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myRamadan: Returning to Egypt

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by Alia Ghoneum

When I was a child, I used to visit Egypt two to three times a year, so much so that I got an “excessive absence” warning on my first grade report card. As the years went by and after my grandmother Teta Dawlat passed away (Allah yarham), I have not been back for six years. Alhamduillah millioon mara, I was so fortunate to visit Egypt this summer- I feel awakened from a state of dormancy. I forgot what a large and loving family I had. Sometimes, especially in America, we get so caught up in our own little bubbles, studying for our classes, trying to lose weight, trying to improve our resumes, asking for more and more from Allah, that we forget what Allah tala has already given us. We beg for more water from the heavens, without seeing the oceans that we already have. We forget where we came from and how much our families love us.

When I returned to Egypt this summer, I thought that everything had changed and I feared to face those changes. In fact, with regards to my family, nothing really changed. This is what I love about having a family. Other external factors may change. Yes, your new nokia cell might die, yes you might have to get a new car, move from high school to college, move from one city to another, but there is one element in life that will not change and that is the love between you and your family. For me, a large part of Ramadan is about appreciating one’s family and asking Allah tala to strengthen the bonds within a family.

Just as an introduction, I have seven uncles and each one has 3 to 4 children- you can see how someone walking in the street is somehow related to you.
My family is from a village called Kom El nour, about three hours from Cairo.
Some traditions/memories:

Masjids, masjids everwhere!
I counted with my cousins, Mamdooh and Ahmed and there are seven masjids within a one minute walking distance of my home. You can spend one week, going into a different mosque every day! Additionally, what is more amazing is the azan. You will always know when it is time to pray and missing Fajr is not a huge concern because the azan is so loud that you will likely be awakened in time to pray fajr. Since the azans start a few seconds apart from masjid to masjid, you hear a beautiful symphony of overlapping azans, there is nothing like it.
Suhoor and Iftar
Many families stay up after iftar, and after a couple of hours, eat suhoor and after praying fajr, sleep.
To break the fast, we drink mango juice,tamra hindi ( an Indian drink which is sold on the streets in plastic bags) or simply coke or orange fanta. My uncle Subree passes out free juice to break iftar.  It is a tradition to make mahshi (stuffed cabbage leaves and stuffed eggplant). Also, we cook duck and uncaged chicken ( firagk baladi) and drink a green soup called molokoya. My other uncle, Amo Reda makes Konafa, a sweet cake make from thin noodles, raisins and nuts. All of my uncles would sit and talk for long hours until fajr or watch the popular soccer matches and my aunts would prepare for suhoor. It was truly a time of family bonding.

Taraweh prayer
It is also a tradition to pray taraweh in the masjids with cousins and friends. There would be water dispensers near the prayer areas to catch a drink in between the taraweh breaks. The water is either in a clay urn or in a plastic cup. While taraweh prayers made our legs tired and strained, it purified our hearts and we left the masjid feeling closer to Allah tala. When you get out of the masjids, there are beautiful colored paper designs hanging from house to house, so that when you look up, you see a curtain of spectacular colors!

Giving to the Poor
It is also a tradition to slay a goat and feed the poor. My male cousins usually do the slaying (and take pride in it too) and my uncles distribute the meat. To see the smiles on everyone’s faces is enough to make you happy for the entire month!

Remembering those who Passed
On the last day of my stay in Egypt, I was holding my five year old cousin named Mona, bint Heba. I asked her about her my aunt who recently passed. She said in Arabic, “She died, but she is with God”.
It is difficult to remember, but let us try to realize that from Allah tala we came and to Him we will return. Therefore, let us make our short stay in dunya one of peace and strive in the way of Allah tala.  By doing so, we can, inshallah, be with those we love in Akira.
I would like to thank everyone in my family for being such wonderful people and for making this Ramadan so amazing.
Amo Reda and Tunt Fathiya, Thank you for being my second father and mother- words cannot express how happy you two made me.
Khalid and Walid- Thank you for helping us and spending time going back and forth to Cairo, you are two fantastic and funny brothers~ishta~
Shireen- ya habibiti! You are my closest sister and I love you so much.
Mamdooh and Helal- I don’t know where you get your energy from, inshallah we can play Kahraba again.

Thank you Mustafa and Ahmad ibn Amo Subree for your gifts and your smiles
Also, thank you Amo Marzuki, Amo Osum, Amo Helal, Amo Subree,  Amo Ahmad Naada (for making us laugh)and everyone else

On a side note, my father also appeared in Al -Jazeera last week to speak about his research findings, it was interesting to see him on TV!
Ramdaan Kareem from my family to yours and may you all appreciate your wonderful families!


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One comment

  1. thanks alya for such great article about ramdan and our family we hope you and the family come again soon to egypt ISHTA>>>>

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