Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Makeshift Iftar

Mai Samih sees how Egyptians have adapted to the current turmoil that has come during Ramadan

Al-Ahram Weekly

“It is because of the current events that there is a case of slackness in the market,” says Alaaeddin Al-Dahan, 60, a restaurant chain owner in Al-Hussein district in Cairo. “Clients have decreased no less than 50 per cent if we compare them to the previous years. Last year clients would make reservations beforehand; this year, however, the only sort of client that shows up is the one who gets stuck in a traffic jam and wants to have his Iftar meal.”
“Since the beginning of the 2011 revolution there has been a decrease in the number of customers in the district because of economic problems,” complains Hala Sami, 41, a spices shop owner near Al-Hussein. “But what has made matters worse is the terrorism that is making the Egyptian citizen suffer even more.” Sami compares the past and present. “In the past there were a lot of visitors going to Al-Hussein Mosque but now they are a handful which means fewer customers for shops in its streets. I would like to see the country in progress so that we could work.
“Like every other shop in the district it costs its owners a lot of money to maintain. They have to pay electricity bills and the salaries of the workers,” Sami added.
“We barely have tourists here now, only Egyptians, and some shops in Khan Al-Khalili have closed for this reason. Why do prices go up so much? We used to sell a kilogramme of almonds, for example, for LE40 to LE50. Now we sell them for LE110. Now customers buy a quarter of a kilo if they are wealthy or even an eighth of a kilogramme of each type of nuts just to not deprive themselves and their families of it or just enough to make oriental sweets like katayef or konafa. There are some people who buy these nuts in huge amounts to eat for leisure, not to stuff sweets with, but we don’t have these types of customers anymore,” says Sami.
Seyam Mohamed, a hardware shop owner in Al-Azhar district, describes the streets as well as the working conditions in the past. “People used to buy products here in huge quantities to give it to the poor but now they are in a difficult financial situation. In the past, there was more prosperity. In the past, people could barely set foot in Al-Azhar Street and no one working in the shops could sit down like we are doing now because of the huge numbers of customers that used to come to buy our products especially on Thursdays and Fridays. There are no tourists here which makes things worse.”
Sherif Abdel-Azim, who works in an oriental cafe near Al-Hussein Mosque describes the current habits of clients that come to his shop. “Since the beginning of the 2011, not many people have been turning up here at the café after Iftar time. On the other hand, during Sohour — the meal before the dawn prayers — there are more people. “The café and many nearby restaurants have seen some fluctuations; some days the café is full during Iftar and others it is not, and some days it is full during Sohour and others it is not, depending on the events. “Before, all the tables would be reserved at least two hours before Iftar. Now, this is rare. But the habits of customers that do come are still the same. They come to drink oriental drinks like tamr [dates] and erqsous [liquorice]. They eat grilled food, pastries and pizza... etc.”
“The problem is that some people are not abiding by the concepts of their religion, hence the change in their behaviour,” comments one shopkeeper in Giza.
According to psychologist Ali Suleiman, changes in the behaviour of Egyptians should not be called a change in habits as the first is very simple to change while the second is not. “Habits are types of regular behaviour that are not easily changed unless a person is subjected to a stressful situation. What happens is that people tend to adapt to some type of behaviour or another depending on a certain event or situation that makes them change their regular behaviour. This behaviour goes back to normal after the end of the event. The current change in the behaviour of Egyptians now is not permanent but has triggered a slight change in their habits. This could be caused by emergency situations that have made them change the things they do every day.”
For example, because of the current events people take to the streets and even sleep on them although it is not an Egyptian habit to sleep outside homes. This does not mean that people will leave their homes and sleep in the streets and destroy the buildings after that. The same goes for the collective Iftars that people participate in in the squares. These are signs of temporary types of behaviour and after they end people go back to their old habits again.
“A human personality is formed of a group of habits and a stable person is one with the stable habits. Behaviour is difficult to change and can only be changed in what is called ‘scientific behaviour change programmes’. Scientists believe that behaviour is controlled by the will of a human being and results and incentives. On the other hand, if his behaviour is not rewarded, then he would feel depressed and discontinue doing this type of behaviour because it is not rewarding.
“For example, people in Tahrir Square were determined to change their behaviour of eating Iftar at home (the change in the behaviour) to fight terrorism (the motive) and this results in a safer country (the incentive).”
Al-Dahan puts the solution in a nutshell: “If circumstances in the streets are improved, then all will be well.”
“The tourism problem will be solved if there is security. We did all we wanted to do. Now it’s time to work. I am for the last speech that [Defence Minister] General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi delivered. If extreme measures are taken, the troublemakers will stop making our lives miserable and it will be safe to walk in our streets again. These measures should be taken to prevent chaos. He should order a curfew in the places where there is violence. Those who do not abide by it should be punished. I feel sorry for those living in Rabaa Al-Adaweya as they are unable to live a normal life. They can’t open their windows, for example, because of the odour and the noise, are stuck all the time in traffic and some go stay with their relatives or others. The Muslim Brotherhood can’t just expect to hold a sit-in anywhere. They tried to do that in front of Al-Hussein Mosque but the residents chased them out. They should not be allowed to scare people with their guns,” Mohamed said.
“Police should be present here although there are no problems but it is good to have security around in these circumstances,” Abdel-Azim added.
Says the Giza shopkeeper: “We should learn to care for each other, to love each other, to be close to each other and not to kill each other and exchange accusations at each other.”

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