Thursday, October 06, 2005

Ahlan Ramadan

Ramadan means dusting off my antique tin fanous with the tiny candle inside and burning my fingers while lighting it. Ramadan means the return of my beloved seasonal ritual of listening to Shaykh She'esha's sublime rendering of Surat Yusuf. Ramadan means abandoning all sense of conventional time, greeting the chirping birds at daybreak and sunset and withdrawing from the world at midday. Ramadan is Shari' Gala' miraculously deserted at sunset. Watching kunafa being made in Harat al-Megharbeleen at midnight, transfixed like a child. Hearing Shaykh Yaseen fil Husayn.

Ramadan is memories, of singing wahawi ya wahawi on the old basta, fanous actually in hand. Ramadan means official sanction to be crotchety and unbearable during the day, charming and mirthful by night. Ramadan means complaining about the ridiculous commercialisation of Ramadan; bemoaning Egyptians’ knack at turning a month of discipline into a festival of excess.

Ramadan is debilitating fatigue giving way to irrepressible energy in the space of an hour. Breakfasting on khoshaf and ending with qamareddine pudding (with shredded coconut and raisins on top, naturally). With the passage of time and the fading of childhood, Ramadan for me has come to mean stock-taking, introspection, asceticism, renewed resolve. Ramadan is the blurring of the spiritual and the profane, of cascading epiphanies in sleep and wakefulness. Ramadan is family, Ramadan is solitude. Ramadan Kareem.

*Mahmoud Said's al-Zikr (1936).