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“Ramadan is here, Af­ter a long ab­sence, And we re all happy. Sing out loud, )or a full month Ramadan is here, :elcome, Ramadan

So goes the s song of the pow­er­ful tenor 0uham­mad Ab­del-0ut­taleb. To­day Ab­del0u­talleb is no longer, but his song lives on with its lilt­ing tune and sim­ple lyric, a clas­sic joy in Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month on the ijri cal­en­dar, a lu­nar cal­en­dar, mean­ing the or - day month moves days ear­lier ev­ery year. It is pre­ceded by the month of Shaa­ban and its be­gin­ning is de­ter­mined through the cen­turies- old tra­di­tion of the sight­ing of the cres­cent moon. The sNies are closely scru­ti­nised on Shaa­ban to checN if the cres­cent ap­pears on the hori on. If it does, this will be the fi­nal day of Shaa­ban and Ramadan will start on the fol­low­ing day; if it is not, then Ramadan starts the day af­ter.


Ramadan is a month steeped in tra­di­tion. It is the 0us­lim holy month of fast­ing, the fast be­gin­ning at dawn and last­ing till sunset. Both hours are marNed by watch­ing the day­breaN or the sunset, and both are cer­e­mo­ni­ously an­nounced with a canon shot from the th- cen­tury Sal­addin ci­tadel, east of Cairo. The canon shot used to shaNe Cairo a cou­ple of cen­turies ago when the tra­di­tion was first in­stated, and it would clearly sig­nal the be­gin­ning and end of the fast. To­day, how­ever, it can barely be heard above the tu­mult of mod­ern- day Cairo, but (gyp­tians can hear it broad­cast on the ra­dio. Al­ter­na­tively, they can wait for , the tra­di­tional 0us­lim call to prayer, to Nnow that it is time to eat and drinN at sunset, and to stop eat­ing at day­breaN.

Then of course there is the fa­mous Ramadan, the Ramadan lan­tern which chil­dren and grown-ups used to light up their way as they moved through the streets and al­ley­ways on Ramadan evenings be­fore there was mod­ern elec­tric­ity. 1ow the with its multi- coloured glass sides per­sists in si es that vary from minia­ture to a me­tre-high, but only as a beloved chil­dren s toy or a Ramadan or­na­ment. one are the days when the was a hand­made de­light; to­day it more of­ten than not comes from China.


The long fast hours call for good­ies and sweet­meats once the fast is broNen. Ramadan is a month of gath­er­ings and re­unions for fam­ily and friends. The ta­bles for the sunset meal that bre­aNs the fast and the pre- dawn meal af­ter which the fast be­gins tra­di­tion­ally host a crowd of loved ones feast­ing on tra­di­tional Ramadan foods. In be­tween the two main meals, one can snacN on

, dried fruits and nuts, or dig into and , the syrup- drenched-pas­try desserts much in de­mand dur­ing the holy month.

0any end up gain­ing weight in Ramadan, but Shahina , a young grad­u­ate, has made the fast worN in her favour. “2nce I grad­u­ated I couldn t im­me­di­ately find a job. Be­ing at home for long hours and wor­ry­ing over the fu­ture drove me to bing­ing on food. I gained weight, which only added to the strain and anx­i­ety. But last Ramadan I tooN a de­ci­sion to use the fast to lose weight. This meant, of course, that I had to sNip the good­ies and sweet­meats and ex­er­cise full will power at the ta­ble. The re­sult was fan­tas­tic I lost all the pounds I wanted to lose.


:omen es­pe­cially suf­fer through­out Ramadan. The sheer ef­fort reTuired to pre­pare all the good­ies for the fam­ily and friends to feast upon is no triv­ial tasN. Two main meals have to be cooNed daily, and . They have to be in­no­va­tive, nu­tri­tional, and fes­tive. They have to cater for a big , lit­er­ally crowd, of loved ones. The feast­ing in­volves sub­stan­tial wash­ing up af­ter eat­ing. The plan­ning, cooN­ing and baN­ing, serv­ing and clean­ing up af­ter­wards have to be sTuee ed in be­tween the nor­mal ev­ery­day chores of worN, house­Neep­ing and fam­ily tasNs. And af­ter all is said and done, women have to be left with some time for prayer and con­tem­pla­tion. 1o won­der many of them end up looNing drawn and bit­terly com­plain­ing that the -hour day can­not ac­com­mo­date all what needs to be done dur­ing that time. The only way to do so is to sNip on sleep, some­thing pos­si­ble for a day or two, but for a full month

“2h for the good old days when there used to be am­ple time for ev­ery­thing says the -year- old 0agda Salah. “There wasn t so many T9 soap op­eras, so we could use the time for fam­ily and for what­ever prepa­ra­tions are needed. :e used to cooN sim­pler meals, and we had help at home. 1ow there are so many cooN­ing pro­grammes which of­fer so many new recipes on T9, the re­sult be­ing that we com­pete to serve more elab­o­rate, in­no­va­tive meals. I have to start cooN­ing a day ear­lier if I have peo­ple for , just for ev­ery­thing to be ready on time. But worse, fam­ily mem­bers are now so far apart phys­i­cally and morally that get­ting to­gether is no longer the same.


In to­tal agree­ment with 0rs Salah was -year- old Shaimaa who de­plores the frag­men­ta­tion of the fam­ily. “0odern tech­nol­ogy is re­spon­si­ble for that, she says. “But again, and even though Ramadan is the month for prayer, it was not the cus­tom years ago for women to go for post-sunset prayers at the mosTue; they said their prayers at home. This gave them more time to do what­ever they needed to do, the re­sult be­ing a more re­laxed at­mos­phere. So even where prayer is con­cerned, there is some­what more stress.

ow do non-0us­lims fare in Ramadan “2h I love this month )ady, a young man in his twen­ties says. “(very­one at worN is laid bacN and the whole at­mos­phere Nnows no ur­gency.

0any Chris­tians en­joy as much as 0us­lims the evenings out and meals in the old Tuar­ters of the town near the cen­turies- old mosTues. It helps that worN­ing hours start later the fol­low­ing day; they can catch up on sleep. Af­ter all, they have no

or so­cial obli­ga­tions to worry about. “I love the fes­tive at­mos­phere all around, says 0ariam, a young mother. “And I en­joy the soap op­eras. I freTuently join my 0us­lim friends in their ac­tiv­i­ties. But how do non-0us­lims deal with ev­ery­one around ab­stain­ing from food or drinN “1ever in my life did I eat or drinN be­fore a 0us­lim who ob­served the fast; I did that pri­vately. I re­spected their fast and their feel­ings. The words of -year- old 1abila were echoed by al­most ev­ery­one ap­proached. To­day, it has be­come a freTuent sight on the side­walNs in Cairo streets to find Cop­tic Youth who move around at sunset dis­tribut­ing cold wa­ter and dried dates to 0us­lims caught out­side at canon time , the com­mon term used to de­note the end of the fast.

: W UR

If Ramadan is a month-long happy fes­ti­val, can there be any­thing wrong with it 2h yes, plenty 3er­haps worst is the gen­eral, col­lec­tive short tem­per and stress dur­ing the day. us­sam 0uham­mad, a phar­ma­cist in his s, says it should come as no sur­prise that so many peo­ple are in a Tuar­rel­some mood; the de­hy­dra­tion caused by the lacN of con­stant wa­ter sup­ply to the body maNes it dif­fi­cult for many to con­trol their tem­pers. Add to this the lacN of sleep caused by the fes­tiv­i­ty­full long evenings and the not-to-be-missed T9 pro­grammes and soap op­eras, and you have an ex­plo­sive for­mula.

Suha, a home­maNer in her thir­ties, could not agree more. “0y hus­band is a very ner­vous per­son dur­ing Ramadan, she says. “That s on ac­count of his hav­ing to stay away from cof­fee and cig­a­rettes dur­ing the fast. (very year I try to per­suade him to cut down on his smoNing grad­u­ally be­fore Ramadan, but he is never able to do that. Then the holy month is here, and my hus­band is noth­ing but a bun­dle of nerves. The whole fam­ily suf­fers, es­pe­cially the chil­dren.

2ne of the worst ever prob­lems with Ramadan, as any Cairene could vow, is the traf­fic. Taxi driver Taha speaNs of the agony of rush hour in Ramadan when ev­ery­one is try­ing to get home at the same time for . It does not help, he says, that in Ramadan the ma­jor­ity of driv­ers are ner­vous and short­tem­pered. The ac­ci­dent rate goes vi­ral, “As though it s not bad enough un­der nor­mal con­di­tions he says, al­lud­ing to the no­to­ri­ous Cairo traf­fic.


“But Ramadan should in the first place be a month of prayer and spir­i­tual up­lift, 0r 0uham­mad says. “It s a pity that so many peo­ple get so ta­Nen up by the so­cial­is­ing and T9 pro­grammes that they for­get that. :e must Neep on re­mind­ing our­selves of the pri­mary pur­pose of Ramadan so as not to lose it.

)or ind, a univer­sity stu­dent, Ramadan is a time for prayer. “I feel el­e­vated and serene in Ramadan, she says. “(ver since I tooN the ad­vice to fo­cus on prayer as much as I could dur­ing the holy month I learnt to Neep Tuiet when some­thing goes wrong, so as to dis­si­pate the anger. I join in char­ity worN, and I al­ways try to pro­ject a smil­ing front; I found out first-hand that a smile re­lieves stress and maNes me, as well as those I smile at, happy.

Sadly, one time-hon­oured Ramadan pro­fes­sional has gone out of ser­vice, to the an­guish of (gyp­tians. That pro­fes­sional is the , the guy who used to march about the streets be­fore day­breaN singing or call­ing to the beat of his drum upon those who were asleep to waNe up for . e was very welcome some decades ago, when the Ramadan evening en­ter­tain­ment ended a few hours af­ter and then peo­ple went to bed. A few hours later the

song and drum­beat would waNe them up to the fa­mous call “:aNe up, you who are asleep 3ray to the (ter­nal

Another Ramadan day is here.

One of the most loved spots to par­take of Ramadan if­tar and suhour and spend the time in be­tween lin­ger­ing in the cen­turies- old streets, brows­ing the shops, sip­ping tea and snack­ing on ku­nafa and qatayef, and gen­er­ally so­cial­is­ing with ev­ery­one...

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