Ramadan in Egypt: A Personal Perspective

Ramadan in Egypt: A Personal Perspective August 6, 2012

Previously, I told you about Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt in a general way. Now I’m going to tell more personal details about what Ramadan is to me.

This year it is very different, since it’s my first Ramadan as a married woman. Yes it’s exciting and nice to be married, but let’s call a spade a spade: it’s a mess! I mean, I can hardly maintain any energy for myself to stay awake to work, or study, recite some Qur’an and pray, and that is it. The idea of now being expected to stand up on my feet for some time and cook while I’m fasting is so bizarre.

I’m lucky that my husband and I are not so much into eating lots of food for Iftar, and having just some soup and salad for Iftar, then having an another good meal for Sohour, but still this means preparing two meals a day, even if small ones.

Thing is, normally, I wait for the Maghreb (sunset) call for prayer, have a cup of soup, drink my coffee, and then I open my eyes for life. The idea of interacting with humans and being productive before coffee is so alien to me.  I know this sounds so spoiled but it’s the truth.

Egyptian traditions are so good when it comes to newly married couples in Ramadan: we get invited frequently for Iftar from family and friends, which is so nice… except for the fact that we’ll likely have to return the invite!!

Typically, my Ramadan day starts with waking up around noon if I have no work, and in the morning if I do; either way I’ll be able to pray Asr in the mosque. Good thing about Asr prayer is that mosques are almost empty during that time, so I get to have the chance of enjoying being in a mosque, recite some Qura’an, pray to God and just embrace reverence. Also it’s really hot this year during Ramadan, we’re talking 35+ degrees, and you can imagine how hard that could be in a crowded mosque.

After Asr prayer, I either recite Qur’an, or have a nap till Maghreb – at least, that was before I was supposed to cook (sad face) – and wake up 10 minutes before Maghreb to start praying.  When I say “praying,” I mean not only the normal ritual prayer movements we Muslims do five times a day, but I also mean talking to God and asking for his mercy and grace.

I learned something from Prophet Muhammad’s (Salla Allah Alayh Wa Sallam) companions, which is to prepare a “list of wishes” before Ramadan, on which all my prayers during the whole month will focus. So I wake up before Maghreb to ask for them.  Last year, for example, I prayed for my engagement to be peaceful and to have a blissful marriage; this year I’m praying to finish my masters’ thesis, and praying for my career, and my family.

As I discovered with time, neither of us (my husband and I) is into so much food for Iftar, so a cup of soup, some rice, and maybe a piece of chicken, is more than enough. After which we enjoy 30-45 minutes of nothingness while we are having coffees – yes, plural!

The one big Ramadan challenge for me is not food actually: it is how to maintain a normal healthy social life, with either family or friends, with such a routine. It is really hard to ask me to stop one thing because it’ll mess up the whole day, and I know it’s not good not to visit family at all in Ramadan. Even before getting married, it was always hard for me to find time to even hang out with my sisters, and I remember being called “a bit introvert” because I refused a work invitation for Iftar once.

When I get invited for Iftar, I appreciate the gesture and enjoy my time, but the thing is that I eat more than I need, and I either have to settle for coffee that is not going to do the trick or bring my coffee with me and prepare it myself, which is not expected to be understood by every hostess.

I wish I could someday reach a lifestyle where I can do something like pressing on a switch button to activate the “Ramadan Mode.”  And I know so many say that good Muslims should not interrupt life and productivity because it is Ramadan, since this is against the spiritual value of the month and also gives a bad impression about Islam and Muslims, as if we are lazy and reluctant to work. But still this does not mean that we should not make some changes in our lifestyles during Ramadan that fit the holiness of the month and allow us to enjoy what is supposed to be about and reach any of the expected spiritual goals.

No one says taking a break during Christmas, Easter or even summer vacation is giving in to laziness. Everyone needs a time to recharge physically and spiritually and if a Muslim needs to do that during Ramadan, it should not be perceived negatively.

Still, to be fair, the majority does accept it to a better extent during the last 10 days of Ramadan, although that’s especially for men if they are going to the mosque, not for women!

I still enjoy being a the bride of the family this Ramadan; everyone has been helping out to make it easier for me, of course by stashing my freezer with food, and inviting me to Iftars, where I enjoy the company of my own family from a new perspective.  Recently we were invited at my family’s house, and while leaving I was about to cry that I didn’t want to go… silly, I know, but this is very new.

I guess this month will never stop being so emotional and so special. May God grant you all peace and joy during the rest of Ramadan.

For more on Ramadan, and to read the rest of the posts in MMW’s Ramadan 2012 series, click here.

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