Monday, July 14, 2014

Ramandan 2014 – Day 14, Garangao at Katara

The evening of the 14th of Ramadan is the holiday of Garangao, when children in the Gulf traditionally went door-to-door where they were given sweets and nuts. In that respect it is similar to Halloween but the kids do not dress up in costumes. Girls typically wear brightly colored dresses while boys will wear a vest over their white thobe.

Nowadays various places in Qatar hold Garangao activities for children, one of the largest being at Katara. Children walk along the various streets of Katara and along the way there are stations where people give out candies and other treats. I arrived at Katara shortly after 7pm and there were already a lot of families lined up at the tables to get empty bags in preparation for the walk, along with a map showing the route.

People then lined up at the beginning. Despite how the picture looks it’s not a race so people were not running, that said volunteers were letting in small groups at the time so that the stations along the route wouldn’t suddenly be overwhelmed with dozens of people. The pathway was easy to follow as Katara staff roped off the side streets and had security guards posted along the way to make sure people didn't accidentally go off-track.

Children would go to the stations to collect treats,

And eventually wind up at the Katara Hall where there were activities.

Garangao at Katara gets more popular every year and I was really surprised by the crowds in the Hall. The only way I was even going to get into the activity room to take pictures was if I muscled my way in, so I didn’t try -- clearly the place was busy enough.

Families kept coming to Katara, with many Muslim families arriving around 9 or so after the tarawih prayers. Even at 9:30 there were families lined up at the rope and small groups being let through onto the walking route.

But that’s not the only thing that was going on in Katara. During Ramadan a number of exhibits, lectures, and activities are happening.

One of the main themes was astronomy. I went to a photography exhibition showing nighttime photography.

And there was a room with models of the planets as well as posters discussing each of the planets. I believe the planets were to scale compared to each other but were definitely not in scale comparison to how far apart they actually are from each other, you wouldn’t have been able to put them in a room otherwise (an old blog post of mine discusses just how crazy astronomical distances are)

Islam has a long tradition of astronomy and for many centuries the Islamic world was one of the most advanced in the field, with scientists from the Renaissance learning astronomy from the Islamic works. If you take a look at this picture of stars you'll note that most of the names are actually Arabic. Europeans kept most of the names given to the stars by the Islamic astronomers.

But there's other things in Katara as well. There was a gallery showing a number of Islamic antiques, including astrolabes.

And on the beach they set up a marketplace in the style of an old souq, where there are some traditional shops and a café. There is also a store selling all sorts of old electronics, which I thought was kind of cool.

Hopefully I will have the chance to go back to Katara later this month to catch some of the other events.

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