Art & Culture

Afghanistan: Herat residents preserve historic ‘Ramazan Khwani’ tradition

In Herat, a city in the west of Afghanistan, the historic practice of “Ramazan Khwani,” or Ramadan singing, continues to be a vibrant aspect of cultural life, cherished for hundreds of years by its residents.

This tradition sees groups of Herat’s inhabitants, predominantly young people, come together during the nights of Ramadan to sing aloud on the streets. Their repertoire includes traditional poems that praise the month of Ramadan, such as: “Ramadan, Oh almighty Allah Ramadan, Aslam Alikom Ramadan; Ramadan is our guest for 30 nights, Ramadan is the strength of our faith.” They also venture from house to house, serenading families with verses that evoke tales of kings and hidden treasures beneath staircases.

Ghulam Faroq Sarkhosh, a noted cinema actor and theater member from Herat, spoke about the intent behind this cultural expression. “It was the first culture that approached the doorstep, singing songs to dispel the homeowner’s sorrow,” he remarked, highlighting the practice’s role in spreading joy.

University lecturer Basir Ahmad referred to Ramadan singing as emblematic of Herat’s “culture of tolerance.” He elaborated, “This tradition underscores the tolerance we observe in Herat. Even the act of some residents sprinkling water on the singers, alongside offering gifts and sweets, reflects a shared culture of tolerance and mutual respect.”

Homeowners traditionally welcome the singers with gifts of money, sweets, or food, and sometimes with playful sprinkles of water, embodying a deep-rooted tradition of hospitality and community spirit.

This cultural practice resonates deeply with every Herat resident, linking them to collective memories of Ramadan’s uplifting songs. “You have really reminded us of our youth memories,” said one local, moved by the visit from the evening’s singers. Another resident recalled, “I was resting when I heard your sweet voice. Waking up, I was transported back to my childhood. We used to roam the streets just like you, lantern and stick in hand, in a time before electricity.”

The tradition of Ramadan singing in Herat not only strengthens community bonds but also spans across Afghan provinces and even reaches into neighboring countries like Iran and Tajikistan, showcasing its enduring appeal and cultural significance.