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Ramadan Traditions in Egypt

Ramadan means a lot to us. For centuries, Ramadan has had a special place in Egypt. The celebration of Ramadan in Egypt has manifestations and meanings that make it different from other Eastern countries. For this reason, festive nights are organized during Ramadan, full of various entertainments. At the same time, efforts are made to draw closer to God and worship Him. Two weeks before Ramadan, Egyptians begin preparations to welcome the month. On television, local channels air programs about Ramadan. Houses are cleaned for Ramadan and Ramadan shopping is done. The streets are filled with special Ramadan delicacies such as dates, nuts and apricot sherbet. Charitable organizations and associations also pay special attention to Ramadan. As Ramadan approaches, they prepare bags of dry food and distribute them to those in need.



People usually spend the day working. At noon they gather in mosques to attend lectures by preachers or read the Holy Quran. Some rest until iftar time, and when iftar time approaches, everyone gathers around the table. In the evenings, they spend time together at meeting points such as iftar invitations, tarawih prayers and cafes. After the sahur is done together, morning prayers are offered and everyone returns home. Families break their fast together. After the meal, desserts are eaten and conversations are held. After going to the Tarawih prayer and returning, they continue their conversations. It is said that in the past, women would sit with their friends and sing songs until sahur and men would spend time in coffeehouses smoking hookahs until sahur. These traditions are known to have disappeared over time.


Many people have both physical and psychological difficulties during Ramadan. People may argue over simple issues as iftar time approaches. They remind each other that it is Ramadan and advise patience.



The Tradition of Seeing the Crescent Moon

The crescent of Ramadan signifies the beginning and end of the month of Ramadan. The Prophet (s.a.v.) said, "When you see the crescent (of Ramadan), start fasting and when you see the crescent (of Shawwal), celebrate Eid. If the weather is cloudy, complete the current month to thirty." In the past, when the crescent of Ramadan was sighted in Egypt, the mufti or qadi would announce it. Following this announcement, soldiers would march through the city saying, "O people of Allah's most beautiful creation, fast!" If the crescent moon was not seen that night, they would say, "Tomorrow is Sha'ban, no fasting."



Street Decorations

In Egypt, all the streets are decorated with colorful papers and lanterns.


Lanterns

It is a symbol of Egyptian tradition. It dates back to the time of Muzz or al-Muiz Li-Dinillah (Fatimid Caliph). At that time, all the people would light the streets with lanterns and welcome the caliph.



Ball Throwing Tradition

During Ramadan, cannons used to be fired from the Cairo Citadel, located on a high hill in Cairo, at the time of the call to prayer. However, in recent years, the cannon is fired only on the first day and children throw "çatapat" on the other days. The first time this tradition took place was by chance during the Mamluk period in 869 AH, 1465 AD. While the soldiers were cleaning the cannon, an explosion was heard along with the call to prayer. The next day, the commander allowed the cannon to be fired as the day before. According to other rumors, it is said to have started during the reign of Mehmet Ali or Khedive Ismail. However, it is known that this tradition predates Khedive Ismail. As a matter of fact, it is mentioned in Richar Berton's Siyahatname in 1853 during the reign of Abass I.


Ramadan Tents


The Ramadan tent called Mueed El-Rahman (Tables of Rahman) takes place outdoors or in front of houses. These tables are prepared for the poor, street people and travelers.

It started during the reign of Muiz. The first Ramadan tent was set up next to the Amr Ibn al As Mosque. Muslims distribute food and drink to those waiting for their relatives in front of the hospital at iftar time and to travelers on the road.


Collective Iftars

Residents of the same neighborhood gather at a single table every year. In Cairo this year, the longest iftar table reached 1,000 meters.


Drummer Tradition

The drummer (misaharati) goes around the streets before sahur and wakes everyone up by calling people's names or singing hymns. The drummer is accompanied by a small child with a lantern. Each region has its own special drummer.


Taraweeh Prayer and Laylat al-Qadr

From the first day of Taraweeh prayer, mosques are filled with male and female congregations. Taraweeh prayers are usually eight rak'ahs long. A juz is recited in eight rak'ahs. After the first four rak'ahs, the imam takes a ten-minute break. During this break, a short sermon about Ramadan is read. During this time, tea, coffee, dates or sweets are distributed among the congregation.


In the last ten days, Egyptians go to mosques and enter itikaf. In particular, they go to the Prophet Hussein Mosque and the Prophet Zainab Mosque. The Holy Qur'an is read, Taraweeh and Tahajjud are performed. The prayers are performed in tears. People believe that after crying on those nights, they come out clean. It is said that in the past, in the last days of Ramadan, a bucket was prepared and filled with water and salt. After the prayer, this water would be tasted and if it was sweet, it was believed to be Laylat al-Qadr.



Ramadan Tournaments

Football is one of the most important games in Egypt. During Ramadan, football tournaments are organized between regions. It is held between empty spaces in the neighborhood.




Restaurants and Cafes

Although Egypt is home to both Muslim and Christian communities, during Ramadan all restaurants are closed until iftar time.



Most Preferred Drinks During Ramadan

Egyptians break their fast with various soft drinks. Drinks such as milk-soaked dates, iron turkey, racial sus, hibiscus, apricot sherbet and sobya are preferred.




Most Preferred Foods During Ramadan

Dolma, meatballs, baked pasta, okra, meat pies and desserts such as um ali, kadayif, kunafeh, basbosa and hoşaf are generally preferred for iftar.



For sahur, fava beans, falafel, cheese varieties, pastry, black honey with tahini, yogurt and eggs are preferred.



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