Lockdown fails to break high spirits as Omanis celebrate Qaranqasho tradition

Children enjoyed lights and sweets and saw relatives over Zoom

Qaranqasho celebrations in Omani homes. Photos: Saleh Al-Shaibany
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Omani children celebrated the Ramadan tradition of Qaranqasho on Wednesday, using Zoom calls to mark the social occasion because of the country's night-time lockdown.

Qaranqasho is an Omani tradition celebrated in the middle of Ramadan every year.

Usually, children go out in the streets in groups after iftar wearing special clothes to sing popular songs and share presents with each other.

But this year, with a lockdown that runs between 9pm and 4am and the need to avoid public gatherings, families celebrated indoors.

"Though we cannot all be together, we had cousins and extended families celebrating via Zoom. It has never been done before but we had to make the best of it to keep the old tradition going," said Khalfan Al Aisri, 38, a father of four children.

The front doors and even the outer walls of homes were decorated with lanterns and gold and silver ribbons in the shape of the crescent moon.

Businesses and schools also take part, often setting up stalls in the malls distributing gifts to children.

But this also moved online, and many companies in Oman sent gifts to children living near by.

Muscat’s Modern College of Business and Science has contributed to Qaranqasho celebrations for the past 20 years.

Said Nasser, head of marketing at MCBS, told The National: "Since we could not hold the celebration at the campus this year, we sent gifts to children at their homes. We could not let Qaranqasho pass this year without doing anything, just because of the pandemic.

“We monitored online the celebrations to the homes where we sent gifts,” he said.

“It was good to see children smile and laugh when they were opening gifts.”

For many, it was the first time in living memory that Omanis celebrated Qaranqasho at home, and for some, it was not quite the same.

"It is not the same this year. Streets come alive in the middle of Ramadan after sunset. Neighbours exchange gifts as they walk from one house to another," said Saja Al Masroori, 36, a mother of three, who lives in Muscat

"There would be music in the town centres, marketplaces, beaches or parks. With the current 9pm lockdown, the streets are strangely deserted in the middle of Ramadan.”

But laughter and music could still be heard coming from homes in Muscat.

Although children missed the outdoor celebrations of previous years, they said they still enjoyed the occasion.

“We have plenty of gifts. Our neighbours and relatives sent the gifts to our homes during the day but we opened them after the iftar,” said Khalaf Al Gaithy, 12.

“We celebrated it in the garden with music, lights and plenty of sweets.”