From West To East: Why Ramadan In Egypt Is Something Else

As an Egyptian Muslim who has lived in the United States her entire life, I can for a fact tell you that Ramadan in the States is indeed quite different from spending it in your home country. Ramadan in Egypt shines through its details. It’s something else altogether, with a taste of the Nile, as Hussain Al Jassmi brilliantly put it. Here are some irreplaceable factors of the Ramadan spirit that I constantly missed when I lived abroad.

It’s A Norm To Stay Up Until Fajr

During Ramadan in Egypt, it becomes culturally acceptable even the norm for everyone to stay up past three am. People roam the streets, everything is lit up and shops are open. People from all walks of life hit the street post Iftar either for prayer or outings making one feel a sense of safety and comfort that is juxtaposed by the hustle and bustle of the streets that never quite down. A true staple of Ramadan culture if you ask me.

Not Ordering Your Fanoos Online

Metal, wood, plastic… candlelit, batteries…”Bakaar” or classic, these are all types of Ramadan lanterns or fawanees you can find almost anywhere on Egyptian streets. However, if you live abroad you’re limited to purchasing the modern fanoos that people essentially currently use as wedding decor, not Ramadan festivities. The decorations in elaborate lights and colors for this month hug every street and building’s doorway, providing a different feel. A feeling of driving home the fact that Ramadan is here!

Collective Prayers & Ramadan Attire

One of the constant traditions of Ramadan is not only praying the Taraweeh but going to the mosque in your esdal (a garment worn by women during prayer). It is even more noteworthy that as you walk down the street wearing your esdal, no one bats an eye because everyone just gets it; it’s part of the culture. Moreover, the collective prayer experience is something unmatched. Hearing the prayer; performing prayer led by an Emam (someone who leads prayer) is a vital spiritual encounter. It is even more special when the prayers are with your family, cousins, friends; people you care about.

Family Quality Time

There’s something extra special about gathering with your family around maghrib time for iftar. At this specific time, you’re all pretty starved that you’re not glued to your phones, so instead, you actually make eye contact and initiate conversation, that is, when you’re not making love to the samboosa or samboosak. During this quality time which fall usually under “azayem”(when someone hosts you over for a meal) being hosted over by a family member, the quirky side, the fun side of Ramadan shines through. It’s where you get introduced to extended family members you didn’t know you had, Ahmed Junior and Anwar grew a mustache now, or at least are trying to? And while trying to keep up, you have to incessantly get asked, are you fasting, or like last year?

Ramadan Shows Commentary

The start of Ramadan means also the start of the tons of shows, and unless you’re a misanthrope, you’re probably spending the first day at your family’s or friend’s house for iftar. There’s even a greater chance that by the time you’ve gone to the bathroom to wash your hands and gotten out, your hosts have spoiled every pilot episode on the planet. They have already lost the remote 17 times all while simultaneously fighting over what to watch next? It’s a beautiful chaos. A spoilery annoying chaos if you will, but you can’t live without it. Maybe just bring earplugs the next time, so you can tune out the who killed whom announcement.

Ramadan in Egypt is unique; it encapsulates interference, vibrancy, loudness, family, and much more. It’s a time that I look forward to every year.

WE SAID THIS: Ramadan in Egypt is unlike any part of the globe; it’s where heart and festivities beat through every facet.

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