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After my last post talking about Ramadan I started thinking about what I’d written and decided that I wasn’t particularly pleased with what I’d said. First of all, it was pretty poor writing, but I’m going to chalk that up to sheer exhaustion. More importantly, however, I think I was being pretty presumptuous at the end of my comments, assuming that I knew and understood how fasting for Ramadan could make one think and feel. It’s not as though I have any experience with it myself (no food all is seems a little more difficult that no meat on Fridays during Lent….). As a result, after I met my roommate Abe, a Muslim American from Palestine (who, despite his dark skin and Palestinian heritage, could easily be an extra on an episode of Entourage with his hella-tight Cali vernacular, bro, and gelled hairstyles), I figured I should probably try fasting myself in order to bring a little perspective to my opinion. Don’t want to be completely ignorant of what I’m trying to talk about, after all.

So I did. I started fasting with Abe on Sunday and have been doing it since. The rules for fasting during Ramadan in Islam are pretty simple. No food or drink from what is essentially sunrise to sunset. You break your fast with iftar, after the evening call to prayer, or adhan, which occurs around 6:30pm here, and you start again the next morning after eating your late night sahoor, or early morning feast, before the fast begins again with the morning’s adhan, around 3:50am. Throughout the day and the month you’re not allowed to curse and are supposed to avoid impure thoughts and, at least during the day, you’re not supposed to smoke. That last part clashes so hard with the culture here that I’m not really sure many people listen to it though.

Additionally, Ramadan is known as a time for generosity and community, with many of the poorest people in the city eating their iftar for free at huge public dinners. I’m enjoying watching and learning about it, and I’ve found that a lot of people have seemed to genuinely appreciate the fact that I’m fasting as well out of respect for their daily sacrifice. It seems to have meant a lot to a number of people and has definitely taught me a few things about the cultural importance of Ramadan in Egypt.   As far as the religious importance goes, I’m still learning.

So far it’s been a good experience, as denying yourself something that you want for the sake of self-reflection or improvement usually is, and though I’m not doing it for religious reasons, I am taking a lot from it.

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