Monday, October 24, 2005


Well, it's been two and a half weeks since Ramadan started, and here's what I have to say about Ramadan in Egypt:

I don't like it.

*There's no prepared food available during the day--most restaurants are closed until after sundown.
*There's no kusheri even when the restaurants open. Apparently it's not what people eat for dinner.
*People are mostly grumpy during the day, because they're hungry and thirsty.
*The traffic during the day, especially around 4, is REALLY REALLY bad. worse than usual.
*Muslims are supposed to abstain from eating/drinking/smoking during the day, and from all sexual activity the whole month. This means that the first two weeks or so were great as far as the harassment on the street goes. But last week was a record high in comments and touching and other inappropriate activity. I think it's finally gotten to them.
*No one does anything. It's like a monthlong vacation. Stores, businesses, government offices, schools...they open late and close early. Loitering on the sidewalk or in streets, which is like the Egyptian national pastime (in a way that puts US professional sports watching to shame), has increased about 100%.
*It is impossible to get anything done because everyone is too tired. Maybe they should eat.
*this month of fasting is supposed to be about God--about giving something up so one can focus more on prayer...about solidarity with the poor and hungry (at the end of ramadan there is a big alms-giving thing)...about giving something to God as a sign of trust that you will be provided for. Unfortunately, in Egypt it's mostly a big party. Streets are decorated. Elaborate feasts are prepared every evening. Many people eat most of the night. More meat and more sweets are eaten during Ramadan in Cairo than any other time of the year. Estimates are that as much as 85% of the meat eaten during the year is eaten during Ramadan. Most people gain weight during the month they are fasting. (well, between eating bad-for-you-food all night and being lazy during the day, duh.)

This is my outsider perspective, of course, but it's definitely my experience. oy. Thankfully, Ramadan will end on the third-ish of November, and there will be a big three-day feast, and then life will go back to normal. Thank goodness.

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