For those of you who aren’t familiar with meals during Ramadan – I certainly wasn’t until several days ago – iftar is the meal right after sunset when Muslims feast after a day without food or water, and suhoor is the meal they eat pre-dawn to sustain them until iftar. Again, this is all during Ramadan.
The two trips could not have been more different, and they demonstrate that miracles really can occur when people are hungry. For the iftar trip, we met at 4 p.m. for a 6:30 meal. We were on the bus at 4:01 and en route by 4:10.
For those of us who weren’t fasting, that meant we had almost two hours to watch the beautiful view and sunset from the top of the cruise boat. For those who were fasting, it meant that the second the sun set, they could run downstairs and dig in.
The food was incredible. We each had a chicken the size of my head, in addition to cinnamon-spiced rice, two fried mystery items, and three delicious desserts (nicknamed honey, butter and nut, respectively). This was just on our plates – there were appetizers as far as the eye could see lining every free inch of the table!
By contrast, Bedouin night could have been organized by the Italians. We were told to meet at 9 p.m. (after iftar had been eaten), and our bus didn’t end up leaving until after 11. We arrived around midnight, after passing the pyramids, to find blaring oriental music, sheesha and couches all over the floor. We were given delicious rice and the boniest meat I have ever eaten. (I’m convinced that it was whatever malnourished bird flew past the kitchen that morning.) And then the real action began.
The most “haram” (sinful, forbidden) belly-dancer I have ever seen began twirling herself around with the craziest figures I could ever imagine. Men on stilts, men in weird little midget costumes teeter-tottering with their arms out, and three men in a giant horse costume all began dancing to really loud music. I had just ordered a wildly expensive fresh-squeezed lemonade (15 Egyptian pounds – about $3), and when I turned around I thought I had stepped into some twisted form of Bedouin “Alice in Wonderland”. Also, a clearly drugged lion appeared, with which we were encouraged to take pictures for 75 Egyptian pounds. La’a shukran. (No thanks.)
After that madness, which we were invited to join, somehow David Guetta started playing, and it just turned into a dance party in odd surroundings. There was lots of jumping and clapping, though.
All in all, the night was a testament to how much food influences your actions. When no one has eaten or had anything to drink all day, even Africa can mobilize itself to be not only on time, but early! However, once food has been eaten and there is no longer any rush, life continues at its usual unhurried pace.