The Things We Miss the Most About Ramadan
By Muhammed Aladdin
Ramadan is about plenty of things, from spirituality and austerity to watching your favorite ‘mosalsat‘ and trying out different food fusions with your friends and family. However, back in the day, the holy month of fasting had a number of elements that is deeply missed right now.
Many of these Ramadanic features are known to Egyptians by heart; it was and still is a part of our popular culture. Nowadays, nothing can compare to the greatness of these elements that made the month meaningful and enjoyable.
Today, many of us look back and reminisce on the good old days. Maybe I sound like an old geezer; even though I am only 22, but it was a different, more beautiful time; back then, we had Bakkar instead of Ramez, Fawazir Nelly and Sherihan made us all stay up in anticipation, and giving back had a deep-seated meaning.
Let’s dive into it without further delay. Here are my picks of the things I bet we all miss the most about Ramadan.
Fawazir Nelly & Sherihan
Both Nelly and Sherihan had their separate ‘fawazir’ shows; however, whenever one of the two shows was airing, Egyptians sat down and watched. It was a genuine competition, and millions of people tried to crack each day’s mystery.
Nelly had a different show almost every year; she started out in 1975 with ‘Sora & Fazora’ (A Picture and a Riddle) and carried on until 1996 with ‘Fawzir Zy El-Nahrda’ (Riddles Just Like Today). Each year, she would present her fawazir in a different, more relatable way that would capture the attention of the average Egyptian TV watcher.
Sherihan, on the other hand, had a fewer number of shows over the years, but to this day, each of them still impacts the Arab world. Her critically-acclaimed ‘Fawazir Hawl Al’alam’ (Riddles Around the World), still airs to this day.
Both celebrities had charisma and a passion about what they are doing, enabling them to captivate their audience and become a staple of Ramadan until the end of the ’90s.
One of the most memorable cartoon characters, Bakkar told the story of a Nubian Egyptian boy and his adventures with his best friend Hassouna and his goat Rashida.
The opening theme song was sung by none other than Mohammed Mounir and tells of Bakkar and his love for the River Nile. It was a very sweet animated series that impacted each of us while growing up in the ’90s and early 2000s.
Bakkar made a comeback in 2015, but it was not as good as the original series. Many of the original elements had been missing. After Bakkar’s creator Dr. Mona Abo Al-Nasr had passed away in 2003, the vision behind the popular cartoon left with her. The new Bakkar was boring; adding to the fact that our generation had grown, and the younger ones did not like Bakkar, the series was doomed to fail.
The adventures of Loza, Noussa, Takhtakh, Atef, Moheb, and their dog Zinger were one of the staples of Ramadan when I was growing up. I remember tuning in in front of the TV just to watch how they are going to solve the mystery.
But before it was popularized on the screen, ‘Al-Moghamron Al-Khamsa’ was a series of mystery novellas written by the Egyptian Author Mahmoud Salim in the 1970s. The editions spread like fire with the Arab world’s youth, and when it was turned into an animated series, children watched in millions.
Fewer TV ads
One of the things that made me forego watching television was the exponentially growing number of ads, which does not make any sense to me. The fact that you watched more ads than your actual viewing time grinds my gear. However, back in the day, ads flew by without anyone ever noticing!
A smaller number of ‘mosalsalat’
In recent years, Ramadan has become the exclusive season of ‘mosalsalat‘ as, during Iftar, the majority of people tend to be at home in front of their televisions. Production companies figured that out long ago, and TV series became one of the staples of the holy month. However, with time, a lot of companies avoided producing ‘mosalsalat‘ at any time of the year, except for the holy month; it became the exclusive season.
Today, there are more ‘mosalsalat‘ than you could ever dream, and sure competition is a good thing, but this cramming had made people drift apart instead of bringing them together. In the ’90s, there was a handful of mosalsalat, that featured almost all actors, and all Arabs watched and discussed each day. It gave us something to connect to, but now, we barely know what our families and friends are watching.
Sharing food with neighbors
The tradition of sharing food with family members and neighbors was one of the sweetest things about Ramadan that we miss today. Of course, the holy month is still about giving back and helping others, and the majority of Arabs still do that, but rarely do we find ourselves making an extra plate for our neighbors.
Just before the ‘azan‘, children carrying plates of food would hop from one house to the other, and the neighborhood would light up. It brought meaning and made us grow closer.
Boogy & Tamtam
One of the most beloved children shows of all time was Boogy & Tamtam; it aired throughout the ’80s and mid-’90s and told the story of several Egyptian muppets and the moral dilemmas they faced on day-to-day bases.
It was one of the funniest shows ever made, and people tuned in regardless of their age. Sadly, with the death of its creator, the famed Egyptian Director Rahmy, the show stopped, and the audience moved on.
In 2009, however, a group of Boogy & Tamtam enthusiasts recreated the show with Mohamed Shaheen starring as Boogy and Emy Samir Ghanim as Tamtam, while Rahmy’s son took on the production, and from a person who hates sequels, it was pretty good.
Before the time of senseless, probably fake pranks, true, comedic gaffs had an origin with “Al-Camera Al-Khafya” followed by “Zakia Zakria”. At first, Fouad Al-Mohandess, along with Ibrahim Nasr, kicked off the genre, and in the latter, Nasr shaped TV pranks into a staple of Ramadan.
Nasr used to transform himself with makeup and disguise into these comical, controversial characters that would go to the street and engage with the people, aggravating and getting on their nerves until the people finally snap, and it was hilarious.