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Kuwait’s Ramadan Iftar Cannon

KUWAIT: The cannon fired daily during Ramadan at Naif Palace to signal the end of the fast at Maghrib. — Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

Ramadan is a time that unites Muslims around the world, with communities in every country adopting similar daily routines of fasting, followed by Iftar and then Suhoor – with charity, prayer and time with their family, all playing an important role. Ramadan has many rich traditions which support Muslims in their fasting, developed over many centuries. They evoke a very special spiritual time, and often trigger nostalgia and emotion.

One of the famous traditions in Kuwait during the holy month of Ramadan is the firing of the cannon at Maghreb to notify worshippers that it is time to break their fast. The firing of the cannon Midfa Al-Iftar, which takes place daily at Naif Palace in Kuwait City, attracts dozens of families and children daily, and is broadcast live on Kuwait TV and radio.

Fawzy Al-Shayeb, 52 years old Egyptian, decided to come with his children to enjoy the Ramadan atmosphere. “Ramadan’s Cannon reminds us of the Egypt atmosphere where we also waited for the firing to break our fast. It is more like nostalgia.” Shayeb added that the children got to see some heritage and history of the place, where the open yard in the palace is filled with vintage cars and traditional garb for children “kids are allowed to play in and around the cannon. They were then asked to step back for safety as soldiers’ fire it off.”

Kawthar Abu-Nasr, a Palestinian housewife, 38 years old, expressed her happiness to participate in such activities as it allows Kuwaitis and expats to share beautiful moments in Ramadan. Abu-Nasr came with her neighbors and some relatives to experience the tradition of Ramadan. “Large crowds flock to visit the Palace of Naif to take pictures, participate in competitions and live television events. To give them that ancient heritage moment and watch the breakfast cannon,” she said.

She pointed out that she was amazed by the place where many companies participated to prepare Iftar and Gergean for the children. Adding, “We did it to change our daily routine; and to wave to our families back home. It is not a bad thing to be on live broadcast on Kuwait television channel and radio.”

“I’ve been meaning to witness this ceremony from a long time now and last week a couple of friends and I headed to Naif Palace to see it in person. The firing takes place inside the courtyard and its best to get there by 5:30 pm because it is crowded and the canon is fired exactly at the time of the Maghrib prayer,” Emad El-Saman.

Saman decided to go with his friends who are into photography to take pictures during the firing of the cannon. He said that Kuwait has many unique places waiting to be discovered and his camera’s job is to see the unseen beauty of Kuwait. “Kuwait not only has malls and cafes. The Iftar cannon maintains the inherent traditional colors. Kuwaiti tradition is quite old, the firing of the cannon attracts many children and families daily,” he noted.

Naif Palace was built in 1919 under the reign of Sheikh Salem Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah. The first cannon in Kuwait came under the rule of Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah in 1907. The cannon was a gift from the Governor of Iran at that time, it was located near the sea at the Seef Palace and was later moved in the 1930s to the Palace of Naif. It is worth mentioning that the current cannon in Naif Palace came as a pledge from the Kingdom of Bahrain in 1992, a 25-pound English manufacture. The firing is conducted by three uniformed guards in red livery.

The first city to fire a Ramadan cannon was Cairo in the era of the Mamluks, during the reign of Sultan Khashukdume (865/872 Hijri). As the story goes, he wanted to try one of his new cannons and the experiment coincided with the time of Maghreb prayers during Ramadan. Residents’ throughout the sultanate purposely fired the cannon to notify worshipers. Prominent figures and the elite of society went to the sultan and thanked him for his kind gesture, and the tradition continues until this day.

By Faten Omar

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