Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ramadan : Of contradictions and more..

If you decide to venture out in the streets between 3-5 in the afternoon, be aware that you do so at your own risk. Its that time of the day when the Egyptians are jostling on the streets to get back home, the traffic is choatic and tempers can rest be assured that you will spend more time on the road than at your destination if you travel at this time of the day. Needless to say, it can be frustrating!

But wait, another hour from now, and you'll find many smiling young men at different junctions, handing out drinks, in a kind gesture to help ensure that people break their Iftaar on time since they are on the road..handed out with a smile, and accepted with a heartfelt one, its like you are looking at a completely different set of people...

I am amazed at the amount the locals party during Ramadan! Work slows down, a kind of lethargy sets in and life operates at half mast. Come evening, post Iftaar, the streets are lined with honking cars, music blaring, restaurants open into the wee hours of the night, families out together celebrating, young men and women out partying late into the morning, traffic jams at 2 o'clock at night, its almost like the city just does not sleep and is busy celebrating as much as it can before the morning light ushers in another day of abstinence!

However, at the same time, as you drive down these same streets, you will see a number of mawaed rahman (free public eateries for the poor in Ramadan), where wealthier people offer the needy a warm iftar meal. They also put together Ramadan packages to give to the poor filled with basic commodities the family will need throughout the holy month including flour, butter, pasta, rice, vegetables, tea, sugar and dates.

I guess its this set of contradictions that is Egypt and its people, that makes the place so special!

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