Jiddah Local Custom Tips by Manyana Top 5 Page for this destination
Jiddah Local Customs: 84 reviews and 92 photos
I recently have been to a Sufi service which is quite commong among the Sufi community men and women respectively. Since it's mainly a segregated culture when it comes to conducting such services, it's always women-only the events i attend. i've been to several religious services, Anglican, Catholic, Hindu and some few spiritual services while travelling. But this kind of meetings are more social and identity-reaffirming than anything else.
women usually get together from time to time, have a religious service, then finish their evening with a chat and dinner.
These meetings serve different purposes; celebrating the birthdate of the Prophet is one of the big services; performing prayers upon individual requests mainly for marriage, illness or school or work performance; or giving a small talk on religion in relation to women's issues such as fasting and menstruation, marital relationships, superstition or what society is out to speak about. They are always conducted in groups where friends and acquaintances can be invited over such evenings. The age group of attendees is usually 40+ though the young generation, like myself, may attend but not as a regular habit.
The nature of such activities involves religous chanting, dressing up, and lending a hand in preparing the after-meeting meal. Many women contribute to making the dinner by making a dish or two and giving it to the house mistress or the lady who's in charge.
i guess this's one of the way how saudi women socialise and get to know each other as friends and acquaintances. religion certainly is the master that brings the social units together. do you know why religion has such an important value in saudi life?
shisha used to be my baby,lool
i guess every reader is aware that Saudia has got the highest birth rate in the world. perhaps Saudis are so proud of it, being the first generator (or exporter,lol) of human babies and resources, well at least we're the first in something!
In Hijaz or the western region, receiving a new a newborn baby is something everyone may talk about especially if it's the first baby in the family. This goes back to the islamic tradition established by the Prophet Mohammed 1400 years ago. There are several rituals to perform when having a new baby, whether the first or third; animal sacrifice, shaving the baby's hair, and naming the baby of course.
The animal sacrifice varies depending on the sex of the baby. If it was a boy, then two sheep should be sacrificed. If it's a girl, then it should be only one sheep. Then a big fest should be made celebrating this big event.
Many Saudis still shave the whole baby's head in the first week or so. It was done by the Prophet so people still do it. The hair shaved should be weighed and then the equivalent cost of that weight should be given to charity. It's believed by the majority this ritual strengthens the baby's health and intelligence. I don't think my hair was shaved when I was born, no wonder I am dummy sometimes;^)
Also to give a name to the baby is rooted in Islamic traditions. The baby has a naming ceremony (unofficial); the head of the family, be it grandparent, should say Islamic Azan each ear of the baby. Then say, 'You shall be named X, following the sunna of the Prophet', given the hope the baby will be raised as Muslim, or so as i know.
i'm not aware of such things are taken seriously anymore, but i find it quite interesting! well, another thing, i cannot tolerate kids nor am i someone's baby. wonder why i still am saudi,lol
my indian tattoo
this seems to be a long tradition that has originated in arabia but certainly not from jeddah. it's a mixture of henna and water i think. then, it's stirred and mixed in a bowl to make it a thick texture and then poured into a materlia tube, ready for squeezing and drawing.
i always hated the smell of henna and the colour it gets when it starts to fade away, ie, light orange. although i'm not a tattoo person, but henna seems to be a good option for a temp fashion that lasts for few days. i got my first and last tattoo in india, 2004!! wonder!
here in jeddah it's becoming a popular fashion at schools, weddings or any occasion. Lower-back, neck, shoulders and belly-button drawings are quite common. the tradition used to be for the bride's preparation. she used to be tattooed top-to-toe, hands, arms and feet. the bride was usually presented with a catalogue of drawings. she had to prepare for her wedding night one week in advance. that meant, to stay 'hidden' at home for one week not seeing any people but only the very close relatives. well, this's what mother told me, so the bride would have a really impressive Tallah, surprising coming-out to the guests on her wedding night, as she kept everyone waiting!
this tradition is no longer practised, nor i heard if anyone has done it recently, but certainly would love to see such a thing, and do a touristy thing in my own hometown;^)
traditional long sleeve
i find this quite astonishing when women dress up in thobes with long sleeves specially in ramadan whether they are in work, school or occasions. there are even women who buy and keep special thobes in order to wear them in ramadan from one year to the next! they are usually fancy dresses or well-embroidered, usually have a traditional look, either saudi, palestinian or just hijazi thobes, which i'm not quite familiar with. i myself have 3 or 4 though i'm not a big fan of women's thobes.
i think it's a cultural phenomenon to wear such thobes and walk with crystal or pearl rosary in hand and a miswak stick in the mouth. it's quite compelling as you just find yourself indulging this cultural quick change in ramadan. interesting!
well add more pics later
although i have spent most of my life in jeddah, i never thought of what the national dish could be or what jeddawi people eat in everyday life. perhaps i take everything for granted when it comes to food; if it's available, i just eat. if it's not, i just go to bed, easygoing!
surprisingly, there is no 'saudi' dish that is considered national or popular in jeddah or across the Hijaz region. lunch meal, which is the main meal, usually consists of international food, such as pasta and macroni, chinese food and soup, steak in an american style or egyptian molokhiyya, lebanese grills and salad, turkish pies, or greek mosaqa. there's even no saudi restaurant for eat-in apart from those 2 or 3 restaurants for tourists, i reckon!
i believe this goes back to the vital location of jeddah and the religious openness of hijaz to other cultures. for the last 70 years, pilgrims have been pouring in and out and settled in this area and have brought with them their customs of food, marriage and music too. there is no such a national dish really but the daily meals definitely cover the egyptian molokhiyya and lebanese taboula;^)
the most popular dish, which is also known as Habeen al-Sha'ab 'the sweetheart of the masses', is foul and tamees. This is a combination of two things. foul is smashed, boiled beans, usually comes with chopped tomato if preferred. tamees is a big flat bread with lots of tiny holes in it, and it comes with different flavours and stuffing sometimes as well. this dish is eaten by hand. you must take a piece of the tamees to sweep a bit of the foul with your hand, and have it as a small bite. FYI, this dish immigrated to jeddah and Hijaz with Afghani pilgrims and since then it has become Habeeb al-Sha'ab;^)
they often say, the table is empty if there's no foul served, especially in ramadan, which is absolutely true!
last time i ate foul when i was 2 years old and found out that i was allergic to fava beans, but i absolutely love tamees and eat it with almost everything, cheese, boiled potato, egg...etc. that's my Habeebi,lol
its divided into 2 steps:The burial: the deceased, Islamically, should be buried ASAP as a sign of honouring them by giving them home. the deceased's body must be washed in a certain way by family members or as recommended in their will, and dressed in a white towel, be brought to a mosque to be prayed upon, &held for burial. The Consolation: there're 2sections for the funeral attendees, women’s section &the men’s. Men are seated in a reserved area, furnished by red carpets &chairs in rows. This area is on the street alley where the house of the deceased’s family. the street will be blocked for cars to pass by. Women accommodated inside the house and under the air conditioners! Chairs in rows served. Women keep their black abaya &scarves on all the time. not sure why if it has religious/social significance, maybe a sign of respect &sympathy. close relatives of the deceased seated in the 1st row that faces the other chairs, wearing white scarves &clothing. Women attendees walk in the room 1by 1 to offer consolation to each one of the women in that row. The usual Islamic saying is ‘Azzama Allah ajrakom o rahima mayitakom’, ‘God bless you and have mercy upon the deceased'. Then these women find their way to one of the seats, sit for few minutes, then free to leave. Usually a tape recorder of Quran is recited both in women’s section and men’s respectively. In few minutes when people start to pack in, a woman of the attendees may volunteer to make a religious speech and a brief prayer service for the family and the deceased. Usually this speech goes around afterlife reward and divine promises for the loss and for the deceased, &then it ends with a prayer. Aza usually starts at 7pm or after Maghrib prayer time and last for 3 days continuously. Relatives or friends of the family usually stay until the dinner is served which is about 9:30pm or after Isha. Interesting! Aza doesnt mean ‘funeral’ but literally means ‘consolation’ &its the event where everyone has the chance to come and to show sympathy.
i think this subject is every groom's nightmare. The groom, in Jeddah or western saudi as far as i know, is supposed to prepare for the whole wedding process, financially. that means, to pay for flat rent, get jewels and presents, and most important to pay the legal Mahir or dowry to the bride.
there's no minimum or maximum for the dowry. but there's definitely a classification. if the bride is virgin and first-time wife-to-be, then her dowry should be higher than second-time brides. The convention for first-timers of middle-class is SR20,000 to SR35,000 excluding the jewels and all the other presents, while it ranges between SR10,000 to SR15,000. I honestly don't know if this range is still being practised but what I heard when i was a kid,lol. i should ask my sister when she gets married, how much she wanna charge,lol.
i don't agree with all this hustle and burden thrown on the groom's shoulders. definitely you don't want to freak out your beloved wed husband, though you do hear these stories where brides set their dowries as SR10 only!
The custom of dowry goes back to the Islamic tradition of Mahir where first set by the Prophet Mohammed, as a sign of respect to the bride and her family. women used to be equal to dirt those days and paying her a dowry had indeed given her some dignity, as you cannot pay for dirt!
anyhow, although woman's status in arabia of course has changed considerably, i don't bother about any of these customs. just observe from a distance and say, 'interesting';^)
When I wanted to apply for jobs in the UK, I faced this tricky Equal Opprotunities forms:
Tick the appropriate box
(Ethnic background: White/Asian/Chinese/Black/Other)
I always stopped at this question and failed to give one-thing answer!
Jeddah, my sweet home, is like this. The Hijaz Region or the western province has been welcoming Muslim pilgrims from everywhere, literally everywhere for the last 1400 years! Some pilgrims have settled down in Arabia. Others have held good memories from the Holy Land. They have met, mixed and then got married. I can say around 75% of the Hijazi population are mixed people; Indian, African, Chinese, Syrian, Persian, Moroccan, Indonesian, Turkish, Yemeni and probably different mixtures I am not aware of.
We -Hijazis- often make fun of ourselves. Like we say, 'Jeddawi people are Tarsh Bahar' lit. Sea foam, or 'Bagaya Hujjaj' lit the waste of immigrant pilgrims. Honestly to say, some people take this as a racia offense but at the end of the day, we are all the same...who's discriminating against who?:D Because of our mixed races and traditions and intermarriages, the Arabic dialect we speak has become very distinctive compared to the Central or Bedouin dialect in the rest of Saudi Arabia. Our dialect (Hijaziyya) is often called medalla'a, lit. soft. It is very stretched and soft-spoken. I find it fascinating that how openness in traditions can influence the emergence of language. It is like Old English of Shakespear and Modern English of Americans.
I look Malaysian, speak English, have Turkish, Egyptian and Yemeni blood but I am simply from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. My paternal great grandfather was Malaysian. My maternal great grandmother was Egyptian. Some even tell me that my mother has Turkish blood, and even Yemeni. My box is ticked--just cannot be one-thing but 'Mixed-Other':D
romance in jeddah,a
This is the 'only' and 'best' excuse you will always hear, 'why women should wear veil and cover their faces'...whether you are a woman or a man, you're the given this very same excuse. It took me more than 20 years to realise that this excuse is actually given by 'men' who are always afraid to describe the beauty of women...in fear of committing a sin (an Islamic belief), while women have, in response, obliged and covered, and even worse. Women have never dared to describe their love or admiration toward men in a physical description. Meaning, most Arabic/Saudi novels written always describe the feminine bodily beauty but not the masculine. Some of my female friends say, 'cause most novels are written by men'. True, but even female-written books shed very little light on men's beauty and only describe the shades, like his intellect, clothing, manners of smoking or holding cups! but never his tough cheeks, big hands,..etc.
So next time if you are a woman and asked to cover your hair/face, just say, 'why?' and you'll be given the answer.....then know what to say that you're not lesbian to be attracted by other women, 'give me another excuse, 'cause men should cover, they're seductive by nature too':^D
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