Saturday, August 30, 2008

Um al Donyia

This week i decided to Show and tell With Mel a little about the month of Ramadan. If you're a hater or or just don't care, you've been warned, you can leave now if u want, but hey how did you get here anyway... oh right, this is the internet.

As we approach the month of Ramadan, starting on Monday, I think of the poor who will indeed fast for the day but will not know if they will have something to break their fast with at sundown.

When I look around me and see so many people fullfilling a commandment from God, I am in awe and humbled.

Egypt is often referred to as "Um al Donyia" or Mother of the World. And she sure feels like it especially during the month of Ramadan. I have talked to many travelers and they all agree that Ramadan in Egypt is something they have never experienced anywhere else.

Try to imagine Cairo just before sunset, usually its a bustling city of close to 18 million people, busy streets, packed taxis and buses, yet in Ramadan, as soon as the sun sets, and the call to Magrib prayer is called, the streets are completely empty and still.

The silence would be eerie if it weren't for the fact that it is indeed beautiful when you stop to think about it.....

I mean imagine all these people going to pray to God at sunset (and five times total throughout the day) to thank Him for their day and other things they are grateful for. Then breaking their days fast whether it be a humble small meal along many of the streets set up for poor people to eat for free or a lavish dinner at a 5 star hotel. The contrast is amazing and yet all of these people are doing the same ritual, fasting for the sake of God, no matter how poor or rich, young or old, it is amazing.

Then about an hour or so after eating iftar, or the fast breaking meal after sunset, the streets get CrAzY! On the one hand you have many folks going to the m.os.que to pray Taraweah prayers, extra night prayers that are only performed in this month of Ramadan and on the other hand you have many folks who go to one of Cairo's THOUSANDS of cafes for a shisha (water pipe) and drinks, sometimes staying out until sunrise the next day. The contrast, yet again, amazing and is what makes Cairo, Cairo.

So, whatever your belief, or not, try to respect those who do believe in something. While we don't always have to agree with each other, and don't for sure, take a minute this week to find out a little bit about those who are different than you. You never know, if a few of us take the time to actually meet someone different and find out about others we just might make a small impact in making our world a better place... or at least our place for now.


The Month of Ramadan

Ramadan is the month of fasting for Muslims the world over. Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk for the duration of Ramadan. For some, fasting may appear as a form of deprivation and of bodily exertion. On one level, abstaining from sensual needs and pleasures is indeed a physical experience. But those who stop at the physical aspects of fasting miss the essence of Ramadan and its purpose.

Fasting the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. These are the foundation upon which the entire structure of Islam is built. These consist of the declaration of faith, prayer, fasting Ramadan, paying of Zakah (the annual charity payment), and performing the pilgrimage to Makkah, known as hajj.

Three of the five pilars of Islam are rituals, that is, prescribed religious acts whose rationale is not immediately available for understanding. These are prayer, fasting, and hajj. Muslims are required to do them because they are part of their religious duties, that is, they are part of their covenant with God.

As a ritual, fasting is a symbolic act whose meaning becomes gradually apparent through experience. The meaning embodied in a ritual is always unveiled when one immerses himself or herself in the act itself. This does not mean that fasting is not open to intellectual delineation, but rather any intellectual delineation either presupposes or predicts a meaning that can best become apparent through performing the symbolic act itself.

If you would like to finish reading about Ramadan, the rest of the article is here


  1. Wow...that is really fascinating. Thank you for educating me a bit about this.

  2. Thanks for the snapshot of life in Cairo! Last year I was in a predominantly Muslim country on Eid (the last day of Ramadan). In my mind I can still hear the bells that played at dawn... like nothing I've ever experienced before.

  3. I love hearing about Ramadan. Our next door neighbour is Muslim so we're always comparing our fast days (in Judaism, we have 4 full fasts and 4 half fasts like Ramadan). Commiserating :-) This post just reminded me that I should bring over a post sundown meal.

  4. Thanks for that breakdown about Ramadaan...I never knew the details about it. That is very interesting & I can imagine that it is a very humbling experience to be in a Muslim country during this time. I agree, to see a large group of people taking part in such religious worship is inspiring.

    I really need to come visit you!

  5. Totally interesting. Thank you for sharing.

  6. I had no idea how crazy it could get at night! We have Muslim neighbors and have felt glad to celebrate the end of Ramadan with them. I especially enjoyed the socialness, everybody dropping in.

  7. Thank you for sharing...must be an amazing experience.

  8. it's always fascinating to learn about other cultures isn't it. It must be rather incredible to be right in the middle of it all!

  9. Very interesting, thank you for enlightening us and sharing!

  10. I had no idea, and it now makes me want to go to Cairo more. It's always been on my list, but you've made it sound so different and interesting.

  11. I didn't know that before. Thanks for sharing!

  12. While I am not Muslim, I am a Christian who does not believe it's my job to judge others. I have several students each school year who fast for Ramadan, and I respect their choices as they grow and learn with their families. It's sad that there are so many out there that won't have anything to eat after sundown.

  13. Hi! New 'lurker' here. This is a beautiful post and to be quite honest, while I have Muslim friends and students with whom I work, it's been years since I've actually sat down and reacquainted myself with their cultural and religious beliefs and practices. Thanks!

    I have to say, your imagery of Cairo really painted a new picture for me. I've never been, but am even more fascinated to experience it.

  14. Thank you for the information. I'd never thought of Ramadan quite that way. It's a good glimpse. :)

  15. hey , just wanted to comment that your opening blog pic. is kinda cool. i like coming across new blogs with photos i had not seen.

    newbie here, hope ya don't mind me commenting :)


  16. Thank you for sharing such stirring imagery of a magnificent city.

  17. Ramadan was in the winter when we were in the Levant, so the days were short. Still, we shortened our school day out of respect for the Mus.lims associated with our school.

    You're right -- there is nothing like the brotherhood that exists when people break a long fast together.

    I also miss the calls to prayer. So sonorous.

    Thanks for a great post!

  18. Wow - I bet it is cool. I always find religious rituals and holidays so cool and moving. I love the image you paint of these empty streets.
    Al (my darling Muslim husband)is being a b.a.d. boy and eating. But then, he has diabetes, so he kind of needs to. Not that that's really why he's bad, but we'll use it as an excuse.

  19. Great post! I realy can't imagine the contrasts you describe between day and night in Cairo - it must be amazing.

    In response to you question on MY Show and Tell post, I hate to say it but I don't have any really good suggestions. I don't usually read crime/thriller books so I'm not able to give you any good recommendations. My idea of a good crime novel is one with Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot! ~LOL~ Sorry I can't be of more help...

  20. this is so fascinating. thanks for sharing this glimpse into another world.

  21. I love reading all of your posts about Egypt!

    You and me - the two of us need to stop being so busy so that we have more time to read and comment on each others' blogs! :) Y'know I'm always grateful for my homegirl Wishy-Wish.

    Don't you feel like all badass because you're in AllTop now? I do!

    For the giveaway you were talking about for a blogger, you could do an online gift card that you could send to someone via email. Lots of places have ways for you to purchase online gift cards - no snail mail necessary!


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