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Sunday 02 June ,2019

The National Archives documents the Eid customs and rituals in the past

Through oral history interviews

The National Archives documents the Eid customs and rituals in the past

The National Archives has documented the rituals and customs of the Eid in the UAE in the past as part of the mission of its Oral History Section, where researchers and specialists conduct interviews with the elderly, whose memory is a rich historical reference and database filled with historical events. Oral history interviews document accounts that complement the diverse historical documents that enrich the memory of the nation with the achievements of our ancestors, as well as with the customs and traditions of the people of the Emirates, and preserve for future generations, to enhance cultural development and promote national identity.

The Eid rituals and customs deserve this attention from the National Archives of the UAE, since Eid is one of the most important religious and social events that bring joy and happiness to peoples. In the UAE, Eid always had rich elaborate rituals, traditions and customs, being a celebrated joyous occasion that strengthens social ties and cohesion.

Crescent detection:

“The elderly were the ones who designate the beginning of Ramadan and Eid, so if one living outside urban areas saw the crescent, he would immediately start firing his Tifaq (rifle) in the air”, said Saif Issa Al Mansouri from Abu Dhabi. “Thus we know that they detected the crescent, and fasting begins. And the same applied for the Eid”.

Whereas Sghaira Shnain Al Falahi added: “In the past, the wealthy people used to cook rice and meat for Eid, while some other houses served Khabis, Balalit, Thareed and ‘Irsiyya, as Eid hospitality food items”.

Eid clothes and jewelry:

About the traditional dress, an elderly female narrator says: “There were no tailors; we used to manually sew the clothes with our own hands in the light of the Fanar (lantern) at night. We used to start the sewing process about one month before Eid so the dress could be ready on Eid day. The same dress would be used in the future during Eid and wedding celebrations. Each woman would prepare only one dress for Eid, and we used to wash our clothes manually. Women would dye their hands and feet with Henna before Eid and wear their gold necklaces, bracelets, and Kuwashi on the day of Eid”.

Eidiya and Eid food festivities:

“We used to be very happy on the occasion of Eid”, says Sheikha Obeid Al Dhahiri from Al Ain. “We used to look for Eidiya (Eid gift, usually money), visiting houses of the neighborhood, upon which we were given a rupee or half a rupee as Eidiya, and it was worth it for us. We used to go to the Souq (market) to purchase Crush and Fanta (carbonated soft-drinks) and red bubble-gum balls”.

During Sheikh Zayed's reign:

Ali Rashid Mohammed Al Neyadi from Al Ain says: “During the reign of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Al Ayyala concerts (traditional dance) were held in Al Muraba'a (the square, at the center of the city of Al Ain)”. This account is confirmed by the narrator Muhibba Hamad Rashid Al Dhahiri from Al Ain, who says: “We used to enjoy watching Al Ayyala, which was performed with poetry and songs accompanied by Tubool and Dufoof (drum) beats”.

She added: “We used to collect money from women and give it all to a father of one of the girls to make Dirfana (a swing)”. Rafee’a Mohammed Al Khmairi from Abu Dhabi says: “After the Eid prayer, we roamed among the neighbors' houses to get Eidiya, one or two Anna coins, (small currency unit formerly used in India and Pakistan, equal to 1⁄16 of a rupee). Sometimes the Eidiya came in the form of sweets also. Then we would go back to our houses. The families used to visit each other during Eid. I used to love playing on the swing. We used to play the whole day from early morning until sunset.  We used to play on this swing throughout the three days of Eid”.

Mubarak Mohammed Bin Jarash Al Khaili from Al Ain says: “On the morning of the Eid day, each one would dress his children in their best clothes. Men gather and look for a high place, where one of the neighbors who memorized the Koran would lead them for Eid prayer in the early morning. Women would pray behind men. After prayer, people would congratulate each other and return to their respective homes carrying Fualat Al Eid (a light meal offered to guests). During Eid, some people might have meat, while others prepare Harees, Aseed, or other types of food. Neighbors, even distant ones, always called on each other on Eid days”.

This is confirmed by Fatima Obaid Ali Musalam, who says: “People enjoyed cordial friendly relations, as they ate together during Eid celebrations”. About his memories and recollection of Eid celebrations, Salem Saeed Khalfan Bin Hudairem Al Kutbi from Al Ain says: “During Eid, camel races were held where the prizes came in the form of a Wezar (loin-cloth), or Ghotra (head-covering cloth). The race used to take place after the Eid prayer and the winning camel used to be saffron- painted. There was no specific route dedicated for the race, only a vast uneven sandy road”.

In the book entitled, (Their Memory Our History), issued by the National Archives, Ahmed Nasser Bin Lootah from Dubai says, as he remembers Eid celebrations: “During our celebrations of social events, I remember that women would challenge each other when cooking Harees, which is a common traditional and popular dish in Ramadan. During Eid, we used to make Al Mraihana (swing) by tying strong ropes between two strong palm trees. During Eid prayer, women would stand behind men, and then gather to talk together, while the girls played on Al Mraihana, and share laughs in expression of their happiness and joy on the occasion of Eid”.

The narrator went on saying: “I remember that there was an old Souq (market) called “Khallas Khallas” where we used to go to play and buy sweets and Gubbait (sweet). I remember one kind of sweets made from melted sugar mixed with flour, and it was sold for one or two paise coins (a unit of currency equaling1⁄100 of the Indian rupee). This Souq was held during Eid only, and once it ends, everyone goes back to his town”.