|Ramadan Is a Boon Time for Makkah’s Unemployed
|MAKKAH, 29 September 2007 — Many people in Makkah seize the opportunity to find seasonal work during Ramadan, either as street vendors, guides or working at the Grand Mosque as temps.
The streets of the holy city during Ramadan are filled with vendors one wouldn’t normally see other times. The elderly can be seen hawking home-cooked food, clothes, toys or assorted gifts to supplement their pensions during a potential seasonal windfall in extra funds.
“Zamzam for sale!” shouted out Fahd Abdullah, a 27-year-old unemployed Saudi university graduate amid bottles filled with water from the sacred well.
“I spend six hours a day selling Zamzam water,” said Abdullah, who also offers to deliver water to the homes or temporary lodging of pilgrims and locals. “I start after Asr prayer and carry on until isha.”
Employed people looking to make extra cash are also often attracted to hawking during Ramadan. Teachers, bank employees and others are often found either selling products or working as taxi drivers.
Turki Al-Ahmary, 22, was standing on a street corner close to the Grand Mosque with a large container of hot water, milk and teabags.
“I’m bored sitting at home without work, so I decided to do something useful this season,” said Al-Ahmary, a Saudi, who said he earns up to SR350 a day during Ramadan as a tea vendor. “I liked the idea of selling tea. There is no shame in this job because it generates good profit and I can support myself financially.”
Ahmad Al-Harbi sits beside Al-Ahmary selling homemade food and appetizers. “I earn good money to help me increase my family income,” he said. “By the end of the holy month I will have earned around SR7,000. I begin work after Isha prayer and carry on until about 3 a.m.,” he said. “My mother played a huge role in encouraging me; she makes food for me and is the one who prepares vegetables and packs them in jars.”
During iftar (the breaking of the fast), people in Hijaz love drinking subia (a malt beverage made from raisins or bread) and sherbet.
Abu Saleh, 45, is retired and is considered an expert in preparing subia. He learned how to make the drink from his father 10 years ago.
“Sitting at home retired makes me ill,” he said. “Once you’re used to work you can’t stop working. The worst enemy for retired people is free time. The holy month is the best time to sell subia. It’s a popular drink.”
Saleh said that he works from Asr prayer until Iftar and earns around SR300 a day.
Abu Jihad, an elderly Saudi man, sells dates in front of the Grand Mosque, where demand is high — dates are considered a traditional breakfasting food. “It requires experience to differentiate between various types of dates,” he said.