Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ramadan chronicles, part two in a series


As blogged last time, I'll be blogging about Ramadan in Egypt, mainly because it is a very interesting time, but also because at least here in Egypt and Cairo in particular, there are some interesting facts to know.

So this time I want to discuss the timing of Ramadan. First of all you should know that the Islamic calendar is based on the moon. In the end this results in a year of 354 days, for me that means the year is missing 11 days. And more interestingly, the months on a Islamic calendar are moving throughout the year relative to the Julian or Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar of the western world. Which as you might know has 365 days, typically.
As I came to understand, Ramadan is actually the name of one of the 12 Islamic months. And because the months are shorter, each year Ramadan starts 11 days earlier compared to the western calendar. Basically the moving Ramadan mystery is nothing more than a matter of simple math.

So what else is there to be said about the timings during Ramadan. Well for one, those that are fasting are not allowed to consume anything during the day, where the day is defined by the time between sunrise and sunset. When I say consume anything, I mean anything. So no food, no drinks, no cigarettes, no marriage, no consuming all together. Or at least this I was told by colleagues at work.
Because we're here in Egypt, this whole sunrise - sunset thing is nothing compared to the Netherlands or for example Norway where the sunrises pretty darn early and sets pretty darn late. And there're no exceptions to this rule.
Then there's another interesting piece of information regarding time in Egypt versus Ramadan: The government has decreed that the during the month of Ramadan, there's no daylight savings. So all of a sudden you find yourself being early at every meeting because none of the automatically clock-changing gadgets we have these days is aware of this. Phones stick with daylight savings, electronic calendering systems stick with daylight savings. But at the start of Ramadan the clock is turned back for an hour. And after Ramadan it is set back to daylight savings, just for the remainder of the period the rest is also enjoying a little bit more of sunlight. This is very confusing, in every respect.
Furthermore, businesses and the government anticipate the fact that their employees won't be very productive in the afternoon, so all of a sudden the workday is from 10 AM to 3 PM, more or less. And in the office, after 4 PM it place is more or less deserted. Only a very few stay until 4.15 PM. Everybody is heading home for breakfast (short for: break fasting?), or Iftar as it is being called (pardon my spelling), which this year starts at 6:30 PM.

So for me, Ramadan has been very interesting this year, more over because I am a nut for watches and the time, and time plays an important role in Egypt during Ramadan.