While we are indulging in Ramadan with its spirit, gatherings, foods and traditions, have you ever wondered why and where did our traditional Ramadan come from? Why is the fanoos the symbol of Ramadan? Why do we eat certain foods only in Ramadan?
Qamar Al-din is a juice prepared from dried apricot paste and rose water. The origin of qamar al-din can be traced to Syria and from there it spread to many parts of the Middle East and North Africa. *There are many reasons why this drink has been named “qamar el deen”. One version states that the man who invented the process was called Qamar al-Din, hence he named it after himself. It’s said that he was so handsome that he looked like the moon and his mother decided to name him that. Another version states that the dried apricot paste becomes available in the market with the sighting of the new moon of the month of Ramadan, which marks the beginning of the month of fasting. Tulumba, or as we know it, balah el sham or asabee Zainab, originated from the Ottoman Empire as well. Kunafa originated way back in the Ottoman Empire. Kunafa can be made in very different ways. For example, in Palestine and other Arab countries, Kunafa is called Nabulsieh.
Of course there’s more to Ramadan than just foods. Have you ever wondered why and how the Fanos came to be a symbolic icon of Ramadan? While we only use it for decoration and as a gift for little children, there’s more to the fanos than you know. It is said that the Fanos was the means of light, just like the modern flashlight today, that was used by early Muslims to light their way while going to the mosque during the night. The word “fanos” originates from the Greek language, which literally means a way of light. Another story tells that the utilization of the fanos during Ramadan dates way back to a khalifah. This khalifah would use the fanos during the night to view the crescent and to decide if Ramadan has started. Meanwhile, children would go out with him while having a fanos at hand to help light his way and they would also sing to express their happiness that Ramadan is near.
Why we hang up the fanos in the streets is said to have started in Cairo. One of the khalifahs wanted the streets of Cairo to stay lite during the holy month, so he ordered all the sheikhs of the mosques to hang up fawanees everywhere. It is also said that the first people to have ever used the fawanees were Egyptians. Other stories say that the fanos was also used by men to indicate to people in the street that their wives were walking by so that other men would give her space and let her walk by freely, without looking at her or bothering her.
Discovering the stories behind our Ramadan traditions really proves how much we respect and love our culture even though we do not really usually know where they originated from or when they started. Traditional stories usually help us appreciate our heritage more and learn more about our religion and ancestors.