Monday,11 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1349, (15 - 21 June 2017)
Monday,11 December, 2017
Issue 1349, (15 - 21 June 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Ramadan kareem

Ramadan in Cairo reminds me of home, writes Ambassador of India in Cairo Sanjay Bhattacharyya

#Ramadan kareem #Ramadan kareem # Ramadan kareem
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Ramadan in Cairo is a particularly beautiful time of the year, not because the city is quiet and the traffic is thin, but because the spirit of the holy month spreads out across the city in the most glorious manner and the flowers are in full bloom to complement the mood.

The city quickens its pace when prayers are announced in the evening. Iftar is often a quick affair, and the city seems to come to life after that with the setting of the sun. The evening celebrations continue until late into the night and until the dawn meal of Sohour. In the narrow alleys of Islamic Cairo and behind the Old City walls, you find the devout doing their prayers in the old mosques of the neighbourhood, while singers and musicians, puppeteers and performers enthral throngs of Cairenes, including many children, out to enjoy the magical atmosphere.

The tables are laid out on the street, and people have their last meal before they retire for the night ahead of the dawn. All this reminds me of my home in Delhi.

Ramadan in Delhi has many features that are similar to Ramadan in Cairo. It is a month of pious observance for many Muslims, of whom there are over 180 million in India. People observe roza (fasting), and in the evening after the prayers there are Iftar parties across the city. This is also a season of festivity when new clothes are bought for the family, money packets are distributed to the children, and special foods and sweets are prepared.

People usually break the fast with sherbet (a drink) made of natural herbs and flowers and eat roasted chana (chick peas). Iftar is usually a lavish spread of biryanis and meat dishes followed by deserts. Haleem, which includes pounded meat with lentils cooked over a slow fire, is a delicacy. People spare no effort in preparing special sweets such as sewaiya (vermicelli), jalebi, shahi tukra (like Egypt’s desert Um Ali) and kulfi (ice cream) for their guests.

Iftar parties hosted by Hindus for their Muslim friends are unique features of Ramadan in Delhi. These events often feature musical soirées, qawali singing and poetry sessions, besides delicious food. The air is festive in the evening, and the mosques and dargah (shrines) are lit up to welcome visitors, young and old, men and women, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Just before Sohour, a sahar khwaan (drummer) goes through the city neighbourhoods reminding people of the time for the last meal and prayer. After that, most of Delhi goes to sleep, though some people stay awake to tell stories of love and devotion. There is both beauty and magic in the lovely month of Ramadan.

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