Egypt's sugar plant, the biggest in the world, to produce 900,000 tons    Egypt's unemployment rate drops to 7.2%    Egypt's exports of food industries increase 5% in Q1    Egypt-first to have new climate targets ahead of UN summit    Egypt uncovers official logo for COP27    Ukrainian people say goodbye to Leonid Kravchuk – first elected president    Noura Al-Mutair – first Gulf female boxer in World Championships    Egypt unveils 50 pound coin minted to mark Avenue of Sphinxes grand reopening    Canada's Robert Oliphant starts Egypt, Morocco visit today    Liverpool fans: "You'll Never Walk Alone" to Cristiano Ronaldo    Hot, rainy weather hits Egypt this week    COVID-19 in Egypt: infections fall to 124 cases last week    Realme announces Global Photography Contest 2022    Egypt to play key role in integrating water, climate issues globally – World Bank official    AstraZeneca to boost Egypt investment 50% in three years    Egypt's telecoms regulator announces working hours for holy month of Ramadan    Maha karara joins AAIB as Head of Corporate Communications, Sustainability    Egypt works on charting cooperation strategies with international institutions for 5 years: Al-Mashat    Over 2.4 million newborns examined for hearing impairment: Health Ministry    Netflix releases trailer of Arab adaption of 'Perfect Strangers' film    Balqees to headline concert celebrating launch of streaming giant LIVENow in MENA    Sawsan Badr to be honoured at Aswan Women Film Festival    MP Abdel Hady Al-Qasby calls government to facilitate and support NGOs    Al-Sisi follows up on 'Great Transfiguration Project' in St. Catherine    Cairo, London stress need to strengthen cooperation to face climate change    Foreigners account for 22.6% of Egypt's T-bills issuances in 1H 2021: CBE    Egypt's ambassador to Italy passes away    Egypt confirms readiness to help African countries face terrorism and extremism    An estimated 235 million people needed humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021, an increase of 40% compared to 2020: IOM Egypt    Egypt, DRC discuss water cooperation during WYF    Egypt, DR Congo discuss boosting bilateral cooperation during WYF    Cameroonian police probe assault on three Algerian journalists covering AFCON    Pharaohs start AFCON 2021 campaign with fierce clash against Nigeria    Foreign Ministry opens capacity building course for French-speaking African diplomats    Egypt's trade with Nile basin countries climbs 26% y-o-y in 9 months    Ethiopia halts work at its embassy in Egypt for 'economic reasons'    Russia says it's in sync with US, China, Pakistan on Taliban    It's a bit frustrating to draw at home: Real Madrid keeper after Villarreal game    Shoukry reviews with Guterres Egypt's efforts to achieve SDGs, promote human rights    Sudan says countries must cooperate on vaccines    Johnson & Johnson: Second shot boosts antibodies and protection against COVID-19    Egypt to tax bloggers, YouTubers    Egypt's FM asserts importance of stability in Libya, holding elections as scheduled    We mustn't lose touch: Muller after Bayern win in Bundesliga    Egypt records 36 new deaths from Covid-19, highest since mid June    Egypt sells $3 bln US-dollar dominated eurobonds    Gamal Hanafy's ceramic exhibition at Gezira Arts Centre is a must go    Italian Institute Director Davide Scalmani presents activities of the Cairo Institute for ITALIANA.IT platform    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

Ramadan mercy tables: A disappearing tradition?
Published in Almasry Alyoum on 01 - 09 - 2010

Egypt's rahman , or 'mercy,' tables are more of a cultural phenomenon than a religious one. The tables, seen all around Cairo during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, provide the city's poor with an open invitation to Iftar, or breakfast, provided by more fortunate citizens.
In Islam, God is known by many names. Allah, of course, is the most known one of these, but He also informed the prophet Mohamed of 99 additional names. Most of these are adjectives that describe one of God's unique attributes, including Al-Rahman, The Merciful One.
The tradition of providing mercy tables for the poor is said to date back to the Fatimid era. The idea is thought to have originated with Prince Ahmed Bin Tolon, who invited his entire entourage to an iftar four years after he took over Egypt, later asking them to show the poorer people of Egypt the same courtesy.
“I believe the tradition was inspired by the prophet Mohamed's sayings and deeds,” says Sa'd al-Sabbah, a sheikh at a mosque in Cairo's Manial area. “The prophet urged Muslims to provide poor fasting people with an iftar meal--even if it consisted of only a single date fruit and a sip of water--so that both the almsgiver and faster would get Thawab [rewards] for their actions.”
This year, however, the tradition has been much less evident in the capital, with smaller-than-usual Ramadan tables hidden from view in side-streets near Cairo's wealthier neighborhoods, such as Zamalek, Maadi and Mohandeseen.
“New regulations have restricted our Ramadan tradition,” says Ahmed Sabry, 26, referring to new government rules--ostensibly aimed at traffic reduction--forbidding tables in main streets. “Therefore, we had to figure out new ways to deliver food to those who need it."
As a result, several mosques around the city have invented new means of delivery, dispatching cars laden with lunch boxes to supply poor families in and around Cairo. “We try to deliver food to people who aren't able to come to the tables, like police officers, embassy guards and garbage collectors,” says Sabry.
According to an Egypt Human Development Report for 2010 issued by the United Nations Development Program, some 16.2 million people live in poverty in Egypt--619,000 of them in Cairo alone (the poverty line is currently set at roughly one US dollar per day per capita). Many of these take advantage of the rahman tables to minimize expenses.
“We're used to breaking our fast at these tables,” says Yehia Abdel-Ghani, 44, who brings both his wives and three children to eat at a rahman table in the Cairo district of Zamalek. “I usually keep the rest of my meal to eat with my family for sohour.”
Abdel-Ghani brings his family all the way from Saft al-Laban on the capital's outskirts. “We pay less money for transportation than what we would have paid for a decent iftar,” he adds. “We enjoy a new meal everyday, with chicken and meat, which are items we can't afford with my small income.”
Um Abdellah, 53, gathered her iftar meal from the table and left without eating. “I take my meal home to my children,” she explains. “They're ashamed of eating at the rahman tables, but I don't mind bringing them the food.”
Looking at the hot meal --meat cooked with vegetables and rice--Um Abdellah points out, “This food is better than most meals I cook.”
“I don't have anyone to prepare food for me,“ says 64-year-old Mohamed Mahmoud, who travels from the Qalubiya Governorate to Cairo to eat at a rahman table. “I come here for food because my family is far away, my wife has passed away, and I'm too sick to take care of myself.”
When asked why he would rather travel to rahman tables in Cairo, Mahmoud says, “The tables back home aren't as good as the ones here.” He goes on to point out that Cairo tables feature meat, chicken, dessert and fruit, while the tables back home were considerably less lavish.
The tradition, however, is not without its critics.
“Ramadan isn't a month for people to get lazy,” says Sheikh al-Sabbah. “These tables allow some people who aren't in need to spend Ramadan taking advantage of the charity of others."
The sheikh recalled how he had once been passing by Cairo's Ring Road and saw young men distributing dates and water to passers-by at iftar time. “The sight brought tears of joy to my eyes,” he said. “This is what the Prophet meant when he talked about Thawab."
Nevertheless, the sheikh lauds the good intentions of those running the rahman tables, and this, he says, is what matters most. “When someone goes there because they are in need, then it's a great tradition,” he says.
Egyptians aren't the only ones turning up to Cairo's tables of mercy.
Michael and John, two Americans in their early twenties, sat among the people enjoying iftar at a Mohandessen table on Monday. “Ana sa'em al-youm (I am fasting today),” says Michael in broken Arabic, adding in English: “I thought I should join this experience with the people around me and enjoy the month of Ramadan the way they do."
Additional reporting by Ghada Mohamed al-Sharief

Clic here to read the story from its source.