Ramadan and Nighttime in Egypt by Kristina Rydbom 

    During my studies in Egypt, I have been blessed to be here during the time of Ramadan- which I had previously known nothing about. This year in Egypt, Ramadan started the evening of Wednesday, March 22nd and ended the evening of Thursday, April 20th. During Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating and drinking (amongst other things) between sunrise and sunset every day. The meal in the evening that breaks the fast is called Iftar (افطار), and Egyptian households will make a lot of food to eat with their families and friends throughout Ramadan. There are a few traditional Ramadan foods that are eaten only during Ramadan, but dates are eaten all year long. During Ramadan, however, dates are typically the first thing eaten to break the fast.  

          While I am not studying Arabic long-term, I decided to take a beginner Arabic class while abroad because I thought it would be fun, challenging, and useful. It has proven to be all three! My Arabic class consists of only 10 students (including myself) and my wonderful Egyptian professor. During Ramadan, she kindly invited my entire class over to her house to have Iftar with her and her family. She prepared many dishes and desserts for us all to enjoy. It was lovely getting to meet her family and learn more about Ramadan and Egypt, all while practicing the Arabic that my classmates had learned. We got to converse with each other, enjoy an incredible meal, and then we played some popular Egyptian games together. It is such a memorable and special experience that I am beyond grateful to have had. It is one that I will never forget!  

          Some culture shock I have experienced since being in Egypt is how late a lot of Egyptians stay up. During Ramadan, Muslims will stay up until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning and eat before the break of dawn; however, staying up late is not just a Ramadan thing. In the US, most stores, services, and restaurants typically close somewhere between 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm. In Egypt, a lot of places are open until 12:00 am, and other places even later. There are some exceptions to this, but not many. If you walk around the street at 11:30 pm, you will see men’s barber shops bustling and people everywhere. Even mainstream coffee shops like Starbucks will be open in Egypt at this time and will be full of people getting coffee and other drinks. In America, you really do not see this as much. Usually by this time, places are closed and people are back in their homes for the night. Aside from city life, you do not see many people out and about. I have surprisingly been able to adjust to this quite well, finding balance between what I am used to and what I have been exposed to while living in Egypt. Having exposure to a different culture and its people is something that I am truly thankful for, and I encourage others to put themselves in situations to be able to do the same, even if it is outside one’s comfort zone. 

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