Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ramadan in um alduniya

Ramadan traditions are alive in Cairo.  The city is decorated with colorful lights.  The Musaharatee (the man who wakes up people for suhoor) comes daily.  Fawanees (lanterns) decorate the balconies of most homes.  (I bought a mini one too).  The taxi driver is grouchy in the morning and right before iftar time.  The traffic is doubled an hour before iftar, and the roads are so clear between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m.

 Minutes before the athan, Egyptian families wait in silence at the dinner table.  Some have ifar with families, some at work, and some at Ma'idat al-Rahman or charity tables.  Ma'idat al-Rahman are seen everywhere during the holy month and they are sponsored by a variety of people, including well-known celebrites.  Anyone is welcome to sit and grab something to eat.  If you happen to be in an area or a neighborhood where you do not know anyone and you do not have time to get back home, grab a seat at ma'idat al-Rahman.  

After iftar many people stay up to enjoy what the city has to offer.  Some people spend the night in worship, others do a combination of worship and attending entertainment festivities, and others party the night with shisha and coffee.

The range of Ramadan activities varies.  You can attend any of the following: poetry recitals, story telling, folklore music, sufi anasheed, Egyptian jazz, rock group, Palestinian oud players, popular Tanbourah group, etc etc.  The great thing about this is that many of these events are free and open to the public, or they require a minimum and symbolic charge.  For those not interested in entertainment, they sit and relax in the Ramadan tents, or coffee houses that are scattered around the country.  (a latest survey said there are about 80,000 coffee houses).

Cairo is by far the wildest city to celebrate Ramadan, but not everyone is happy about the "commercialization" of this holy month.  Many fear that the spirituality and the real essence of ramadan is lost.  People here welcome ramadan but not as a month of self reflection and worship, but as a month of socialization, great food, and entertainment.  Sounds very similar to the commercialization of Christmas that happened in the West.

No comments: