Going Gaga for ‘Ghabqas’

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

buffet2It sounds like some trendy new product to hit the market or the latest fad that will improve all aspects of life. However, a ‘ghabqa’ is nothing of the sort although it does unite people. By definition, a ‘ghabqa’ is a social and gastronomical event that brings people together to celebrate during the Holy Month of Ramadan. It is a cultural tradition of the minuscule Gulf nation of Kuwait. Kuwaitis have been putting on their own ghabqas for centuries.

The timeframe for most ghabqas is during the second half of Ramadan. However, the last ten days of Ramadan is when most people hold their ghabqas as the race to the end of the holy month has already begun. By all appearances, the ghabqa is an elaborate feast that features a buffet-style menu with all of the traditional trappings of local cuisine. A ghabqa is only as good as the entertainment, food and beverages served.

It use to be that families would host ghabqas either at home or in a large rented hall much to the delight of their friends and relatives. These days’ large Kuwaiti companies and corporations are also getting in on the act. Managers throw elaborate ghabqas at five-star hotels for their employees and their families.  Special invitations are also given out to preferred clients and their families as well. Reporters, and even local bloggers, are often invited to ensure that the event is covered in the press as well as social-media.

Unfortunately, corporate ghabqas are nothing more than marketing ventures used to entice brand loyalty within the country. Large placards, marketing materials and anything else emblazoned with the company logo is splattered all over the tables and amongst the buffet platters. The bright side of a corporate ghabqa is that guests are often treated to lavish gift bags that might contain an expensive watch, perfume or even pricey jewelry. The entertainment at a corporate ghabqa is second to none. Many corporations hire regional celebrities to perform on stage for the benefit of ghabqa guests.

The best place, however, to enjoy a ghabqa is with a private family. The event is much more relaxed and guests don’t have to compete with one another or spend the night networking. The best part of a private ghabqa held by a family is, of course, the children. Kids have the chance to spend time with their cousins or make new friends with the children of other guests. Special treats and tiny toys offered expressly for the smallest guests is what make a family-held ghabqa truly an event to remember.