Ramadan in Mosul, Iraq is a unique experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the country. As the holy month approaches, people flock to the markets to prepare for the days of fasting. The oldest and most prominent market is Bab al-Saray in old Mosul.
Muhammad Ghanem, a 42-year-old spice shop owner at al-Attarin market in Bab al-Saray, explains that markets are always busier during Ramadan as people prepare for big family meals. He adds that this market attracts people because they can find everything they need there, including clothes, food, household items, and everything at cheap prices compared to other markets. Even people from neighbouring cities come to this market to shop during Ramadan.
One of the specialties of Ramadan in Mosul is raisin juice, made with the best raisins from the mountains of Iraq’s Kurdish region as well as fresh mint. This refreshing drink is a popular choice during iftar, the meal that breaks the fast at sunset.
Another unique feature of Ramadan in Mosul is the masaharati, or al-masharaji in the Iraqi dialect. This folkloric occupation is practised only during the holy month. A man walks through the alleyways of the old city beating his drum and calling loudly to fasting folk to wake up and have their suhoor meal before a day of fasting begins. The masaharati is also a feature of Ramadan in a number of other Muslim countries.
Ghufran Thamer, a 31-year-old Mosuli, roams the alleys of old Mosul to wake people up for suhoor for the sixth year in a row. He was the first to restore this Mosuli heritage after the city was liberated from the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.
The hakawati, or storyteller, is another popular figure during Ramadan in Mosul. This tradition dates back to the Ottoman era when storytellers would sit in public spaces to tell stories to passers-by who would stop and gather around to listen. The hakawati tells old stories he heard from his parents and grandparents, or stories someone wrote for him, or stories he writes himself. All of them are a source of wisdom and life lessons.
Ramadan in Mosul is a time of reflection, prayer, and community. The city has a rich history and culture that is reflected in its unique Ramadan traditions. From the bustling markets to the masaharati and the hakawati, Ramadan in Mosul is an experience like no other.