August 12, 2009

Ramadan Looming

Looming seems like the wrong word right? Ramadan should be a happy occasion for worship and purification, but sadly, it's the general feeling I get from women here.

Everyone is mostly dreading all the cooking. You see, it seems like, at least here in Egypt, Ramadan is all about the food. Well, that and the soap operas. More on that later. Don't get me wrong, I love food, but women are expected to make multi-course dinners each day of the holy month and leftovers are out of the question. It's wasteful and it seems crazy to spend hours in the hot kitchen cooking when we should spend more time in worship. The typical Egyptian Ramadan dinner consists of:
  • Khoshaf, something that you have as soon as you break the fast made of apricot juice and dried fruits.
  • Soup
  • Salad
  • Some kind of rice or pasta dish
  • Some vegetable
  • Meat or chicken
  • Sides or hors d'oeuvres like samosas or something
  • Dessert
Disgruntled, by me.

But let's not forget about suhoor. Some people just have to eat fried eggs and falafel etc. each day. Grocery bills go up as well as the scales. The whole thing is kind of gluttonous.

There's nothing wrong with making great food for your family to break the fast with. I too like to make a bit more of an effort in my culinary skills sometimes during Ramadan, but it doesn't need to be extravagant or a daily thing. We can have leftovers or take out or go out to dinner in Ramadan. Some people might find that just blasphemous here, but they are missing the point.

Another thing is dinner parties. It's a good tradition to have people over to break the fast together and these invites are often reciprocated but this also usually means a LOT of work for the people doing the inviting. Hospitality is fine but it can go too far. I will tell you that I have spent from Fajr (sunrise) to Magrib (sunset) preparing a huge meal for guests and maybe a 3rd of it gets eaten. Some people put loads on their plates and eat part of each of it, and of course the rest goes to waste. Last year I introduced a couple of friends to the idea of a pot luck dinner. They thought it was great. It makes sense. Everyone only has to prepare one dish and no one has the whole load on them. Plus we still get to enjoy each other's company over a meal.

Now about those soap operas. If you don't know, Ramadan is famous in Egypt for all the new dramas that show each day till the Eid or Feast. Thirty something shows premier on the first day of Ramadan on the many satellite channels. Maybe one is historical or Islamic in anyway. Can you believe it? Seriously it's almost as if there is a conspiracy to pull Muslims away from the real purpose of Ramadan. I'm not trying to be preachy or saying that TV is haram (forbidden) or something. Not at all. I love TV, but it's just odd to me how it's so concentrated in the holy month, don't you?


  1. I feel so bad for my husband, our Ramadan menu is soup, some sort of protein and steamed veggies or a salad and we sometimes skip the soup too. And we eat leftovers for days. Heheheh I feel like a kill joy now.

  2. Jess, that sounds good and healthy.

  3. Great post, Mona. I think most people have to consciously pull themselves away from this as it's probably somewhat the same in many parts of the world. A few years ago, I decided Ramadan was going to be a time for me to be out of the kitchen, and since then, we break fast almost every day at our local masjid. But I admit, it's easier for me to do here without all the pressure from family members and culture. Anyway, it's great you introduced the potluck to them and that they liked the idea! Insha'Allah, that will help.

  4. I found Ramadan really weird in Egypt and I'm so glad to have learned about it online through these blogs in the right way. I will spend half of my first Ramadan alone so I will make it simple for myself and focus on worship.

  5. My husband's least favorite part of Ramadan- the iftar dinners- from which no one cares to leave to go to's sad that the social aspect takes over...good blog..good rant and inshalah it'll help us to scale back and focus on the real important things

  6. UmmOmar, MashaAllah that's great. Yea I do think it's more feasible in the States. The Masjid there is more of a community center than here.

    Candice, Yea inshaAllah. See, the internet is great.

    Thanks Sameera, You're the Sameera that knew my brother right?

  7. Anonymous10:31 PM

    Wow, learn something new everyday. Here are my 2 cents:

    1 - I love your "disgruntled" drawing :)
    2 - No leftovers and cooking EVERYDAY for a month? Wowzers.
    3 - Pot Luck is always a good thing.
    4 - Sounds a lot like Christmas - wherein the real focus, the real cause for celebration (in our case, the birt of Jesus Christ) is lost on holiday hoop-la like gifts and out decorating one another.

  8. Anonymous12:02 AM

    I am american muslimah. And I see one problem I have had getting my children to understand as well.

    Ramadan is the time to learn to control our desires, emotions and behavior.

    We know we are hungry. But intelligently we also know we cannot eat very much because we feel more than what we actually need. It is the time of year that we need to gain control what is intelligent to what is feeling and desires.

    However, being here in USA I do sometimes cook much. And sometimes we eat sandwiches or left overs.

    As women we need to read Quran and worship during this month as well.
    We also have the responsibility to bring out the points you mention.

    Inshallah, your efforts will be rewarded.

  9. Anonymous1:02 AM

    OMG! i have the same prob! like in Ramadan, i have to plan out all my meals a week before cuz the supermarkets get really crowded for ramadan foods. and you are right, food goes to waste alot and i hate it. About the " musalsalat" lol, that is so true!!! almost every egyptian i know, asks me during or after ramadan, this question: so what "musalsalat" did you watch this ramadan? and im all like ummm none.. and they think im weird.
    Anyways have a great ramadan :)

  10. Great post Mona!! Yeah, I feel like I'm expected to put on a full 5 course meal, and with some fancy dessert to top it off.
    I think people go overboard with the food during Ramadan. And my husband is the kind who expects a huge meal when we have guest over.
    We had a huge fight about it once, (it wasn't Ramadan though) because I threw away SO much food. Sorry, but I'm not going to eat someone's half eaten chicken thigh...gross.
    And because he wasn't the one who cleaned up after everyone, he didn't know this. And he went on and on about how I didn't serve enough food, he was ashamed and this and that.
    I was so mad.

    I've been to some very elaborate iftars and I feel bad, the poor woman was cooking all day, barely gets a chance to sit and eat and is then left with all those dishes to clean up after.

    Ramadan is not about food.
    Hmmm, the soap opera thing is weird, maybe it really is a conspiracy.

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  12. assalam alaikum
    i'm ur silent reader and it is the first time i'm commenting in ur blog.
    very good post. sadly it is the same in my country. alhamdulillah, we learnt to have modest iftaars for ourselves, but when i have guests over my house i have to cook a lot of food; if i don't that is considered lack of hospitality

  13. You are totally right Mona. I remember growing up, and we would be more excited about the soap operas than the ajr we get from fasting. And what's worse is that in recent years, the quality of these soap operas has declined enormously.

    I love Ramadan though. It is the only time the entire muslim community gets together for 30 days straight. Our mothers hardly ever cook at home during ramadan, we all just head straight to the masjid for iftar. It's great!

  14. GRR...I typed out a huge comment's reply and lost it.

    bzmomma, lol, thanks, I was bored so I drew the comic. Yea it's like how Christmas has lost it's meaning in a lot of ways.

    Anon/AmericanMuslimah- That's a good lesson all kids should learn.

    Anon/Lameese-Yea I wonder if it's the same in other Arab countries. Thanks, you too.

    Melissa, yea I won't eat off someone else's chicken bone or plate either!

    UmmAbdelAziz, Please continue to comment! Yea hospitality has gone too far!

    Amina, Yea I like the sense of unity that we're all fasting together. Our masjid here doesn't do iftars, but that's great.

  15. I try my best making food for baba in Ramadan...

  16. "but it's just odd to me how it's so concentrated in the holy month, don't you?"

    1. Tired and easily satisfied audience.

    2. Higher TV viewership because of shorter working hours

    3. The entire family gets together at the same time to watch TV, unlike the rest of the year.

  17. Abid, yea you're right, it's still messed up though.


Thanks for commenting!