Whose Idea was this again?
People asked me over and over why I made the decision to participate in this religious holiday. Why did I decide to fast for Ramadan? Even every night after the last call to prayer had begun—signaling it was O.K to eat and drink—the Egyptians would gawk at me in confusion and wonderment as to why I would put my body through such torture and misery for a religion and cause that was not my own. After all they had been raised around the experience as children, and their bodies were accustomed over the years to the fast. This didn’t make the idea any less difficult, but it seemed to be enough to strike intrigue and interest in my adamant decision to fast.
So why did I want to fast?
I wanted to fast for myself and only myself. I wanted to not only prove to myself that it could be done—because let’s face it, Krystal Kelly was never one to quit or back down from a challenge. The real truth was… I was in love with Egypt. The culture, the customs, the language, the food, the people…the random donkey cart in the street. Yes, I was even in love with the idea of the Muslim religion and their stoic reasons for fasting.
This hot-soup-like drink with chikpeas might look tasty...but believe me, it isn't.
When I committed myself to fasting everyday with the rest of the Egyptians, I was not doing it for anyone other than myself. I did it because I wanted to know what it was like being an Egyptian. I wanted to erase the memory and identity I had of ever being “that American girl.” I wanted to experience and feel a brand new identity. I wanted to live it, breathe it and fully immerse myself into the culture, customs and ideas I had grown so fond of. I wanted to be Egyptian even if it was only for thirty days.
And that is exactly what I did. Every morning at 2.30am I would wake up and drink as much water as I could stomach before waking up again at 6.00am to go ride my horses in the hot morning sun. The first week without water made my bones weak and my body fragile. I could not find the strength to lift my saddle onto my horse’s back. The grooms, enthusiastic with the idea of me fasting, took care of me during this time. Even though they were also fasting and suffering in the hot sun from dehydration and starvation, they all jumped at the chance to prepare my horse or carry my equipment. They congratulated me on how great I was doing and reminded me constantly how much they respected me for my decision to fast.
The afternoons were the hardest time of the day for me during the fasting. I had loved living alone without roommates until I realized I was all alone inside my apartment with a fridge full of ice cold water, a burning throat and no one around to keep me from cheating. My hunger pains and desperation for a drop of water made it impossible to sleep during my usually scheduled nap before I went back outside to give my evening riding lessons. Four hours alone, wide awake and nothing to do made for an excruciating battle of the mind.
Pigeon for Dinner, Anyone?
The thing I loved most about Ramadan Kareem is sitting with friends during the meals to break the fast in the evening! I was fortunate that during my time working in Egypt at a horse stables, I had met plenty of locals! (Especially since all the foreigners had been evacuated during the Revolution.) I got invited to Khan el Khalili with my Habibti, Enas and countless others. I also went to many Egyptian's homes and celebrated the "breakfast meal" with the family. I was welcomed like an Egyptian and everyone was happy to speak to me and congratulate me for surviving the fast that hot day. (It was the hottest month of the year!)
Eventually, the fasting became easier. My body learned to ignore the feelings of dehydration and hunger and my morning rides became more manageable. I started to gain weight (believe it or not) during my fast. At the end of the thirty days, I had done it. I had survived Ramadan without cheating. Although I do not intend to fast again, my experience was worthwhile and I feel I can better understand and relate with my fellow Egyptian friends as well as the many other Muslims around the Globe. Not only do I have something I can relate to them and connect with them on, but I more often than not make new Muslim friends simply by sharing my experience with them as evidence for the respect I have for their culture and customs!