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A Day in Ramadan

While many have shorter work hours and a lighter workload during the Holy Month, not everyone gets that luxury. People in key professions share how they cope when they’re still on the clock at iftar.


By Dominika Maslikowski and Ahmed Mansour


The Chef
Mohamed Hamed on getting iftar out on time

ChefHow does Ramadan affect your work schedule and workload?
It’s not that different from any other day; except that work is concentrated right before iftar and that we have to have all the orders ready by the time of the Maghreb prayer.

What challenges does Ramadan present in your job?
Cooking food while fasting is very difficult. I have to make sure that all the ingredients are right. We are allowed to test the recipe by putting a small amount of the food on the tip of our tongues without swallowing. That helps us to actually taste the food and know if it’s cooked right or not without breaking our fast. But my biggest challenge is that the kitchen tends to get really hot and humid, and the high temperature makes us really thirsty.

How do you deal with those challenges?
We try as much as we can to have a good sohour, sleep well, drink enough water, and as much as it doesn’t really work, the air conditioner in the kitchen must be on 24/7.

How do you break your fast while at work?
As soon as it’s time to break my fast, I drink a glass of water. After everyone is fed and most people have already left, I start fixing my own food and eat. The restaurant manager gives us about 45 minutes to have iftar, and then I’m back to work.

Hamed, 25, works at the Semiramis InterContinental Hotel in Cairo.


The Journalist
Ahmed Mahmoud looks for lighter topics and tips

How does Ramadan affect your work schedule and workload?
Ramadan is a very particular month when most people have to stay awake very late to have sohour before dawn and then they should pray and sleep to wake up early for work. The fact that they don’t sleep enough and do not eat or drink makes them slower and not willing to make an effort to avoid fatigue. The result is that most people consider Ramadan as a month of less work or no work, and this reduces my workload as well.

What challenges does Ramadan present in your job?
How to find new ideas to cover people’s interests during this month. They mostly care about religious topics.

How do you deal with those challenges?
I take it easy.

How do you break your fast at work?
We normally gather, bring food and wait until it’s time and eat all together.

What issues do you think journalists should focus on during the month?
I think journalists should focus on how to make the month enjoyable with new ideas on where to go and new places.

Mahmoud is a journalist for Al-Ahram’s daily newspaper.


The Traffic Cop
Ali Mustafa Ali keeps the roads moving during Ramadan

How does Ramadan affect your work schedule and workload?
My schedule is not different than any other day. I have to be at my post at exactly 6am, and I leave at 9pm.

What challenges does Ramadan present in your job?
Thirst and hunger are not the challenges that I face during fasting, but trying to manage traffic is. From personal experiences, supported by the experiences of my colleagues, during Ramadan people tend to ignore traffic lights, because they are always in a hurry to get back home and sleep or make it to iftar.

How do you deal with those challenges?
I do my best to keep things in order, especially that I have a very active intersection, but anger control and patience is always the key to my job.

How do you break your fast while at work?
When it’s about time to break my fast, my assistant goes and buys sandwiches for the officers at the intersection, with money that the government provides. We all take a break to have iftar, and we don’t worry about traffic then, because mostly all people are home having their iftar as well.

Ali, 37, directs traffic at the Manial/Salah Salem intersection in Cairo.


flightThe Flight Attendant
Nancy Ahmed Hamed on iftar in the air

How does Ramadan affect your work schedule and workload?
Ramadan doesn’t really affect my work schedule, as it’s all about the flight times that are already assigned by the airlines. As for the workload, it’s mostly the same, but if we are flying during fasting time, the food service is minimized.

What challenges does Ramadan present in your job?
The fact that we have to walk the plane’s aisle repeatedly makes us a little tired, especially while fasting. I tend to get a little thirsty and tired. Plus we often do not know when exactly we’ll be breaking our fast. We break our fast according to the time of the Maghreb prayer in the country we are flying over, so sometimes we fast more than other people and sometimes less.

How do you deal with those challenges?
What I usually do is that I make sure that I am well prepared to fast for as long as possible.

How do you break your fast while at work?
I break my fast with a drink of water or juice to keep me going. It takes me about 45 minutes to one hour to finish serving the food to the passengers, and that is when I start having my own iftar for the day.

Hamed, 28, works for EgyptAir.


The Sheikh
Ali Mohamed Ramadan looks forward to Ramadan all year

How does Ramadan affect your work schedule and workload?
The holy month of Ramadan is that month of the year that I wait anxiously for. The best thing about it is that I don’t really work, I pray, and prayers never make me tired. My life is usually scheduled by the prayer times, but in Ramadan I stay all day at the mosque, from 5am until 10pm.

What challenges does Ramadan present in your job?
There are no challenges at all. Yes, sometimes it gets hot in the mosque and while you are reciting the Quran you might get a little thirsty, but knowing the amount of thawab – good deeds – you get from fasting during Ramadan, it makes it as easy as taking a walk in the park.

How and when do you break your fast?
I break my fast after azan al-maghreb directly with a samboseq, which my wife prepares for me before I go to lead the prayer, a glass of water and a date. Then directly after prayer I go back home for iftar.

Ramadan, 52, is the sheikh at Dokki’s Al-Rahma Mosque.


The Political Activist
Essam Shaban on keeping momentum high during the Holy Month

How does Ramadan affect your work schedule and work load?
It does not affect my work schedule, it has to do more with organizing work between people. Some can work before iftar, and some can work after iftar. Of course there’s always the problem of getting in contact with people at iftar times. However, when it comes to organizing events like protests or sit-ins, it has no effect. If any, it actually helps because it becomes easier to gather people for protests.

How do you deal with these challenges?
I arrange different times to meet before or after iftar, but it becomes very hard to get hold of other activists or organizers during iftar times.

Do you ever go out for iftar or meet with other activists to break your fast?
Yes, for certain events we organize iftars for activists to get together and get in touch with the people, so we organize those iftars so we can have discussions during those events.

What are your goals in your activism work during the holiday season? Do you find that more people are receptive to projects that help others during Ramadan?
My goals in my activism are the same, whether it’s the holiday season or not. I find that it’s easier to gather people for iftars and suhoors.

Shaban is researcher in political anthropology at Cairo University and a self-described “left-wing” political activist.


The Doctor
Dr. Wael Safwat Abd Elmeguid on staying healthy during the holy month

How does Ramadan affect your work schedule and workload?
Before Ramadan many patients consult me on quitting smoking and on the recommended changes in medication. During the early days as well there are some cases of headaches, gastric problems and some other problems that occur due to the changes in work schedules, sleeping and eating habits.

What challenges does Ramadan present in your job?
The challenges that I face in my job are due to the change in lifestyle for me and for patients during Ramadan.

How do you deal with those challenges?
I plan some changes in my usual habits days before Ramadan, which include fasting for some days to let my body prepare for the changes. I also plan on getting a good amount of sleeping hours during Ramadan. This helps me to live a healthy and peaceful Ramadan. For my patients, I share different educational materials with them that help them to overcome any challenges.

How do you break your fast while at work?
Most of the time I plan my day so as to break my fast with my family. But if there are any circumstances that mandate that I am not at home, I order some food delivery or arrange with friends to have homemade food ready.

Do you get the same number of patients during the holidays, or do hospitals get busier during Ramadan?
Usually patients come more at nighttime in Ramadan until dawn. During the morning hours there are less patients, except for the severely ill.

Abd Elmeguid is a consultant of general medicine and tobacco treatment at the Wadi El-Nil Hospital in Heliopolis.


KioskThe Kiosk Owner
Amm Mohamed on those last-minute snack grabs before iftar

How does Ramadan affect your work schedule?
We are still open for 24 hours. There is some work during the day but very little. After iftar is over business gets better and picks up.

What is your day like during Ramadan?
Everything is quiet in the morning. Normally business slows down around 11pm or 12am, but during Ramadan business goes on until 4am People buy a lot during the evening hours. They buy things like yogurt and water, for example, because they want to eat quickly.

How are your sales affected during Ramadan?
Sales are low during the day. Some people buy things for iftar, but most of the people who make purchases are not Muslim and are foreigners. Everything evens out after iftar.

How do you break fast while at work?
In Ramadan we break fast here at the kiosk. We have a maedat rahman (community table) in the garden nearby for everybody in the area. There’s a bunch of us, so one of us will go tend to a customer when one approaches and then someone else will go the next time and so on.

Amm Mohamed works at a kiosk in Maadi’s Degla Square. et


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