If your visit to Egypt just happens to fall during the holy month of Ramadan, you’re in luck. That’s because there is no better place to enjoy the holiest of all Islamic months than in Egypt. Indeed, when you spend Ramadan in Egypt, traditions seem just a little bit more special there.
So, what makes Ramadan so special in Egypt? Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about in today’s blog. After reading this article, you’ll know how to celebrate Ramadan in Egypt. Whether you’re spending first day of Ramadan in Egypt or the last day of Ramadan in Egypt, let’s get started.
A lot of you already know what Ramadan is, but for those who don’t, here’s a quick explanation. Ramadan is the nine month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The month is special because the first words of the Quran were revealed to Prophet Mohammad during this month. Indeed, it’s a time for Muslims to become more spiritually aware through worship, good works and fasting.
Fasting is one of the five main pillars of Islam. Therefore, from sunup to sundown in Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating drinking, sex and sin. Though many believe that Muslims fast to empathize with the poor, this is hardly true. In fact, the real reason Muslims abstain from their desires is to practice self control. This, in turn, helps them reach تقوى / taqwa or “piety”.
So what makes Egypt’s version of Ramadan any more special than other countries? Well, we guess you could say that Ramadan in Egypt has its own unique flavor. Sure, Ramadan is a religious and spiritual holiday which makes one look inward. However, it’s also a time for looking outside of yourself by showing love and kindness. This makes the spirit of Ramadan in Egypt really stand out as Egyptians are known as a fun-loving and caring people. Here are some examples of what you’ll find in Egypt’s version of Ramadan.
While spending Ramadan in Egypt, tourist will surely note the famous “فانوس رمضان”/ “fanous ramadan” or the “Ramadan lantern”. These lanterns are usually made of copper with colorful facades and a candle lighting its inside. It’s the main symbol of Ramadan, and throughout Egypt you’ll find these beautiful lanterns lighting up the neighborhoods.
There are many tales on how the lantern ended up in Egypt. However, the most famous story says the Egyptians welcomed Caliph Al Muiz Li Din Allah during Ramadan holding similar lanterns. Since then, lanterns and Ramadan have gone together in Egypt like peas and carrots.
The lanterns aren’t the only thing adding a little color to the streets of Egypt. For example, in Cairo, you’re sure to find the khayamiya – elaborate, colorful appliqués usually applied to the interior of tents. However, in Ramadan, there more like colorful quilt/curtain combos, but you’ll also find them used as tablecloths and cushions.
That rumbling you hear is more than just your stomach telling you it’s time to eat. It’s also the iftar cannon letting everybody know it’s time to break their fast for the day. Though the tradition of firing the cannon before the Maghrib prayer is carried out in other countries, it all started in Cairo. Legend says it was accidental, however. Apparently, back in the 1500s the Mamluk Sultanate was trying out a new cannon they just bought. When it went off, it just so happened to do so at the same time as Maghrib prayer. It was also the first day of Ramadan. People thought it was the government telling them it’s time to break their fast and the tradition carries on 500 years later.
That rumbling might also be the drums of the “mesaharaty” especially if it’s early in the morning. The “mesaharaty” goes around every neighborhood a couple of hours before dawn and the start of another day of fasting. He beats his portable drum reminding everybody they still have time to eat sahoor before fasting again. (Think of it as supper, only in the morning.)
Of course, we can’t mention Ramadan in Egypt without talking about the great food made only in this special month. This is especially true of the deserts like atayef. Atayef (or qatayef) are small pancakes that Egyptians stuff with a variety of fillings such as nuts, cheese, or cream. Then there’s kunafa – shredded pastry dough that Arabs soak in sugar-based syrup in between layers they fill different types of filling. These are just a couple of examples. However, if you’re spending all of Ramadan in Egypt, you’ve got 30 days to try something new every day.
That’s all for now. We hope you’ll visit Egypt in May 2022 for Ramadan so we can wish you رمضان كريم (ramaDān karīm). (That’s how to say “Happy Ramadan” in Egypt.)
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