It was 11pm and I had 40,000 Egyptian pounds (approx. $8000) in my bag sitting on the seat beside me in the taxi, which was stuck in traffic. This was another night out during Ramadan.
Having three young children, I don’t go out much after dark as their bed time is 8pm. But during the month of Ramadan here in Egypt, stores change their schedules to accommodate the fasting that occurs during daylight, and feasting that takes place during dark. Whereas the best time for me to run errands is in the morning after dropping Emma off at preschool, some stores don’t open until noon or 2pm, and then they close for a few hours as people break the fast and conduct their special Ramadan prayers, only to open again from 9pm until midnight or later. So a few times this month, I found myself walking the streets of Maadi after dark running errands.
A couple times I ventured into a slightly lower class area in north Maadi, not far from our new home, where I was trying to get a blender fixed and some pants shortened. My attempts to buy ice cream at a place I recently found had mixed results. I was successful two times when I went around 10pm, but the day I went during daylight I was told they only sold ice cream at night after everyone broke their fast.
I had an idea that our family should take a walk one night after fast-breaking so the girls could see some of the lights that decorate the houses during Ramadan, and so Jayson could see one of the main streets in our new neighborhood. The plan was to walk to the main street around 7:30pm, an hour after fast-breaking, and then get ice cream at the local shop which has great ice cream for only two Egyptian pounds a scoop (approx. 40 cents). Can’t beat that deal when it comes to an ice cream store! So, all day long, I told the girls we were going for a walk that night and would have a “surprise.” So after dinner, the girls climbed into the big stroller (double) and the small stroller (umbrella) and took off north for about a ten minute walk. We pointed out the decorations on people’s houses and the girls enjoyed that. Every time she saw a light on a house, Hannah would say, “Ramadan!” Jayson got to see the main street which was only starting to liven up now that people had eaten their main meal. After another hour or so, the street would be busy with people shopping and drinking tea. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the ice cream store, the surprise was on me! They weren’t going to open until after Ramadan prayers … maybe 8:30 or so, and we really didn’t want to wait for half an hour or more at that point. So, I walked across the street and bought some nasty ice cream novelties which saved the surprise for the girls, but didn’t really appease my sweet tooth! Chalk it up to a learning experience.
Another night Jayson and I got to enjoy the spirit of Ramadan as his work colleagues took a trip downtown to break the fast all together. We met at some outdoor tables right outside Khan-al-Khalili, the famous market bazaar of Cairo, and enjoyed a delicious and quickly-served meal. As the call to prayer sounded, everyone in the whole courtyard began to eat at once. It was a fun atmosphere and surprisingly good food. We topped the evening off with a wonderful performance by the Tannoura group not too far from where we ate dinner. This was a free show of Sufi singing, dancing, twirling, and instrumentalists. Some of their stuff was pretty amazing. I would definitely recommend it. All in all, the night wasn’t too late as we were home by about 11:30.
And now onto this night. We would be traveling in just a few days, and Jayson needed some help with work errands as he had more than he really had time for before leaving. I offered to take the Euros he withdrew from the bank for work expenses, and exchange it at the moneychanger. Again, hours of operation weren’t totally conducive to my schedule with three young girls. So, this was the night I could venture out at 10pm to change the money. Unfortunately, with all of the shopping and feasting at night, the traffic is pretty heavy, so as we slowly crawled along, I considered getting out and walking home. I could probably walk it in about half an hour. But since I had so much money in my bag and it was 11pm, I thought it would be safer to stay in the taxi. Besides, I didn’t really feel like walking by this point in the day; I would rather have been sleeping!
I eventually made it home on this, my last night of Ramadan wanderings. Or, at least until next year, when we may attempt another night out for ice cream, and see what errands take me out on the streets of Maadi way past my bedtime!