What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the 9th month in the Hijra Calendar. Ramadan for those of you who are not familiar with it is the Muslim’s holy month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. During this month Muslims world-wide go about their daily routines but while they refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and (uhmm) no hanky panky until sunset. The act of fasting is meant to be a way to teach Muslims how to be patience as well as modest. It is also a time for reflection, prayer and spirituality. In prayer Muslim’s ask God (Allah) for forgiveness for the sins that they have committed during the past year. They will also ask God to give them strength to guide them and help them stay away from temptation and evil. It is also a time for thinking of those less fortunate than themselves. You will find that people give bags filled with rice, pasta, oil, sugar, tomato paste and other things. These gifts are usually given to the hired help, bawabs (care taker of the building) and anyone whom you think is needy at the beginning of the month. There are tents that are set up across the city, to feed those who can not afford to feed themselves. The food is for free and they are often given money at a value of 10LE. The five prayers that a Muslim is expected to pray on a daily basis do not change. An additional prayer takes place only during the Month of Ramadan and that is known as the Taraweeh. You will find that after Iftar (breaking of the fast) many people will leave their homes with their prayer mats and Quraan to go to the mosque to take part in the prayer. Depending on the Sheikh of the month, the prayers could last to over an hour. Also during the month Muslim’s should read their holy book, The Quraan from beginning to end. It was during the month of Ramadan that the first verses of the Quraan were revealed to the Prophet Mohamed. So, as you can imagine, this is a VERY spiritual time in Muslim countries.
What to expect during Ramadan
What I really like about the month is that it is a time when families come together to break their fast and relatives that aren’t seen often come over to break fast or to have suhour. Suhour is the late night snack/meal that people will have to help them get through the next day without being hungry. It is supposed to be a simple affair but over the years it has grown in to a BIG event, like a dinner party. During this time, it would be best that you eat at home. The restaurants will not be functioning to their full capacity and the food won’t be as good. Try not to go out to a restaurant for Iftar, because you will not be satisfied with the service or the quality of the food. Working hours (government offices, companies and schools) will start later and end earlier. You will find that most of the people who are addicted to coffee or smoking are not in the best of moods during this month, their cranky and can be quite stand offish too. A word to the wise, if you are doing renovations, work in a factory you will find that your staff will not be putting in 100% effort and are best described as lazy. They will use the excuse of fasting for their lack of concentration. When you go to supermarkets you will probably find a low supply of rice, pasta, oil and sugar. People buy all of this in BULK! If you want an easy time shopping then I suggest you wake up early on Friday morning and head over to your supermarket and shop while everyone is sound a sleep and tucked away in bed, otherwise expect to do some defense shopping. Peoples driving skills become worse and they lose their tempers a lot faster than they normally would. When it’s close to breaking their fast, people drive so fast like bats out of hell that I think that even Michael Schumacher would be terrified. At sunset the streets are deserted and peaceful! That is when everyone is home sitting around the dinning room table breaking their fast.