Though it remains to be seen what political, economic and social changes will happen (if any) in the “New Egypt,” its first Ramadan after Mubarak’s downfall will undoubtably be memorable. Iftar in Tahrir will be magnificent, I have no doubt. But it might also be a tense affair for all involved, considering how vocal conservative religious factions have become in spite of the call for coalition-building. While Muslims are also supposed to abstain from anger, pride and other bad behaviours during Ramadan, the realities of daily life – such as the rising price of food – is difficult to ignore even by the most faithful.
There are still many things about Ramadan in Egypt which rarely change, however (like the Ramadan moon-sighting fights!). We share many of these Ramadan traditions with our neighbors worldwide – Muslim and non-Muslim – but I’m homesick enough to risk breaking my fast by taking pride in some of my most treasured memories of Ramadan in Egypt.
Every Ramadan, people decorate their apartment buildings with long strings of what are more commonly used as Christmas lights in the U.S. But as this decoration also indicates a wedding, an engagement or a birth, most Egyptians show off their lanterns. These lanterns, described in the video below, are often treasured and passed down through generations. Seeing them, you might understand why:
Each morning in many neighborhoods, a self-appointed masaharaty passes through on each street with his drum and his songs, waking sleeping families for suhoor – a pre-dawn meal before the fast begins:
The traffic in Egypt, considered the worst traffic in the world (we are the best drivers comparatively, of course!), is only ever quiet during the Taraweh prayers:
Lastly, a sight seen and heard everywhere in the world during Ramadan: massive crowds of people breaking their fast to a cacophony of adhans. Usually, the outdoor tables are set up in huge orange and red tents decorated with lanterns so people can pray on covered ground. This is a more utilitarian set-up, but the sound is incredible:
A few years ago, Al Jazeera featured a special on Ramadan in Cairo that is much more thorough in its scope. You can view it here. Ramadan Mubarak everyone.
Photo Credit: /Asmaa Waguih