Nasfah Halawa – ناصفة حلاوة and Ramadan Kareem


The Nasfah, a celebration conducted on the night of the 15th of Shaaban, is a happy occasion in Bahrain and the rest of the Muslim world. It is an occasion to celebrate the pending onset of Ramadan – which is only half a month away, and also the birthday of Imam Mahdi, the 12th apostle of Shi’a Islam and who is one of the grandsons of the Prophet. He is highly revered by Shi’a muslims.

The word “Nasfah” loosely means “half” or the divisor, pertaining to it’s occurrence in mid-Shaaban, the month immediately preceding Ramadan.

On the Nasfah, children put on fine clothes and go to as many houses in the neighbourhood as they could to collect sweets, nuts and some coins too but they have to sing for them first. The traditional song they sing is “Nasfah Halawah” which means “give me sweets” basically!

Here’s a nice manicured example of the celebration, courtesy of du in the Emirates:

And here’s my coverage of the celebration in Duraz in 2007 that I covered for one of my vlogs:

On the Nasfah, people also tend to distribute sweets to their neighbourhoods across many communities in Bahrain. The sweet which is very particular to this time of the year is called Zalabia. It’s pure sugar. Just one little bite will last you the whole day, believe me! Tasty as it is, it must be taken a little at a time if you don’t want to overdose.

My son Arif was visiting his grandmother’s in the old neighbourhood and was fortunate enough to be there by when the Zalabia distribution was taking place in that neighbourhood. He got some, but to complete the typical Bahraini experience, he also got Sun Top from the nearby cold store and brought them home to us to enjoy after lunch 🙂



Here’s how Zalabia is made (with a lovely Iraqi accent) if you feel so inclined as to make your own:


Bon appetite and Ramadan Kareem.


  1. AbuRasool

    Thanks Mahmood for this.
    What a change from those times i enjoyed tha Nasfa. Some sixty-years ago, the Nasfa was an annual
    coming-of-age event. For us, at the time, the zalabia and other sweets were secondary. Kids, boys and girsl, whose age has just entered the two digits stage were allowed to stay out the whole evening playing together in the mostly unlit nieghbourhoods while our mothers were celeberating the Nasfa in the neaby mosquesi. Some of us, the lucky ones, played more adventerousely than others. And of course none of us cared to bring home some zalabia. Your kids are great!

    1. Post

      It certainly has taken a modern twist to it AbuRasool. The neighbourhoods express joy for the occasion with some excess I find, in both what they offer now (shawarma stands and other food in-situ cooking as well as prepared give-away parcels) as well as theatric shows in some cases, rather than the traditional going out in the neighbourhood from door to door getting sweets and saksabal (or is it kaskabal? the Bahraini enigma!). In any case though, things have moved on and the festival has created its own flavour for this day and age.

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