JEDDAH: The Ramadan Nights festival is back with record crowds as thousands flock to historic Jeddah to enjoy a range of activities.
With its decorated streets and ancient and historic passageways, Jeddah’s Al-Balad district, one of people’s favorite places to go during the holy month due to its festive atmosphere, has seen the return of the festival of Ramadan under this year’s theme “Every day a story.”
Visitors to the event, which kicked off on April 10 and will run until May 6, will be able to enjoy the interactive, educational and entertaining sections for all ages.
There are crowds at night because the festival has many attractions.
People gather around the stalls to taste delicious Hijazi dishes such as baleela (chickpeas) and kibda (fried liver).
Other sections focus on crafts, educational workshops, traditional storytelling, art exhibitions, cultural lectures, live folk art performances and traditional games played by children and old men, including carrom and dominoes.
There’s also the Kids’ Corner where younger visitors are entertained with activities such as storytelling, mini art sessions, coloring contests, crafts and a range of other exciting options.
The festival also offers multiple workshops such as introducing the basics of Arabic calligraphy and woodturning, and learning how to draw Jeddah’s historical buildings with acrylic colors.
In one of the corners of the old Al-Sham district, an educational section features renowned authors, poets, designers, producers and artists who share their experience of how they have transformed their lives and careers in through daily discussions organized by Bab Alheraf.
Family and friends travel the busy roads of the historic district to enjoy the beautiful nights and experience the delicious traditional food and drink.
Shops for coffee lovers are located in the old renovated buildings of the historic district.
Several historical houses are open to the public to show how the Hijazi families lived in Al-Balad. To learn more about these families before entering the houses, visitors can find tourist guides that provide information on the history of the owners.
“The Ramadan festival in Al-Balad has become a seasonal event and one of Jeddah’s top destinations due to its amazing atmosphere and entertaining activities,” Abdul Hadi Al-Qahtani said.
The 28-year-old, who came to Al-Balad with his friends, added: “With the new activities this year, the Ramadan festival is undoubtedly the best destination for families and individuals who wish to spend their evenings of Ramadan for entertainment and shopping. The event is also packed with fun-for-all activities to cement Jeddah’s position as a top family destination.
For Saeed Al-Abdalli, Ramadan evenings during the holy month in Al-Balad are different from any other time of the year as he does his shopping and enjoys the festive atmosphere of Ramadan. “When Ramadan comes, we always look forward to going to the historic area (Al-Balad) because that’s the place where you can feel the vibes of Ramadan,” he said.
Saeed Ba Bakeer, who was sitting with his family enjoying the famous balila when approached by Arab News, said, “I always enjoy the special Ramadan atmosphere here at Al-Balad, and it’s a must visit for me and my family.
In one of the most attractive sections of Al-Balad, stall owners can be heard from afar shouting out their offerings while encouraging customers to try their food. Most of the vendors at the food stalls wear Hijazi attire, including a white thobe, turban and vest, as a mark of their deep-rooted customs and traditions.
Dressed in traditional Hijazi clothing, Mohammed Al-Dardirri, who stirred sizzling trays of minced liver and sang old Hijazi songs aloud to attract customers, told Arab News that he and other stall owners were very happy to revisit the festival in Al-Balad after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus.
The large number of stalls lined up in front of Al-Mahmal Center remain open until midnight. Booth owner Hassan Mutbagani said this year’s festival is much bigger and better organised.
The old city center looks like a big restoration workshop as the Saudi Ministry of Culture restores old mosques, buildings and traditional markets, most of which are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.