RAMADAN in Egypt is unlike any other Muslim country, essentially because of how celebrations manifest themselves. Egyptians have many social traditions associated with Ramadan, foremost among them is decorating the streets and shops with lights and colourful fawanees (lanterns). Ramadan lanterns are a custom inherited since the time of the Fatimids in Egypt.
Walking through Cairo's higher income neighbourhoods on a Ramadan evening reveals elegant lanterns hanging from apartment buildings or standing proudly in the lobbies of five-star hotels. However, veering off into one of the city's more popular areas, there is a more genuine taste of Ramadan's traditions of street decorations.
Mosques are flooded with lights and their minarets adorned; stores and streets are lit with many colourful lamps; coloured light bulbs are strung from building to building, lamppost to lamppost. Strings of triangular plastic decorations outline shops and homes; miniature mosques and lanterns (usually made of iron, plastic or paper) hang between balconies; long silver streamers dangle from balconies, winking and gleaming in the bright sunshine. In some streets the decorations are so condensed, they can almost block out the sun during the day, and light up the street throughout the night.
Most streets are decorated by the group effort of neighbours, who pride themselves in hanging the mock crescent, mosques and fawanees. As Ramadan approaches, the race is on among communities and neighbourhoods to decorate the most festive and attractive streets.