With Eid Al Fitr coming up quite soon, some of you might be wondering what this holiday is all about, especially if you’ll be visiting the Middle East during this time. Well, I’ll give you a short explanation of this religious holiday. Eid Al Fitr (Festival of Breaking of the Fast) is the 3 day holiday celebrated by Muslims the world over at the end of the month of Ramadan. Before I go into the details of Eid Al Fitr, I’ll give you a brief run-through of what Ramadan is for those who aren’t quite sure.
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. Since the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycles, Ramadan can last for either 29 or 30 days, and occurs about 15 days earlier every Gregorian year. During this month, Muslims all over the world fast, meaning they abstain from sunrise to sunset from drinking, eating, smoking, having sex with their partners, and all other worldly pleasures in an effort to learn patience, humility, and submissiveness to God. During Ramadan, Muslims offer the 5 daily prayers, as well as extra prayers at night called the Taraweeh prayers, and even some before the morning Fajr prayer called Tahajjud. This is a very holy month as it is the month in which the Quran first began being revealed to the Prophet Mohamed.
At the end of the month is a 3 day festival called Eid Al Fitr, or Festival of Breaking the Fast. This 3 day feast is a celebration of having completed the month long fast. It begins the new month (the 10th month, called Shawwal), with the sighting of a new moon. On the first day of Eid, it is customary for everyone to put on their best clothes and pray together the special Eid prayers, then have a large meal/feast with family and visiting friends.
Eid is a national holiday in Egypt, with most festivities and celebrations lasting 3 days, with most sectors having all 3 days off. It’s a great time to be in Egypt, to see the kids playing together in the streets, all the families and friends having a meal together, and just to experience the overall celebratory feeling.
It’s a drastic change to feel that Cairo is alive again during the day, after having been a night city for the last month! Not to mention the delicious Kahk (traditional cookies filled with nuts and covered with powdered sugar) that you’ll find being served everywhere. If you’re in Cairo at the end of August, beginning of September (tentative dates are August 31 – September 2) stay on the lookout for these events and special cookies…you won’t regret it!