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Ramadan and Eid Around the World: In Egypt for the First Time

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Ramadan Around the Globe Series:

Bosnia 2010 | Egypt 2010 |  Qatar 2010, 2009 | Saudi (Makkah) 2010 | Sweden 2010

EGYPT 2010

Bismillah

As someone who has never experienced a Ramadan outside of the US and Canada, my emotions were all over the place this year when I realized I would be spending my first Ramadan in a Muslim country.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect but there were many things I was looking forward to. Whenever a fellow foreign student would find out that I would be spending Ramadan in Egypt, they would immediately respond by saying that Ramadan in Egypt is an amazing experience. Alhamdulillah, I’m glad to say that it has exceeded my expectations and Ramadans in the West will now be bleak in comparison.

Time Change

Every year, the Egyptian government puts a time change in place for the country. Clocks are set back one hour the night before every Ramadan so that workers can still be productive during their day, and for other reasons such as being able to break their fasts at home and not at their workplace. I thought this was strange at first, but the time change did help us when taraweeh and tahajjud prayers would end late with work/school the next morning. The clocks are then changed again to their ‘normal time’ the night before Eid prayer.

The Decorations

A lot of people may feel that these decorations are imitating the disbelievers, and I’ve even heard that they are an innovation. I cannot speak on this matter but I can definitely say that coming from a non-Muslim country and always seeing decorations for their holidays, it made me happy to see decorations for our special month.

Fanoos/Lamp

'Ramadan Kareem'

Decorations outside of a building

Fanoos/Lamp hanging in the street

The Masajid and Taraweeh Prayers

For Muslims in the West, we are deprived of hearing the adhan outside of a masjid but in Egypt, there are multiple adhans every prayer echoing through the streets. For those of us coming from the West, I find hearing the adhan to be a surreal experience that we can never get bored of or used to.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1SR3go85Yg]

When Ramadan was announced after maghrib prayer on Wednesday, we immediately started getting ready for taraweeh prayers. The first dilemma came when we tried to figure out which masjid to attend. Alhamdulillah, one of the best things about being in a Muslim country is that there are masajid everywhere. Literally. There are more than five masajid within a five minute walking distance from my apartment! We finally decided on Masjid Bilal, a masjid right around the corner from us, which is a favorite among the foreign students and native Egyptians alike. The Imam, Shaykh Reda AbdulMuhsin, is known for his distinct voice, his not-too-long and not-too-short prayers and his beautiful qunoot supplications. The masjid is also famous for its beautiful and huge garden, where men and women pray for taraweeh because of the huge number of worshipers. [Their garden is also famous for having some interesting creatures come for prayer; like frogs, snakes and the famous egyptian ants :) ]

Praying in Masjid Bilal reminded me of praying in Makkah. I would feel that I was in the haram with Shaykh Reda’s beautiful voice, praying outside under the stars, praying with hundreds of Muslims and the breeze that would come every so often.

Although I prayed in other masajid like Masjid Salam (with Shaykh Ahmed Rajab), Masjid Bilal was my favorite.

Masjid Bilal on the 27th Night

Masjid Bilal on the 27th Night

One thing that really struck me about taraweeh was the sheer number of worshipers. Seeing hundreds of Muslims praying together was an emaan boost for someone coming from a masjid on the east coast that would have maybe five rows of sisters on a good night. During the odd nights of the last ten nights, I’m positive that nearly if not more than a 1000 people were praying at the masjid! It was amazing just to think that this was only ONE masjid in the city, and there were hundreds of more masajid with just as many Muslims coming together to worship Allah.

The Suhoor Drums

I thought the suhoor drums were just a legend, until I heard and saw the man with my own eyes. I don’t know what this man’s name is in Arabic, but he goes through the streets at a certain time every night beating a huge drum to wake people up for suhoor, or the pre-dawn meal.

In some parts of the city, he will come right under your window or building and yell out your name with a “time for suhoor! time to wake up! worship Allah!” poem or some sort of variation.

I really loved this and thought it was beautiful to see someone going through the streets in the middle of the night to wake up others. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “and help one another in righteousness and piety.”

Dates through a Window

If you ever happen to be on the road during iftar time in Egypt, you will be given dates, fruits, juice and other things through your car window. The men will stand on the side of the streets with bags of dates, water, bananas, dried apricots and tamarind juice to give out to the Muslims to break their fast.

It is an emotional experience the first time you see this, because these men do this on their own – they bought the food, packaged it, and wait on the side of the road, seeking the reward of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. May Allah reward them for every person that broke their fast with their food.

Eid

Eid celebrations and prayers were wonderful. There is only one Eid prayer here, so if you miss that one then there is no way for you make it to another one. The Eid prayer took place at 7AM, about two hours after Fajr prayer. Having Eid prayer so early meant that families had the rest of the day to spend time with each other and celebrate. We started hearing the Eid takbeerat from outside shortly after Fajr prayers, and the closer it got to Eid prayer, the more we could hear the different masajid’s takbeerat in our apartment and throughout the streets.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_4IeMomKoQ]

Having Eid in a Muslim country makes it very easy to practice the sunnan of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) such as taking two different routes to prayer, walking to prayer, and praying in a large open space.

During Eid, the streets of Cairo are unusually quiet, except for the kids who love playing with these loud firecrackers. :)

Alhamdulillah, overall my Egyptian Ramadan and Eid experience was amazing and I hope that all of us can spend Ramadan in a Muslim country one day, inshaAllah.

Eid Mubarak to you and your families! May Allah accept our fasting, our prayers and our supplications, and may He grant us the opportunity to worship Him in many more Ramadans to come. Ameen.

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Amatullah is a student of the Qur'an and its language. She completed the 2007 Ta'leem program at Al-Huda Institute in Canada and studied Qur'an, Tajwid (science of recitation) and Arabic in Cairo. Through her writings, she hopes to share the practical guidance taught to us by Allah and His Messenger and how to make spirituality an active part of our lives. She has a Bachelors in Social Work and will be completing the Masters program in 2014 inshaAllah. Her experience includes working with immigrant seniors, refugee settlement and accessibility for people with disabilities.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Omar

    September 15, 2010 at 5:51 AM

    Sheikh Reda is amazing mashaAllah, he reminds me of Mishary Rashed AlAfasy. He has a very calm and warm welcoming demeanour about him as well. I would say on a good last 10 Taraweeh day, Masjid Bilal must have well over 1000 people, may be 2000.

    The Suhoor drum man is called مسحراتي Mesa77araty. (7 = ح( . He walks around the streets an hour before fajr drumming and yelling a short a rhyme اصحى يا نايم وحد الدايم (wake up slumbering one, and make tawheed of the everlasting)

    It is funny that as an Egyptian growing up, one thinks that elements like Fanoos Ramadan and Mesa77araty are part of the “core Ramadan” experience, not to mention ka7k el3Eid (special Eid cookies). Then one realizes it is simply a nice cultural twist Egyptians have superimposed on the holy month over generations.

    If you drive with your windows rolled down at Iftar time, food and drink will literally be thrown at you. It is awesome.

    The streets were quiet during Eid because it is summer, and many Egyptians, particularly in mid-upper scale Madinet Nasr, probably celebrated by going to the beach in the North coast or Alexandria.

  2. Sadaf Farooqi

    September 15, 2010 at 7:19 AM

    Beautiful post! I am so glad you enjoyed this Ramadan in Egypt! :)

  3. Sami

    September 15, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    Suhoor Drums guy == imsa7arati :) i97a ya nayem! wa7ed al dayem!

  4. Hicham Maged

    September 15, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    Masha’allah, glad that you’ve enjoyed your Egyptian Ramadan / Eid expirence :)

    I understand your feelings about the sheer number of Muslim prayers who perform salat in Egypt. So you’ve been to Masjid Bilal and Masjid AlSalam as you mentioned but I wonder if you’ve seen the sheer numbers of prayers in Masjid Amr Ibn Al-As which was built arround 641-642 A.D. when Muslims entered Egypt.

    I hope you can check one day in another Ramadan, if applicable.

    On the other hand, I’ve only one correction about the time change. Egypt’s normal time is (GMT +2) yet there is DayLight saving DST where the time is (GMT +3). For this year, it occurs between { April 30 – September 30 } but since Ramadan came in, the Egyptian government switched back to the ‘normal timing’ during Ramadan, and restored it at the Eid til it ends by Sep 30. [ check: Egypt DST 2010-2019 ] – Shortly, the ‘normal time’ is the one you’ve seen in Ramadan.

    May Allah accept from all of us our good deeds :)

    • Amatullah

      September 16, 2010 at 1:13 AM

      Ameen!

      Jazaak Allahu khayran for the correction! Honestly I’m still confused about the time change, I asked a lot of people to explain it to me and no one really could.

      I’ve seen pictures of Amr ibn al-‘Aas and I really wanted to go but wasn’t able to. Also I heard it was closed..not sure if that’s true or not. InshaAllah another Ramadan.

    • Yus from the Nati

      September 16, 2010 at 9:55 AM

      Hey I went there for a Jumu’ah khutbah! Very cool history ما شاء الله

  5. Youssef Chouhoud

    September 15, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    I only spent the last few days of Ramadan in Masr, but the last night of tahajood was far and away the most spiritually fulfilling evenings of my life.

    May Allah accept all that we did this past month and grant us the blessings of seeing Ramadan next year. Ameen!

    • abu Abdullah

      September 15, 2010 at 5:44 PM

      Allahumma ameen.

  6. Shukri

    September 15, 2010 at 10:58 PM

    Thanks for sharing sista, that was beautifully written article. It must have being amazing fasting Ramadan in a muslim country where everyone else is also fasting:), SubhannaAllah. May Allah swt. bless us with many wonderful Ramadans, ameen.

  7. n

    September 16, 2010 at 12:34 AM

    I moved to egypt with family and we love it here..and one of the many reasons is Ramadan.

    However, we live in the suburbs of Cairo which makes for a very nice environment alhamdulilah. Think..clean, green and organized. think: having the perks of a muslim country without the dirt and grit it offers.

    Also you can find some very good schools that would meet your educational criteria as well as islamic plus sports and everything mash’allah. think: pleasantly surprised :-).

    A little plug…if u wana try living overseas, egypt is a great place to try but you have to plan and know your priorities :-)

  8. Farhat-il-Faariha

    September 16, 2010 at 12:59 AM

    MASJID BILAL…!!! <3

    Masha-Allaah, I Had The Same Experience 2 Years Ago – My Most Exciting And Fulfilling Ramadan..

    Oh How I Miss Hay-Thaamin…
    ='(

  9. Justin

    September 16, 2010 at 2:33 AM

    Ma sha Allah. Hope everyone enjoyed Eid. Barak Allah Feekum.

    dailyhadithonline.com

  10. Hena Zuberi

    September 16, 2010 at 5:00 AM

    How blessed was your Ramadan!!! Jazakillah Khair for transporting me to Masr- the Adhaan-woe to us who took it for granted while we were there. May Allah make us hear the sweetness of Adhaan echoing from every corner again- Ameen
    just lovely

  11. AnonyMouse

    September 18, 2010 at 3:32 AM

    Ahhhhhhhh, Masjid Bilal! My fave ‘foreigner masjid’ :)
    I only prayed Tahajjud there a couple nights as my husband was leading Taraweeh in Masr Jadeedah (at Masjid Qutuz in Heliopolis), but it was definitely amazing!

    My fave bits about Ramadhaan here in Egypt were being able to hear the Masaajid downstairs from my building reading Tahajjud… I’d be sitting here in our study with the window open, and be able to hear at least one masid (sometimes two or three) reading Tahajjud… beautiful, masha’Allah.

    And YES, I love the drummer dude! My mom told me that back in the day, they used to have a drummer dude in Medinah, and so I was delighted to find him here too :)

    Also something cool was hearing Qira’aat being recited in the Witr (at least, until some people complained about it… bah).

  12. JANE BROUGHTON

    November 15, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    i recently visited egypt during ramadan , i found it a lovely experiance and wish i could have gone to cairo to feel it more , i think the people of egypt are wonderful and the most friendly people i have ever met , i wish i could have been there to celebrate eid with my egyptian friends too , they bought me a book on islam and i really enjoyed reading it , i am now trying to learn the language , only small things at first as i like to be able to say day to day words , also i like to send my friends greetings for ramadan and eid etc in their own language , egypt a fantastic country x

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