My experience participating in Ramadan in Cairo.

“Why are you doing it??? You are not Muslim…” 

That is something I heard several times while I was participating in Ramadan. Most people have heard of Ramadan and most people probably think it’s crazy and if you haven’t you will know all about it by the end of this post. I’ll be honest I think it’s crazy too, but wow is it a beautiful time of the year. I heard about Ramadan years ago and from the moment I read about it was intrigued. I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe so many people would come together and participate in something so crazy (by crazy I mean amazing) in the name of faith and devotion.

Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt

A women selling prayer beads (subha) in a market in Cairo. 

So what is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar year. The Month of Ramadan is also when it is believed the Holy Quran “was sent down from heaven, a guidance unto men and women, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation”. It is during this month that Muslims fast. It is called the Fast of Ramadan and lasts the entire month. Ramadan is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation. During the Fast of Ramadan strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. They are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting.

The evening meal after sunset Iftar is when Muslims break their fast with family and loved ones. It is normally a huge feast. A few dates and a cup of water are usually the first foods to break the fast, while fried pastries, salads, nuts, legumes, and breads are common. Traditional desserts are often unavoidable, especially those made only during Ramadan. As dawn approaches Muslims have their Sahoor the meal before the sun rises. This is normally a smaller meal to hold them over during the entire day  until Iftar.

Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt

A decorated fanous at a friends home.

Ramadan traditions vary from country to country. One of the traditions I loved in Egypt was the FanousFor Egyptians the Ramadan celebrations include the display of Fawanees (plural for Fanous). The Fanous is considered by some the extension of the torches used in the Pharaonic festivals celebrating the rising of the Sirius star in which the ancient Egyptians were celebrating the birthdays of Osiris, Horus, Isis, Seth and Nephtys by lighting the streets with torches. Nowadays the Fanous or the Ramadan Lantern is just a decoration and entertainment for the children. I loved seeing the streets and homes decorated with these. In a lot of Muslim countries today lights are strung up in public squares, and across city streets, to add to the festivities of the month.

Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt

A decorated street in Downtown Cairo.

My experience participating in Ramadan in Cairo & why I did it.

I had always been intrigued by Ramadan and when I found out I was going to be in Egypt (a Muslim country) during it I got excited. I knew it would make it hard for me, but I was looking forward to the experience. It wasn’t until a few days before it started that I decided I would participate in it. I did it because my boyfriend is Muslim and was going to be participating in it. He didn’t ask me to do it, but thought if he is going to do it I should respect him and do it with him. When I told him I was going to do it he laughed and said “you won’t last a week”, but was happy I would do it with him. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but when he mentioned that I thought “challenge accepted”. This meant fasting for 30 days… yes no food, water, or sex during daylight hours. The thought of it alone made me nauseous. The crazy thing was this was not like any regular Ramadan, this year Ramadan happened to fall right at the peak of summer for the Muslim world making it the hottest Ramadan in over 30 years. I though great… long summer days with Egyptian heat and no water lord help me please.

The next 30 days proved to be tough. The 1st week was the hardest, just getting used to it. Before Ramadan I had never fasted before in my life. I was going to sleep full waking up hungry and soooo thirsty, it was torture. I learned early on though that it’s a mind game you must not think about it and it will be easy. Sometimes I was able to control it and others I couldn’t. I noticed though that after a few days because I would have Iftar around 7pm then Sahoor around 3am I would then stay up the rest of the night and have problems sleeping. So after a few days I realized I was kind of cheating by sleeping all day and waking up a few hours before it was time to eat Iftar again. I told my friends, but they said it was okay that a lot of people do it like that.

Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt

What I look like breaking my fast with a huge 6 liter bottle of water.

What I loved most though was the atmosphere in Cairo it changed so much during Ramadan. My friends had told me that it’s a beautiful time and that I will notice the change, but didn’t believe them. Ramadan came along and sure enough it changed. People were much nicer, I noticed less arguments and crazy things on the streets, I noticed more giving. I will never forget many things I witnessed during Ramadan, like walking through the streets right before the call to prayer and seeing people give out drinks to the bus/cab drivers, or giving out food to the less fortunate. Or the time I broke my fast at McDonalds and found it so interesting that everyone had ordered their food and sat down waiting for the call to prayer to ring to start eating (I had never been in a McDonalds with everyone not eating and waiting to eat together). Or the many times I broke my fast with him and my friends.

I mean it was just an amazing experience and now I must confess I did break my fast three times. Yes I know I am horrible, but I did. Two of them were in the shower… I drank the water cus I had been outside for one thing or another and was dying of thirst and didn’t want anyone to see me. The other was with him we both watched one of our friends eat ice cream and we both wanted some so broke it. Other than that though I did good. I mean come on… I was doing it just for him & I so it’s okay.

Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt

A card I made for all my muslim friends and readers around the world with Cairo’s skyline. 

The end though was the best feeling of it all. The end of Ramadan is called Eid-ul-Fitr and is when you break your fast for the last time and enjoy the celebrations that come the next 3 days. I had my last meal with him at his friends along with his brother and his brothers friends. His brother picked us up on his Vespa and as we were speeding through the crazy streets of Cairo the call to prayer played and it felt magical. I had never been on a vespa in Cairo and then to be on it during the call to prayer for our last break fast was just an amazing feeling. I still remember it vividly and will never for that moment in time. The following days Downtown Cairo turned into a huge place of celebration. It was chaos and yet something so beautiful.


It’s been about a month since Ramadan ended and I must say it was one of the best experiences I have had on the road. No it wasn’t an amazing sunset view, or amazing sand dunes or amazing beach, but it was 30 days of determination to do something I had always wanted to experience myself. I am not a very religious person, but I respect all religions and feel like the key to understanding one an other is to also understand each others religion. Participating in Ramadan let me see just how beautiful Ramadan really is and what it signifies to the millions of Muslims around the world.

I would like to hear what you think about Ramadan and my experience participating it. Would you do it? 

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  1. I don’t think I’ve commented here before, but I read your blog often and had to leave a comment on this post. What an amazing post – so inspiring and I love the details you shared about the special moments you enjoyed thanks to Ramadan. I of course know about Ramadan and I always wonder how they do it, but I don’t know much more than that so it’s great to read more about what goes into it and how it has an effect on the community at the time. Congrats for doing it, even if you did break the fast, I think you can be really, really proud!
    Ruth P recently posted..Preparing Your Business For An Internet-Free Vacation

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Hi Ruth thank you so much for the comment. Yes I too had always known about it, but had no clue it was really so magical.It was an amazing experience and am so happy I did it. If you are ever in a Muslim country during Ramadan you should try it… even if its a few days.

  2. What a great post! Most people avoid Muslim countries during Ramadan and I love that you embraced the culture and custom! Congrats on your success. I have included you in my weekly roundup here:
    vagabondette mandy recently posted..7 FAQs About How I Feed Myself & My Travel Addiction

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Thank you Mandy, I think it’s sad most people do avoid Muslim countries during this time and well I understand why, but this is honestly the best time to see one. It’s so beautiful and magical something I’ll never forget. Thanks for including me in the round up.

  3. If he knew u broke your fast 3days!! jk

    I’m sure he’s proud of you!

  4. I could go without food but I honestly don’t know how people go without water that long and in such hot environments! Still so impressed with you!
    Laura recently posted..The Time I Nearly Got Stranded at a Desolate Border Crossing

    • Jaime Davila says:

      I thought the same thing at 1st too Laura, I thought okay I can do this but can’t give up water because of the Egyptian Heat… but then realized it just wouldn’t be the same so went all the way and well made it!

  5. I’m so impressed Jaime! Not eating or drinking anything during daylight hours, especially during an extremely hot month, is something I just don’t think I’d even attempt. I am a bitch when I’m hungry! This post brought a tear to my eye. I think it was such a sweet thing to do for him, and I’m sure he appreciated that you cared for him enough to go through this with him.
    Ali recently posted..Simple Preparations for Your Flight

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Thanks Ali, it was tough very tough but I had an amazing reason to do it and well wanted to do it for him. He really did appreciate it & i’ll never forget the times we broke our fast together… it was so beautiful.

  6. I think it’s fantastic that you participated in Ramadan to experience something new and to support your boyfriend. I think I would be okay without food during the day (though I love to eat) but not being able to drink would have been a challenge! Kudos to you, m’dear.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Thanks Heather so much, it was a great experience and well I had a great reason to do it even though he didn’t ask me to. Yeah not being able to drink water was the biggest challenge… I would wake up so thirsty and get so thirsty during the day. It was tough but I made it. I’m sure you could too.

  7. I think you’re really strong to have accomplished this. I can’t imagine going even one day without water during the summer in Egypt. I think you must have really learned things that you didn’t know about yourself while participating in Ramadan. Think you might do it again some day?
    Sabina recently posted..Enjoying a Wedding in Vietnam! Until I Discovered It Was a Funeral.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Thanks Sabina so much. I learned so much about my self I didn’t even know. I didn’t want to write it all because some stuff was more personal, but yes this was an amazing experience. As for doing it again… hmmmm not sure. I actually think I may, but would have to be the right circumstances again.

  8. I once went to a 3 week silence retreat. Absolutely no talking at all for three weeks. It was incredibly difficult but also amazingly rewarding. Your beautiful post on Ramadan reminds me in some ways of that experience. Kudos.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Oh I was going to do one of those in India, but knew I wouldn’t make it. I know I talk so much… and yeah just couldn’t do it. Glad this post was able to remind you of something just a amazing.

  9. Congrats Jaime! This is one of my favorite posts of yours. You really can’t get more “local” than this experience. 🙂

    I’d say breaking your fast 3 times in one month is pretty damn good! May have to try this myself someday.
    Matthew Karsten recently posted..Meet the Mexican Marines [PHOTO]

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Wow thanks so much Matt, glad you enjoyed the post & yeah I really couldn’t get more local than this. So much more I wanted to write about but it would have made it so long, maybe some day down the road I write a bit more. The experience is just amazing breaking your fast with the rest of the country and just lil things. If you find yourself in a muslim country during Ramadan you should give it a try. It will give you an ENTIRE new look at the muslim world.

  10. Bravo Jamie…. even i live in Muslim country (M’sia), nvr in my life i participate the fasting month. way too hard for not having water in a hot country…Because of your determination of fasting, i will give a try one day…

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Thanks so much June… I can’t believe you have never participated. You should really do it… I know its hot & very hard but the experience is like no other. Hope you try it one day… when you do I’d love to see what you think about it.

  11. You hung in there!

    I love that you drank water in the shower.
    Kent @ No Vacation Required recently posted..Stop Thinking

  12. Good for you, volunteering for this experience 🙂 Dehydration must have been a real concern during daylight hours.

    It’s amazing the beauty and open mindedness we can experience from cultures other than our own.
    Everyone could benefit from stepping outside their normal belief system and comfort zone to try something new, whether it be this, or something equally as exotic.
    Jeff Bronson recently posted..Hiking through Helen & Atlanta, GA

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Exactly Jeff “Everyone could benefit from stepping outside their normal belief system and comfort zone to try something new, whether it be this, or something equally as exotic.” you said it so perfectly. That is what travel is all about and when you experience you learn so much.

  13. it’s easy to bear that, if you can stay without food you can also stay without drinking water… and as she mentioned so far it’s a mind game just do not think in food and water and it will become pretty and easy.
    personally, i find that ramadan’s experience is the most enjoyable experiences i have ever experienced before.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Oh yes Dima, it’s all a mind game I learned that after a few days into it. I agree with you in that it’s one of the most enjoyable experiences and just so beautiful.

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