ONE @ 50: Ramadan in Cairo

In honor of ONE magazine’s 50th-anniversary year, the CNEWA blog series, ONE @ 50: From the Vault, aims to revive and explore the wealth of articles published in ONE magazine throughout its history. Today, the second full day of Ramadan, read about the observance of the Islamic holy month in Cairo, originally published in the Summer 1986 edition of ONE.

Read an excerpt from “Ramadan in Cairo” below, then read the full story.

A feeling of anticipation grips Cairo. Muslim residents are eager to put behind the past year’s day-to-day dreary routine. Merchants string up lights on their tiny storefronts to prepare for a communal event. Sweetshops have sprung up in the hundreds of neighborhoods in this sprawling city of more than ten million. All is in preparation for the monthlong religious observance of Ramadan, when Islam becomes the heart controlling the pulse of the city.

As the month of Sha’ban comes to an end, Muslims watch their televisions expectantly. At about 8 p.m., a special news bulletin interrupts the regular programming to announce the appearance of the sliver of a new moon. The city’s residents erupt with joyful clapping and singing. The month called Ramadan has begun.

Ramadan in Cairo is a time of daytime fasting and nighttime feasting. Within Islam’s religious fidelity, it is a time of mortification and celebration. During this month in the year 610 A.D., Mohammed received inspired words during prayer and meditation in a hillside cave outside Mecca. As the last of the prophets and “the bearer of the recitation” from the archangel Gabriel and the Spirit, he kindled a dynamic faith through those inspired words, which fuel the new faith as their holy book, the Quran.

The Quran admonishes Muslims to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight of the holy month of Ramadan:

Oh ye who believe!
Fasting is prescribed to you
As it was prescribed
To those before you
That ye may (learn)

Even the few exceptions to this strict observance, such as cases of sickness, must fast for the prescribed time later.

In Islamic tradition, denial of physical needs teaches a person to share the poor’s hunger and, thus, be more willing to give to those less fortunate. Furthermore, fasting — combined with prayer — brings one closer to God. Keeping Ramadan faithfully, some believe, forgives all past sins.

Read more.

Lucinda Kidd is a photojournalist recently returned from living in Egypt.

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