Ramadan rushed in this year before many were ready for it, but a few diligent souls had been planning ahead.
“Ahmed, what’s the most interesting Ramadan message you received this year?
Laughing Ahmed replied, “Ragab hoosh sahbak 3any. He paused, smiling, before he added, “Like Haifa Wahbe’s song.
“Ahmed, do you fast?
Nodding, Ahmed said with a faint smile, “Yes. Why do you ask?
“Well, you certainly don’t seem to be the type to fast. So, where are you having iftar tomorrow? Would you like us to have it together some time next week?
Rubbing his eyes and yawning, he replied: “No, I don’t do that I only eat at home. I hate being out in Ramadan. People are all hypocrites, especially me. I don’t like to be reminded of it.
“Or just don’t fast. If you think outside Ramadan your life is bad.
Laughing, Ahmed said while hitting her lightly on the shoulder, “Don’t tempt me, mesh naqes, but fasting does me good.
“Man, I’m falling asleep. Let me get a plate of foul (fava beans) keda and some tea in case I don’t get a chance to eat again before fajr.
The place was filling up, the music was getting louder, chess, cards and other board games were being passed round, and the scent of flavored shisha was so strong it was hard to tell what was what.
A group of girls walked in noisily and joined two girls sitting close by.
“Why are you late? We’ve been here an hour, were the roads bad?
Waving to the waiter, Lamya answered, “No we had taraweeh [evening prayers specific to Ramadan].
“Well, what about Sarah and Layla? I keep calling but neither is answering.
Looking at her watch, Mariam smiled and said, “La khales, not for another hour, the mosque they go to takes a very long time.
“You think Layla will come here aslan? I don’t think she’ll be willing to go out in Ramadan, she has her routine.
Lamya pointed at the waiter who had apparently been standing there a while now, “What will you girls have? I want a sahlab and halabesa.
A big group was gathered round a small table with a pen and paper and I got closer to understand what was going on.
“We’re running late, said an older woman in glasses. “We still need to buy food for the last half of Ramadan. Who is dealing with Maadi suburbs, she said looking up before counting a show of hands.
Back to her paper, “Mansheyet Nasser? and so forth, she went on for a while, before moving onto vehicles to transport the food, and how many exactly existed and the number of volunteers and times to meet. Everyone remained silent, taking notes occasionally.
A tray full of what looked like Amar El Deen was placed in front of each group member and then packs of rice and flour were delivered at Mme Salwa’s feet.
“Mohamed and Rami count these, and please take them to the car afterwards, Mme Salwa ordered.
“Noha and Marwa I will count on you to be standing with me to manage and delegate work during packaging and loading to the cars.
Looking up she continued, “Everyone else knows what they are doing I don’t want yesterday’s mistakes being repeated!
I turned my attention to two young guys sipping mint tea and smoking shisha.
“Sameh we’re in Heliopolis tomorrow, I can’t do any more dry nights!
Shaking his head, his friend said, “Shame on you man, you are supposed to be in a holy month.
“Man what do you care, you’re Christian, and don’t you have a Canadian passport? I need a drink tomorrow, khalas.
The place was getting too noisy, it was hard to follow any more sohour talk, so I decided to go home.