Tuesday, June 14th
As soon as we returned from vacation, it was time to prepare for Ramadan, the month of fasting, for the 7 billion Muslims around the world, including me! Depending where you reside in the world, the length of time to fast during the day varies. Here in Egypt, it is around 15 hours and 45 minutes, giver or take a few minutes. The first few days are typically the most challenging as the body adjusts it’s eating/drinking cycle and the stomach begins to shrink.
The Islamic calendar is lunar and based upon the measure of the moon’s rotation around the earth with a year on the lunar calendar consisting of 354 days. The Gregorian or solar calendar (which the rest of society follows) is a measure of the earth’s rotation around the sun with a year on the solar calendar having 365 days.
Every year the Islamic calendar is 10-11 days less than the Gregorian calendar,
so the month of Ramadan rotates around the seasons over a span of about 33 years. This year happens to be unique in that it is the one in which the day will be longer for the most number of days. Ramadan began on June 6th so the summer solstice ( June 21st) will fall directly in the middle of the month of fasting. This phenomenon will not occur for another 33 years!
For those of you who may never have experienced Ramadan in a predominately Muslim country, just imagine Christmas on steroids!
By that I mean, streets, businesses, and homes are decorated; the most delectable dishes are cooked and served for both suhoor (before the fast) and iftar (breaking the fast). Families and friends gather daily to start and break the fast. The streets come alive at night! And this goes on, non-stop for 30 days!
The work day is shortened for the whole month so as not to overburden the workers. And then the Eid ul Fitr begins the day after Ramadan ends and celebrations can lasts upwards to a week and beyond before things get back to normal.
Oh, I forgot to mention that there is TONS of shopping going on at this time as well!
The most significant thing about the month of Ramadan is that it is the month in which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) received the first revelation from Allah (God) (SWA) from the angel Jibreel (Gabriel). It is the most revered of “holy”days with the last 10 days having the most significance and spiritual benefit to Muslims. It is within the last 10 days that the first revelation occurred and that particular night is called the Night of Power or Laitat al Qadr. This blessed night is meant for supplication and seeking forgiveness, with the worship and supplications on this glorious night greater than that of a thousand months.