitation to Ramadan
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. There are three main meals locals have during Ramadan: suhur, iftar and ghabga.
The Blessings of Ramadans in the Past
Ahmad Abdullah Al Sulaiti speaks on the scarcity of food in the past and how Ramadan was different. It was a month where food was plentiful.
Neighbours would send food to one another and you may even develop a preference for different neighbour's versions of these traditional dishes. Fruits were rare until Qatar Petroleum came into existence, at which point a variety of fruits were slowly introduced.
Al-iftar is the meal at which the fast is broken after athan al-maghrib (the announcement of dusk). Minutes before iftar, it is customary to make du’a’ (a prayer) and istighfar (repentance) until al-adhan (the prayer announcement for maghrib).
Those fasting typically then say bismillah (in the name of God), have a few dates and drink some coffee. Some people would then undertake their maghrib (dusk) prayers and then complete their iftar in line with sunnah (tradition) of the prophet Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him. It is customary to have an open majlis during the month of Ramadan in which the head of the house sits and receives family and neighbours during iftar. In traditional Qatari houses, men and women sit to have iftar separately.
Ghabga is a historical and social tradition in the Gulf that has been revived since the beginning of the twentieth century. The origin of the word ghabga is ghabouk, which is an old Arabic word meaning late eating at night. It is considered one of the meals in Ramadan that lie between iftar and suhoor (dawn). People invite friends and family into their homes for a ghabga as an opportunity to enhance social bonding. Ghabga is often held after taraweeh (additional prayers after the evening prayer, which Muslims observe during Ramadan) between 11 pm - 2 am, so that it is easy for people to attend. One of the most famous meals eaten during a ghabga is Muhammar or Baranyoush which consists of fried local fish such as safi and rice cooked with sugar or molasses (date extract).
Al-Suhur is the morning meal during Ramadan before dawn. The family wakes up just before sunrise for the suhur meal before going to pray and work. Typical dishes include balaleet, eggs, dates and yogurt.
Shareefa Al Mohannadi says in Ramadan, people would break their fast with khubs rgag, harees and/or thareed. Meat and chicken were limited, so dishes with these ingredients were not common. Thareed was the most common dish.
Popular Ramadan Dishes
Shareefa Al Mohannadi lists popular Ramadan dishes in Qatar: harees, thareed, sagoo, nashaa, and luqaimat.
Sweet Ramadan Staples
During Ramadan, traditional desserts such as luqaimat, sagoo, assidah, and khanfaroosh would be made and enjoyed after iftar.
Luqaimat is a sweet dish, which in Arabic means ‘bites,’ and is made of tiny dough balls deep fried and covered with a sweet, sticky syrup. It is prepared with kneaded flour, water, yeast and oil.
Saqoo is a pudding prepared with water, sugar, turmeric and saqoo seeds or sagoo pearls. The sagoo seeds are soaked in water, left on the fire until caramelized. Then oil, hail (cardamom) and saffron are added.
Assidah is similar to a sweet porridge and is made with flour, oil, and sugar.
Khanfaroosh is a Qatari ‘donut’. It is a fried cake made from rice powder and flour
Special Invitation to Garangao
Garangao is a child-centred custom celebrated in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan. Children excitedly go around their neighbourhood whilst singing songs and receiving sweets, dried fruit and nuts from their family and neighbours.
The bukhnaq (head dress) is a translucent hijab that covers the head and shoulders. It is a traditional garment worn by young girls. The everyday bukhnaqs would have simple embroidery, whereas for celebrations it would be heavily embroidered and worn with a gold piece of jewellery, known as the Hilali. Nowadays the bukhnaq is only worn by young girls during garangao.
Young Girls Dressed Up for Eid Celebrations in Doha (20th century) by UnkownNational Museum of Qatar
Murada is a traditional dance performed by women and girls during Eid as well as on other special occasions.
On the day of Eid, people gather for early prayers and then spend the rest of the day with family and friends. Preparations for Eid usually start 10 - 14 days before the end of Ramadan.
Men Sharing a Meal (20th century) by Jette BangNational Museum of Qatar
The name given to this eid, “Aldha”, means sacrifice. Sheep are sacrificed and cooked with rice to make machboos. The slaughtered meat is traditionally divided into thirds: one for the person presenting the animal, one for relatives and one for the needy.
Festivities last four days, with celebrations including gathering, feasting, and the wearing of new clothes and jewellery. Usually families would have a lot of meat left over during this time and would dry the meat ad save it for the months to come. The dry meat was normally consumed during the winter months when there was less prey around to hunt.
Special Invitation to Eid Al-Fitr
Eid Al-Fitr is the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. It is a time for reaffirming family and neighbourhood ties through visits, the exchanging of food and the giving of gifts and wishes. Food is distributed to the community and money is given to children. People, especially children, wear new clothes representing their renewal.
Special Invitation to Eid Al-Adha
Eid Al-Adha is celebrated in honour of the prophet Ibrahim. The name translates to the feast of sacrifice. Muslims sacrifice an animal during Eid Al-Adha as a sign of gratitude to God for saving the Prophet Ismail’s life.
Sharing Meals During Eid Al-Adha
Moza Al Bader remembers how every house would slaughter meat for Eid Al-Adha and then share a portion of their Adh'hiyah with the neighborhood.
Celebrations Beyond Food
In addition to food, a large aspect of celebrations was the jewellery adorned by young girls and women.
Khilkhal (ankle bracelet) would have been worn by young girls both for celebrations and for everyday life. Jewellery pieces such as this would have been worn on multiple celebratory occasions such as Eid, garangao and weddings.
Mirayyah um-hilal (half-moon shaped) is a very common symbol in Islam, as well as, Qatari jewellery. This necklace would have been worn by both young and older women in 1930s and is still worn today.
Hilali (crescent) is a gold jewellery head piece worn by girls and young women. It is attached to the bukhnaq (Head cover) or the hair at the parting.
The earrings are handmade using gold, gemstones, and glass. The earrings are typical to these that would have been worn by young girls.
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Qatar's Culinary Journey includes media from the National Museum of Qatar's digital archive, the Moesgaard Museum and special contributions from Chef Damen Leroux, Chef Noof Al Marri and Deborah A. Klatt, The Cooking Academy: Chef Aisha Al Tamimi & Mohamed Abdulmalik, Chef Noor Al Mazroei.
© The National Museum of Qatar and Moesgaard Museum.