Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ramadan Kareem!

The first week of Ramadan is almost at an end, and Cairo is bustling! Having landed at the end of August, the beginning of Ramadan signaled the end of the Summer for many Caireans, who rushed to return to the hub-bub of the city. Streets have swelled with the surge in drivers on the road; coffee shops and sheisha bars that were only speckled with customers during the summer months are now jam packed with people at night time.

Ramadan is a unique time to be living in Egypt. The first few days of the Holy month are accompanied by fire crackers, parties, and generally jovial spirits all around. As the month drags on however, tempers flare, and the strain of fasting becomes evident in many people. Many ex-pats in Cairo see Ramadan simply as a month where streets are deserted for an hour around sunset, alcohol is hard to come by, angry drivers populate the road, and the month is culminated by three days of non-stop partying that is the Eid. The true meaning behind Ramadan is unknown to many foreigners in Cairo. I will readily admit that the first two Ramadan's I lived here, I was grossly unfamiliar with the traditions behind the religious holiday.

Ramadan takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic year. As the Islamic calendar does not match up to the Gregorian calendar, the dates for Ramadan change every year according to the lunar calendar. It is a Holy month during which all adult Muslims are expected to fast from sun-break to sun-down, a process ordained in the Qu'ran to cultivate piety in believers. It is documented as the month during which the Qu'ran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, and is a month of faith, understanding, generosity and spiritualism.

Fasting in the summer heat of Cairo is not an easy task. It's easy to see why people become more irritable during the day, as the lack of water really puts a great deal of strain on your body. It is all worth it though at the end of the day, come sun-down and the iftar meal. Breaking the fast is a social affair, where family and friends gather to eat and drink, followed by prayer and time for reflection, and more eating and socialising. To truly immerse yourself in the Egyptian experience of Ramadan is so eye-opening, and gives you a phenomenal perspective on the culture and the traditions. It's like a month long period of Christmas dinners lol. :p I am loving the experience of breaking the fast with close friends, the nights out enjoying traditional entertainment (whirling dirvishes this weekend! I will definitely post pictures), and the overall "festive" atmosphere that surrounds this Holy month. So on this note, I wish you all a Ramadan Kareem!

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