The majority of the Egyptians are fasting during this month of Ramadan, the pace is slower during the day, office times are adjusted and friends and families gather every evening to share Iftars and Sohours.
Besides the religious customs, many cultural changes affect daily life during this time, from decorations and different kinds of food being readily available to Cairo’s bustling nightlife turning into tent-inspired lounges where juice, tea and desserts have replaced beer and cocktails.
We wondered how the 10 percent of the population who are not Muslim yet very much Egyptian navigate this long month and we asked them how their daily life is affected by Ramadan.
Malak Shenouda is a 17 year-old student and seems to enjoy all the month has to offer. “Because everything is closed, our day starts much later than any normal day during the year.” The entertainment the month brings is appreciated: “We are all glued to the TV and watch the series. All activities are shifted to the night time and we stay up much later. Even our outings are shifted to after Iftar.” Malak enjoys one of the perks that come with the month: “I enjoy halaweyat Ramadan,” She said, referring to the special desserts that are only prepared during this month.
Working during Ramadan can be challenging when you are not fasting and everyone around you is. Beshoy Beshara works adjusted hours during Ramadan, just as his colleagues. “I try and respect my colleagues who are fasting. If I want to drink a coffee, smoke a cigarette or have lunch I make sure to go somewhere where people are not fasting.” Besides the religious connotations of Ramadan Beshara feels there are others: “There are a lot of cultural sides to Ramadan. Even if I don’t fast during the day, I go out with my friends for Sohour and sleep as late as they do.”
Nadra Zaki works in an environment where people respect each other’s practices: “I respect that people are fasting and in return they respect that I am not.” Work in Ramadan can be difficult, but Nadra has found a way to handle this. “When I delegate work I take into account that people are fasting, I have different expectations regarding how long it will take to get things done and keep in mind that the productivity goes down a little,” she said. The reduced working hours are a bonus to Nadra, “It allows me to spend a lot more time with my kids!”
It seems that everyone is enjoying the perks and traditions that come with the month-long celebration of Ramadan. In a time that can fray the nerves and brings people together around their religion, it would not have been surprising if tension between Muslims and non-Muslims would rise. It is good to see that in true Egyptian fashion the exact opposite.