‘Far and fasting’: What Ramadan is like for Egyptian expats

Ramadan is the holy month of prayer and religious obligations to Muslims. But in Egypt, it is also the month of family gatherings, shimmering lanterns, cheerful decorations and yummy oriented desserts. However, to Egyptians abroad, Ramadan tends to be different for each of them; while some find it lonesome, others enjoy the solitude. Egypt Independent spoke to several Egyptian expats around of the world on what Ramadan is like abroad, and whether they would rather spend it back home.

“Ramadan simply means Egypt. Not having friends and family makes it tasteless, kind of like a restricted diet,” Mahmoud Gomaa, a 35-year-old living Singapore , tells Egypt Independent.

Nourhan Abdel-Aziz, a 26-year-old living in Germany, echoes the sentiment, saying that Egypt has features that make Ramadan special, “the spirit of Iftar with groups in Egypt feels different, even if you have Egyptian friends abroad, it is not the same as in Egypt. The streets are not as full, the Sohour tradition is not the same, there are no reduced working hours for Muslims.”

However, all is not lost, for Rona Shedid, a 35-year-old, describes Ramadan in Dubai, where she lives, is actually beautiful, “Actually I prefer Ramadan here.” she tells Egypt Independent, ” I managed to create my own traditions with my friends for example: I host my closest friends for Iftar on the first day every year for the last six or seven years and I work out before Iftar three days a week.”

Shedid says being abroad in Ramadan gives her the perfect balance between family spirit ad her privacy, “My friends and I work really hard to recreate the cultural elements we like from Egypt, but without excessive family obligations.”

Hoda Raffa, 38,  says although she prefers spending Ramadan in Egypt, being in Canada reminds her not to take the holy occasion for granted, “We take extra steps to make it noticeable especially for our kids.” she says, “Like we arrange Ramadan decoration craft events so that our kids make the decoration themselves, and we set up family time to put Ramadan decorations around the house.”

However, part of her always feels nostalgic, “we miss the Ramadan spirit in the streets at night like back home.. we miss our family get together at Iftar as Iftar is usually done here as a regular meal.”
While Ramadan in Egypt is very different than in Europe, Miriam Sami, a 31-year-old living in Erbil, Iraq, says that even some Arab countries do not celebrate the holy month in the same exuberant way Egyptians do, “From what I can see here is that Ramadan is a very private affair. I don’t see the laterns and the lights that people hang in their homes in Cairo.”
I have not seen tables of the merciful here either and possibly people help out the poor privately with no grand shows of generosity.” 
Shady Aguib, 43, says Germany has nothing to do with Egypt when it comes to Ramadan celebrations, “The ceremonials of Ramadan and family gathering are of course lost, and unless you intentionally mingle with the Arabs of the land you live in, you’d probably feel secluded along with your immediate family.”
Aguib says that even the little things in Egypt make big difference in capturing Ramadan spirit, some of which are “El-Basbousa and Eish Al-Sayara (traditional Ramadan desserts) and the prayers.”
 Photo credit: AP

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