The post-prandial puzzle

Posted on September 15, 2007


I was kind of looking forward to Ramadan as a period of enforced detoxification, which I figure I need. I am determined to enjoy it as well: I intend to rip the head right off anyone who sexually/religiously harasses me on the street (I’ve already had one such incident but I only saw the gallabeya-clad bicyclist’s mouth move since I was busy listening to Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams via audiobook); I stay late at work so I miss the Ramadan crowds; and my office is generally quite non-fast-friendly. So far, so good. But I simply cannot remember how Ramadan worked out socially last year. After everyone eats at around 6:20, whether out or at home, there is a period of food coma/TV watching, and then around 8ish they perk up and want to go out. But what is there to do? No bars, no clubs. For me and mine, this makes Cairo an arid wasteland. Shisha, we are told, is key. Well, my lungs can simply not take that shit any more, especially since Cairo has been just a wee bit more polluted lately (the back of my throat is an accurate measuring instrument). Nevertheless I have complied, but that leaves us still with an attendant dilemma: you either go to a regular ahwa or café, in which case you are in the position of having to hang about and chat until midnight at least, an exercise which is taxing for many while sober; or you go to a Ramadan tent which obviates you from socializing by blasting music and flashing lights at you, but which charge you at least L.E 100 although you just ate and can’t drink. When tents are suggested, my male friends usually shout “zibby!” which is Arabic for “my dick!” and obviously implies that, well, tents should interact with their genitals. I should have mentioned, by the way, that in Cairo everyone goes out every evening. I recently went to see Azhar Usman from the “Allah made me funny” comedy tour perform (don’t bother, by the way) and he congratulated the audience of some hundreds of people for coming out on a Wednesday night, and was met with a faintly puzzled silence.

I have asked around to find out what other people do in the absence of alcohol and between the mealtimes of 6:20 and 4 am. One habitually devout boy tells me that he walks, or drives, or plays his guitar. These were obviously unhelpful suggestions to me. I polled my Coptic friends, and was promptly invited over to one of their places yesterday with one of my non-observant friends, to find that everyone was shit-faced and playing a raucous game of Cranium. We joined in but then rose in disgust when Trivial Pursuit began and everyone was too inebriated to play with the adult cards, resulting in the posing of such head-scratchers as “Who was the leader of Germany during World War II?” We had no hope of catching up to that level of drunkenness, obviously. The Copts (and agnostics and atheists of various kinds) are also carrying on with routine late summer weekend activities such as going to the beach.

A summit of friends was called at our favourite ahwa near the stock-market. We determined that Ramadan was simply going to have to be The Great Movie Watching Bonanza, and have amassed a intricately cross-referenced collection of them courtesy of Excel expert extraordinaire, Dreamy Brown Man. We could also go to musical performances and the like, and obviously those who wish to may indulge in their preferred substances (we stocked up). Last year we played poker.

Ramadan Mubarak to everyone else! Kol sana wentom tayebeen.

Posted in: Egypt, food, religion