|Cairo at sunset. Photo: Belinda Jackson|
reflect on themselves and their lives.
obvious part of Ramadan is fasting: followers don’t let anything pass their
lips from first light to sunset. At the moment, wintery Australia is considered a cushy place to be for Ramadan 2013: first light this morning was around 6am and the sun set at 5.15.
In comparison, it’s high summer in the Middle East, which sees 14-hour days,
with 5am sunrise and sunset not until 7pm.
means no food, no water, no cigarettes (a tough one for countries such as
Egypt, where smoking is rated a profession). Some people don’t use
toothpaste in the daylight hours…mmm.
the Muslim countries I’ve visited during Ramadan, I had the most fun in Egypt.
Egyptians like to joke that they actually put on weight in Ramadan, sunset
is the time for feasting, and feast they do. In a city where you can hit a
traffic jam at 1am, the streets are empty at sunset: you can cross town in 20 minutes,
normally a two-hour journey, as everyone’s sitting down to drink sweet drinks
such as tamrhindy (tamarind) or qamardeen, a thick, sweet apricot juice, and taste elaborate dishes and desserts made
only in this month.
|Ben Youssef madrasa, Marrakech.
Photo: some helpful, random tourist
who didn’t run away with my camera.
like the solidarity of Egypt’s citizens: around 10 percent of the population is
Christian, yet they will never smoke, eat or drink on the street. It’s
considered poor form, and most tourists get the picture.
more liberal Morocco, where tourists amble around in hot pants, wining and
dining on street cafes during Ramadan, it must be tough not to have a tiny
touch of resentment when you’re hot, thirsty and hanging for a fag. But the locals I know are proud of their country’s
tolerance of all cultures, and they have some pretty fabulous Ramadan sweets, including honey and sesame cookies, halwa chebakia.
comparison, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, we foreigners were ushered into makeshift
restaurants in the five-star hotels’ basements for lunch, and the bars were
shrouded affairs, if open at all. We were instructed sternly by hotel staff to dress even more modestly than usual, and our attire scanned before we left the hotel in case a rogue knee or shoulder should present itself to daylight.