Ramadan in Egypt: An Experience like No Other

Spending Ramadan in Egypt is an experience like no other, the holy month has its own significance equally to Muslims and non-Muslims. It has an essence not found anywhere else in the world -I bet that everyone who spent it abroad will strongly agree-, a month that triggers nostalgia and lots of emotions; brings childhood memories of siblings & cousins playing with Ramadan lanterns (fawanees), or gathering around TV to watch our favorite shows; the educational yet entertaining Fawazir 3amo Fouad, Bougy w Tamtam and learning all its songs by heart, Fatouta the cute mini Samir Ghanem with a cartoonish voice, and getting fascinated by Fawazir Sherihan or Nelly with their costumes, dancing moves, colorful wigs and latest visual tricks, or even playing in the streets, or the backyard with neighbors and friends until it’s time to break the fast with our families in big gatherings, and grandmas preparing each ones’ favorite dishes & treats.

It’s the best opportunity for family, distant family members, colleagues, school friends or those we barely see during the year to reunite & catch up, by having Iftar or Sohour altogether, as working hours are more or less the same everywhere, Iftar & Souhour time as well.

Ramadan lanterns by Mohd Tarmizi

So how is a typical Ramadan day in Egypt like?

Before Iftar

For the first couple of days we are all cranky, sleepy, and lacking focus, as the absence of caffeine and smoke in our veins gets its toll on us.
To be fair, that’s not the main reason behind laziness and counter-productivity, first thing most people try to compensate all the food that they haven’t consumed during the day by eating as much as their stomachs can handle or even can’t once they break their fast, one meal following the other, a snack, why not a desert, maybe a drink, till it’s time to fast again, hence 3:20 am. Secondly, most if not the majority of us stay up very late watching TV that is usually packed up with Egyptian shows and soap opera, or go out to catch up with friends and family over Sohour that never starts before 11 pm, and ends around 2 am, or join any outing that never starts before 9:00/10:00pm given that Iftar is at 7:00 pm -yeah it’s difficult to move off the couch before then. And that’s the routine even on weekdays, we will still go to work the next day, and don’t ask me how.

Photo courtesy: Bart

At work, most of the time is spent -that we count every minute of- staring at our computer screens covered with the latest desserts creations; Konafa with Nutella, Red Velvet Basboussa or talking about food with our colleagues or even calling to check what are we having over Iftar. Until it’s finally time to leave, time for some crazy driving at the super busy traffic – a never ending rush hour that starts around 2:30pm-, everybody is impatient, wants to go home to rest, hardly waiting to break the fast.

Konafa by Danielle TsiKonafa by Danielle Tsi

Iftar Time

Streets are totally empty, however there will still be some people who choose to leave the comfort of their homes to distribute drinks and dates on those who couldn’t make it to Iftar on time. Sidewalks and certain areas are occupied by big Iftar tables named “Mawa’ed Rahman” offering Iftar for free to the less privileged or those who won’t be able to make it to Iftar.

Photo courtesy: Mekfouldji Abdelkrim

After Iftar

It’s a completely different story, after the first sip of water, a smile starts to draw upon our faces, some start with soup, some others don’t want to waste time and space in their stomach filling it with fluids and prefer to start eating immediately until they can hardly breathe, smokers & caffeine buffs start consuming their daily dosage to feel alive again.

Photo courtesy: Mohamed Sahnoun

Shortly after Iftar, cafés are already packed up with people of all ages, especially Shisha lovers smoking & gulping more caffeine, be it tea with mint, coffee or both of them, having some dessert, probably one of the wide variety of desserts specially made for Ramadan.
Football players head to clubs to participate in football competitions organized by clubs, or by the companies they work for, sports lovers head to gyms or clubs to burn off the calories they had during Iftar.
Around 10-11pm it’s time for another gathering, be it a concert, street Souhour, Souhour at someone’s place, or in a Ramadan tent, so another rush hour -lasts till 2-3am- that people perfectly tolerate, everywhere is totally jammed, if no reservation is made, then it’s very common not to find a seat. People & streets stay alive till break of dawn, hence time to start fasting again. And the cycle goes on & on during the whole month of Ramadan, yet people wonder why they lack energy and feel tired all the time.

6275485607_0ffed32e29_zConcert in Egypt by Lorenz Khazaleh

Ramadan is not just a spiritual month; it brings nostalgia, gatherings, delicious food, fattening desserts, Ramadan tents, Ramadan Fawanees, special settings and decorations all over the place. Spending Ramadan in Egypt is an insightful experience that tells a lot about our culture.

So what does Ramadan represent to you? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below…

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