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Why is Ramadan different in Egypt?
Published in Albawaba on 14 - 06 - 2015

According to Islam, this month is dedicated to prayers, as it is believed that it is an occasion to wash ones sins away and enjoy Gods unlimited mercy.
It's the 9th of month of the Hijri calendar (the basis of the Islamic calendar) that highlights festivals characterized by both great restraint and great indulgence.
Ramadan was initiated fourteen centuries ago, when the Holy Spirit and Gabriel started the transmission of Gods message to the prophet MUhammad, on one of the last ten days of this month, which Muslims call "Lailat el-Qadr" and believe that all prayers are answered on that day.
Ramadan is the month of fasting, by abandoning eating, drinking, smoking and sinning, throughout the whole day, from dawn to sunset. Muslims prefer to spend their time in Ramadan by praying or reading the Quraan, particularly at night.
"Iftar" is the main meal to break the fast with, and "Sohour" is the last meal of the day before fasting again. Timing of "Iftar" is defined by the sunset of the city. "Sohour" is the last meal of the day, can be taken any time before Dawn prayers. In between "Iftar" and "Sohour", people are allowed to eat as they wish.
Ramadan in Egypt
Spending the holy month of Ramdan in Egypt is different than elsewhere. Other than the rituals practiced during that month, certain social habits of Egyptian Muslims are much different than anywhere else.
Egyptians lit up the streets with the ‘famous' Ramadan lantern, and surround it with marvelous colored decorations, families and relatives gather on the main meal "Iftar" when they break their fasting, it is considered a good chance for the family to gather and celebrate the month together.
The customary greeting is ‘Ramadan Karim' – which means have a generous Ramadan, is recited by all Muslims, with an answer that says "Allah Akram" which mean Gad is Generous.
Egyptians like their "Iftar" meal very rich including soups, main course usually heavy and traditional desserts like "konafa" a cake-like wheat dough stuffed with sugar, raisins and different types of nuts, and dipped in honey. Or "Qatayef" that has the same stuffing but takes the shape of a small circular folded cake include nuts and raisins.
The first days are usually dedicated to gatherings between families, friends or colleagues, and then they start to socialize afterwards.
Sports are also popular during Ramadan in Egypt, as some sport clubs arrange minor football tournaments, to be played by people of all ages, including the elders who compete with their peers all nightlong till Sohour.
Egyptians consider the display of not fasting outwardly as bad manners, even though it is not illegal, but those who do not fast would usually hide to eat, drink or smoke, including the Egyptian Christians who participate in most of these practices with their fellow Muslims.
Fanous Ramadan (Ramadan Lantern)
One of traditions that only Egyptian have for Ramadan is the Fanous (Lantern) that is a one of the many traditions characterizing the Holy month of Ramadan in Egypt.
The history of it goes back to when the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim bi Amr Al-Lāh wanted the streets of Cairo to be illuminated during Ramadan, he ordered all the mosques to hang fawanees (lanterns) that could be lit by candles to be used in Ramadan.
Another tale says that when the Fatimid Caliph's was roaming the streets to sight the crescent moon of Ramadan, he was accompanied by children holding fawanees and singing special Ramadan songs.
In the todays' time, children are mostly going out into the streets with their beautiful and brightly coloured lanterns; signing special songs belong to Ramadan only.
Firing the cannon
Firing of the cannon signals the time for beginning and ending the fast. Although it's an Egyptian custom by origin, it has now spread to other countries.
When the Mamluk Sultan Al-Zaher Seif Al-Din Zenki Khashqodom soldiers tested the cannon he got from Germany in Ramadan by firing it at sunset same time of Iftar, the inhabitants of Cairo thought the Sultan was alerting them to the time for iftar. Realizing that such a custom could increase his popularity, dignitaries advised him to continue this practice.
El Mesaharaty (night caller)
Another Egyptian tradition is the Mesaharaty or the Night Caller. He takes the task roaming streets walking around the village or city waking up people before sohour time.
He usually stands in front of each home and calls the inhabitant by their name, banging his drum to wake people, saying "Wake up you who are sleeping, pray for eternity, Happy Ramadan, God is the One who sends you your sustenance".
The Mesaharaty does not take any payment for this night-time work, but it is customary at the end of Ramadan to give money or a gift for his strenuous efforts.
On the last day of Ramadan, observatories again check for the new moon. The month ends after the 29th or 30th day, when the "Eid" or feast begins.


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