Most people are aware of Ramadan - the month in which Muslims fast during daylight hours. They don't consume anything (including water), and then break their fast once the sun sets with an iftar.
I wondered what this would be like when almost the entire country is fasting and how daily life would be different during this holy month, and now that I've experienced it here in Egypt on my year abroad, I wanted to share my insights.
The biggest difference in daily life here in Egypt is the change in daily routines and patterns. Most shops are closed during the afternoons, and many restaurants and cafés are closed during the day, opening later than usual to accommodate the change in eating patterns. The change in traffic patterns seemed unthinkable yet the traffic really has decreased - except in the time before iftar when everyone is trying to make it home to break their fast. This not only makes it far easier to get anywhere, but also makes it far quieter generally.
The other big change, particularly for Westerners, is the shutting of most places that sell alcohol during the month of Ramadan. Night life in the city has become based around eating and spending time with family and friends.
Similar to Christmas, Ramadan can be seen everywhere with the stunning decorations that are put up across the whole country: khayamiya which are coloured pieces of fabric with abstract designs are put up in many of the streets, in both bunting and sheet form, lots of led lights are also put up and lanterns, making dusty Cairo a colourful place to be.
It is hard to know, as a Westerner, what the etiquette is during Ramadan. I don’t eat or drink in public during fasting hours, apart from in cafés that are open. I also try to avoid travelling in the hours before iftar as the roads and metro are super busy during this time, so I try not to take up extra space than necessary.
Overall, it has been amazing to experience Ramadan in a Muslim country where life completely changes for a month!
About The Author: Daisy is an Olea Ambassador (Team 1.0, March - Sept 2023) and an undergraduate student of BA Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge.