I can’t believe Ramadan*(check bottom) is already over and that even the supposedly long three days of Eid-feast are gone! Again, time flies and sometimes it’s so hard to keep up.
This Ramadan was tough. It was tough on so many levels.
I began the final exams of my fourth year in college on 4th of May, and Ramadan began the 6th of May. While most families were preparing and stocking up on food and cleaning up their houses in order to free themselves for worship, I was trying to find time to revise for the 6 upcoming exams. I had absolutely no time for any kind of preparation and was just hoping for the best. I even told my husband that we’d probably have to skip all the elaborate iftar’s (the meal with which we break our fast) and go with whatever wouldn’t take too much time in preparing.
Trying to find time and focus to study with a 20 month old is a struggle. Doing the same while fasting is on a whole other level of struggle. The first week or so of fasting is usually the toughest, because our bodies haven’t yet adjusted to the lack of food. We get hungry and grumpy during meal times and by sunset, are often exhausted. Many have a nap in the afternoon or sleep in a little whenever possible. For me, that wasn’t really possible. Yunus had gotten used to getting up by at least 7 am if not earlier due to nursery and my going to college and so that’s what he did for the better half of Ramadan. I couldn’t have any rest during his nap time either, because that was basically the only time I had for study.
So our days were mostly spent with Yunus getting up early, me trying to stay awake with him, studying while he slept and trying to put some food together while he was snacking. Nights would be a bit more peaceful with him being in bed by 9 to 10 pm. That was the time for me to pray and recite Quran on my own. Ammar would take part in the taraweeh-prayer at the mosque so I was often on my own. I did a failed attempt at praying with Yunus at the mosque on the 1st day of Ramadan, but it was just a mess. He would run around the lines, steal other people’s keys, phones, water bottles or make an effort to run out of the mosque altogether when people were entering and exiting.
This left me sad and frustrated for a while. I was unable to take part in the worship and spirituality of Ramadan like others. With the help of friends and their assurances that simply taking care of my son was enough worship for me, I was able to gain some positive energy. I continued praying at home after Yunus was in bed and naturally stayed up late at night to catch up on exam revision.
Soon, the last 10 days of Ramadan were at the door. The odd nights of those 10 days (the night of 21st, 23rd etc) are considered among the most important nights of the year. It is believed that The Night of Power, the night in which the Holy Quran was first revealed to the prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) is among those odd nights and hence, extra worship is recommended. I was hoping to be able to join the night prayer at least on the odd nights, but decided to feel content even if I didn’t.
My luck turned towards the better when my brother-in-law Ahmed and his wife Mariam came to spend their holiday here in Egypt with their two beautiful daughters (5 and 2 year-olds). Mariam and her daughter’s presence at the mosque was an enormous encouragement for me. Yunus would sit and watch intently his cousins play and was often engaged in what they were doing as well. Naturally, this allowed me to pray among the congregation!
Some little skirmishes on whose turn was it to play with the legos or on who ate all the cookies were not avoided, but they were a cheap price for the opportunity to pray alongside the congregation. Although both of us had to interrupt our prayer from time to time for an emergency toilet visit or a little boo-boo (wa-wa in Egypt!) in the finger or toe that needed to be kissed, I dare say that we both felt happy about the atmosphere at the mosque and could attain a little higher level of spirituality there.
I finished my exams around the 21st of Ramadan (yey, a graduate!) and suddenly, fasting the rest of the month wasn’t that much of a struggle. I guess the mental load of studying has a lot to do with extra tiredness…
We’d stay up till sohor (the early meal before sunrise) now that it wasn’t urgent for me to get some sleep in order to study during the day, and even did a few crazy outings at 2 am to eat our sohor (mostly encouraged by my brother-in-law) in a restaurant somewhere. It felt good to be free. My mood was better, food tasted better, and even Yunus was happier.
The approaching of Eid celebrations is often a time in which I deeply miss my own family, and I struggled to overcome the little clouds that were gathering around me on the last day of Ramadan. Luckily, my little sister Fatima is coming to Cairo for a visit soon, so that helped a little, along with video-calls with my other family members.
We celebrated the Eid-feast on the 5th of June by attending the early morning Eid-prayer, eating kahk (Middle-Eastern Eid cookies) at Ammar’s aunt, visiting his grandparents and eventually by hitting the road towards North Coast by the Mediterranean for a mini-holiday.
We probably ate the better side of a kilogram of Eid-sweets and drank buckets of tea with milk (a traditional combo). A month of fasting can do that to you! But hey, no regrets.
I hope all of you spent a lovely Eid holiday alongside your dear ones. A little late, but Eid Mubarak ❤
Halima, Ammar and Yunus
*Ramadan is a Muslim holy month (exactly 30 days this year ) during which all Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. We abstain from all food and drink, and try to avoid all kinds of sins. The purpose of the month is naturally that of worship, but also an effort to understand and feel for the less fortunate. Hence, charity and helping out the poor even in the simplest of manners is highly recommended.