by Iris C. Meijer
At Sail The Nile, we love offering our discerning guests unforgettable Nile cruises through Upper Egypt on our luxurious Dahabeya ABUNDANCE – or on our felucca A NEW LIFE for our more intrepid travellers: slow travel, off the beaten path, comfort, your own pace, delicious fresh food, amazing sights and fabulous sunsets.
Next to showing off the magnificent ancient sites, we are also passionate about giving you a glimpse into the beautiful Egyptian daily life and scenes. On that theme, please enjoy this piece about Ramadan in Egypt in times of Corona.
Ramadan in Times of Corona
Last night, on the 23rd of April 2020, Ramadan began – and a strange Ramadan it will be.
Ramadan is the most holy month in the lunar, Islamic calendar. It is a month of prayer, fasting, and feasting, and one of the five pillars of Islam.
Normally, Ramadan would see huge crowds at the mosques for the five prayers of the day, and long, communal tables on the street at sunset for the poor to break their fast, sponsored by the army, businesses and private persons.
But not this year, this strange year of COVID 19.
These joyous street scenes will be absent here in Egypt, and in many other countries around the world. Mosques are closed and street tables are banned. And even though that makes many people sad, especially because the communal prayer is a cherished aspect of Ramadan, it is a really good thing. In a country like Egypt that is vast in territory, but where 95% of the population of over 100 million live on only 3% of the land because the rest is desert, allowing such gatherings would be to invite disaster on a massive scale. So we can bear this sadness here, for each other. We’ll have to.
Ramadan Lights and Decorations
It is not all doom and gloom though – Egyptians are nothing if not resourceful and they will and have found other ways to celebrate. They have, as always, pulled out their wonderful street and yard decorations of streamers of little flags, lights, and the famous Ramadan ‘Fanous’ lanterns, the origins of which are believed to date back to Fatimid times. And in those courtyards, the breaking of the fast will still be a light-filled occasion.
Ramadan Togetherness – It’s All About Family
Ramadan is also very much about family, for Egyptians (to be honest, basically everything is about family for Egyptians 😉).
It is about being with the family, eating the last meal of ‘suhur’ just before the dawn call to prayer together, and having ‘iftar’, the breaking of the fast, at sunset together. And certainly, that aspect will get an even bigger emphasis this year. Families will have the traditional fruit of dates together before proceeding to the main meal, and drink traditional drinks like ‘sobya’ and ‘tamar hind’ (or ‘tamr’ as the Egyptians call it) together, enjoy delicious desserts together, all gathered at home, in their courtyards, or even in front of their houses underneath the lights and streamers. Together. What a beautiful word…
Ramadan is also about giving, and caring for the poor. The whole reason Ramadan exists, is for the more affluent to understand what it is like for the less fortunate, by doing a full fast with nothing whatsoever passing their lips during the day – not even a sip of water. And while the communal tables for the poor may be absent at sunset, the usual Ramadan bags with basic staples to be given to them are all over the supermarkets and are being bought and distributed by all.
A Ramadan Inner Journey – Returning to the Roots
There is also an amazing opportunity to be had here, this year… You see, a criticism often heard about Ramadan in these modern times is that it has become more about a public display of piety and about huge, elaborate meals at ‘iftar’ – that the original message and meaning has been lost in an era of consumerism and lavishness. That it has become more about showing off outside than about going within and reconnecting with Allah on a deeper, personal level. And so perhaps the restrictions in force this year can be a gateway for a return to that deeper, more internal root of Ramadan as well.
A personal experience of the fasting, reconnecting to God, reconnecting to the gratitude for everything that people already have in their lives. A time of stillness, a time of reflection. Of inner connection, not outer display. A journey inside.
Since we cannot go out into the world to put our devotion on display this year, let us all, even those of us who are not Muslim, seize this opportunity to make the inner journey, reconnect to the Divine on a deeper, more quiet, more personal level, and savour that inner journey. Even though physically apart, this is something we can do – all of us together.
So until we can all journey in the world outside again together, and set sail on our glorious, eternal river Nile on the stunning Dahabeya ABUNDANCE, may we wish you all a very blessed Ramadan 2020. Ramadan Kareem!!!
About the author: Iris C. Meijer is one of our regular guest writers. She lives in the House of Fluff in Luxor, Egypt. Her passions are ancient Egypt, making unique crystal jewellery, and education on animal welfare awareness and personal development. A prolific writer of personal pieces, she is looking to use this time of isolation to finally start her own blog and YouTube Channel.