Ramadan Month in Cairo, Egypt
Posted by: Connolly Cove • June 19, 2018
Ramadan is a holy month for all Muslims around the world. But it feels different in every country. We can assure you that Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt hits completely differently. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and it is a special month for Muslims because the first verses of Quran were revealed to Prophet Muhammad during it.
Ramadan in Cairo feels like a festival that lasts for 30 days straight. The lanterns and decorations on the street make it feel like a festival. Muslims refrain from drinking and eating from sunrise to sunset. After their Iftar (the fast-breaking meal), the streets become lively and buzzing. Before and during Iftar, you would see numerous tables making a line and being bombarded with different kinds of food for the poor to eat from.
It is a month for the mind, body and soul to get purified. Ramadan is also a month to give back to society and self reflect. It is truly a blessed month.
One of the Egyptian traditions is to hang colourful lanterns specifically made to celebrate the month of Ramadan. Lanterns are also a common gift to give to children during Ramadan. Houses and streets get covered with Ramadan-themed drapes and table covers.
The Ramadan drummer/night caller. Waking up before sunrise for a meal (called Suhoor) is a challenge for a lot of Muslims during Ramadan. This is where the Ramadan drummer comes in. The Ramadan drummer is a long-lasting tradition from the Ottoman Empire that is still practised today in Egypt and other countries, like Turkey.
Every neighbourhood has a drummer. They wander the streets with a drum in their hand to wake people up for the Suhoor meal before dawn. They recite verses of poetry in a rhythmic way to encourage people to eat the Suhoor meal and prepare for fasting. You can put in a request to them to be called when they are singing the poetic verses. Children especially look forward to this. At the end of the month, the neighbourhood tips the drummer to thank him for all of his hard work during the 30 days of Ramadan. It is such a beautiful tradition that is passed down from generation to generation.
Another tradition is firing the Iftar cannon. Every day in Ramadan before sunset, Egyptians hear the firing of the Iftar cannon that tells them to break their fast. Although the firing is not heard today, many Egyptians wait in front of the T.V. to hear the recorded version of it.
There are many distinct dishes that are made that hold the spirit of Ramadan. Muslims typically break their fast with dates and water. They normally follow this with a small bowl of soup of any kind.
Since Ramadan is a chance for family gatherings, it is also a chance for certain dishes to be the highlight of the food table. During family gatherings, stuffed vegetables (Mahshi) is the dominant dish, along with chicken, stuffed pigeons, and different kinds of salads as a side dish. The menu changes every day of course but most families have these for Iftar on the first day.
For the Suhoor meal, its main star is fava beans. It can be topped with onions and tomatoes. Every household can get creative with their fava beans dish. Egyptians have boiled or scrambled eggs alongside it. They also eat a lot of cucumbers to help them face the thirst they feel in the daytime.
Desserts are on another level in Egypt. Somehow, this month is associated with oriental desserts that make their debut at the start of the month. It is a common sight to see shops swirl a kind of batter and make Kunafa, which is shredded phyllo dough soaked with sweet syrup and topped or stuffed with nuts and cream. There are also Qatayef shops where you can see the Qatayef being made and cooked. Qatayef are kind of mini pancakes that get stuffed with cream and nuts.
After a long day of fasting, Muslims need something to replenish them. This is where Ramadan drinks come in handy. They are thirst quenching and filled with a bunch of vitamins. These drinks include: sweetened hibiscus, licorice juice, dried apricot juice, and tamarind juice. Fruit juice like mango juice and lemon juice can also be found on the dinner table.
What to do after Iftar?
After Iftar, some people go to malls and some go to parks. But we recommend you to take a trip to Old Cairo. There are many places to visit there, including Khan El Khalili and El Moez Street. There is this famous café called El Fishawy that has been open for more than 200 years. You can also go to the Nile area and enjoy a drink in the cafes surrounding the Nile. There is so much to do in Cairo at night and until the Suhoor time, so make sure you experience it all!