Old & New Traditions in Hadramaut [Archives:2001/50/Culture]

December 10 2001

Ramadan has a special flavor, represented by the different activities conducted during all of its 30 days. One of the peculiarities of Hadramaut is “musaharati,” which is the name given to a person who walks in residential areas to wake people up and to take them their food before morning prayers. Moreover, the reuniting of families is rampant during this month, as people love to visit their friends and relatives.
Hadramaut has a long history of “musaharati.” In fact, the city of Mukala has been able to retain old traditions, among which is musaharati, who would walk and beat the drum to notify the residents that it is time to eat sahoor (a meal eaten before the beginning of the fast). Famous musahartis’ names have long remained in the memories of the people of Hadramaut. The first musaharati known in Hadramaut is probably Juma’an Awadh Musaya’an. Juma’an used to go through all the districts of Mukala and call their residents by name. Juma’an was accompanied by two other people who help him in beating the drums and would sing with him some verses which were composed by famous Yemeni poets for this occasion. Mukala also used to have other musaharati, such as the poet Mohammed Faraj Banabua’a. Banabua’a used to stand in front of each house in Mukala and call its residents by name. Interestingly, it is part of the tradition of musaharati in Mukala to start his round from the house of the imam and then walk to nearly every house in the city.
The cannon used to mark the end of the day of fasting is still one of the most distinguished characteristics of the month of Ramadan in Hadramaut. Families sit together awaiting the sound of the cannon and reciting verses from the Holy Quran. The use of cannons for marking the end of the day of fasting most probably dates back to the Kassadid Dynasty, established in Mukala in 1876. When children in Hadramaut see the muezzin mounting the mosque, mihrab children would start chanting a famous long lyric.
The meals of the month of Ramadan in Hodeidah are diversified to satisfy all tastes. Hadramauti kitchens combine both old and modern utensils. A dome-like protrusion on the upper floor of the Hadramauti house is always the location of the kitchen. In most Hadramauti homes, one would find that fish and rice are the most preferred meals for the people of Hadramaut, perhaps served at all meals of the day. Undoubtedly, many foreign foods have entered Hadramaut, particularly as Mukala hosts many foreign communities that have their own special foods.
The people of Hadramaut are so kind and lovable. One can feel this amicability during a short visit to Hadramaut. Houses are built in a very distinguished way, as houses are attached to each other deliberately to maintain the utmost contact with each other. Moreover, during the holy month of Ramadan families care much more for their neighbors.