Ending the holy month of Ramadan on a sweet note
Umrah visitors who make the journey to Makkah for spiritual rejuvenation are also given the opportunity to enjoy the delights of its cuisine.
And as Ramadan comes to an end, visitors are celebrating Eid Al-Fitr with a host of traditional sweet treats made by Makkawi hands.
Among the many delicacies enjoyed are laddu, labaniyah and ta’teema, all of which are traditional Hijazi sweets.
Fatima Qurban, founder of an association supporting productive families, said that Makkah sweets are the jewel of the region’s cuisine, and everyone is keen to buy and taste them.
She said: “We have the laddu made of yellow chickpeas; the labaniyah, one of the old popular sweets that adorned Makkah neighborhoods, in addition to the labaniyah made of milk and coconut and served in an atmosphere of joy that adds an extra something to occasions such as weddings and holidays.”
Qurban added that another essential during celebrations is maamoul, a traditional shortbread cookie made with special spices.
She said: “The current generation is interested in adding new flavors [to this], such as vanilla and chocolate, and some enhancers and colors.
“Another sweet item that Makkah families used to make is mushabbak, fried fritters formed of intertwined and overlapping lines of dough, presented at social events and weddings.
“Pilgrims are keen to buy mushabbak from small market shops in Makkah, giving them a taste of this place’s culinary heritage.”
Rawya Farea, who specializes in making maamoul, said that the cookies used to be served exclusively during holidays and religious celebrations, but now have become more common due to an increase in demand.
Makkah families know the secret of making these delicious items and produce them using ingredients and methods handed down through the ages.
Farea said that Makkah sweets have a character of their own and are a part of the region’s culture and heritage.
The sweets are present at all mealtimes and Makkawi maamoul is a staple at the iftar table.
Sweets play a big part in the seasons of Umrah and Hajj, with visitors sampling the culinary delights when visiting Makkah.
Confectioner Manal Ibrahim said that Saudi cuisine is one of the features in the hotels of Makkah, and its sweets have become a big part of that experience.
The best and most skilled confectioners have established sweets as a main dish on their tables, and have become the ambassadors of the treats for pilgrims and Umrah visitors.
The products have nutritional value, containing sugar, milk, and animal ghee. Their shelf life is short as they are free of preservatives, so they are consumed on a daily basis.
Many visitors and Umrah pilgrims rush to buy the treats not only for their taste, but to help preserve the area’s cultural heritage.