GAZA CITY: Nizar Al-Dabbas, 51, has found fame in the role of Al-Musaharati in the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip where he has lived for 22 years.
Al-Musaharati is a person who volunteers to wake up Muslims in the middle of the night during Ramadan for sahoor.
Al-Dabbas dons a traditional galabiya, the famous black and white Palestinian keffiyeh, and wraps a red tarbush on his head, one of the signs of men’s elegance, before going out.
During Ramadan, every day at 2:00 a.m. Al-Dabbas walks the streets of Gaza beating his drum, singing folkloric songs and chanting poetry, which he learned as a child in Syria.
For him, there is no joy in Ramadan without Al-Musaharati: “It is a profession or voluntary work from the ancient Arab-Islamic heritage.”
Al-Dabbas is pleased that children carrying lanterns wait for him in front of their house or in the streets and alleys where he roams daily, to accompany him on his tour and chant songs with him.
Technological advancement has been a major reason for the decline of Al-Musaharati in recent years as people rely on mobile phones or alarm clocks to wake them up. Al-Dabbas feels the profession may die out in the future.
However, when he gets support from people and the children participate alongside him with drums and flutes, it motivates him to voluntarily take up the role of Al-Musaharati each year.
Al-Dabbas loves the profession, which he describes as “beautiful and earns its owner the great reward from God.”
When the children accompany him, it makes Al-Dabbas nostalgic about his childhood in Syria. “When I was of the same age, I would wait for my Syrian Al-Musaharati everyday and accompany him on his tour … and since then I inherited the love of this beautiful volunteer work associated with the most beautiful month of the year.”
Al-Dabbas was born in Syria and lived there with his family for about 29 years. Al-Dabbas said that while growing up there he decided with one of his brothers to work together as Al-Muasharati during Ramadan.
In 2000, Al-Dabbas came for a visit to Gaza with his family of 10, and decided to settle in the Qaizan Al-Najjar neighborhood in Khan Younis after spending many years in the Yarmouk refugee camp — the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria.
He worked in Syria as a Al-Musaharati for 15 years before coming to Gaza and still wears the same dress and uses the same instruments as he did before.
Al-Dabbas learnt the art of Al-Musaharati from a Syrian friend and memorized many of the phrases and songs from him.
Historical sources trace the first appearance of this profession to the era of the Abbasid state during the era of Caliph Al-Muntasir Billah.