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Egypt Prepares for First Post-Mubarak Ramadan

  • Al Pessin

A man spreads incense smoke over the goods to ward off the evil eye, in the marketplace in Cairo, July 2011

A man spreads incense smoke over the goods to ward off the evil eye, in the marketplace in Cairo, July 2011

This year’s holy month of Ramadan starts early next week and for Egyptians, it will be the first since the revolution in January and February ousted then-President Hosni Mubarak.

On a street leading to a mosque, vendors have set up a market selling holiday items, including lots of traditional Egyptian Ramadan lamps. There also are toys for the children, and nuts, dates and other treats. A man spreads incense smoke over the goods to ward off the evil eye.

It is a busy time as families rush to get ready for the nightly fast-breaking meal, the Iftar, which traditionally includes lots of food and especially sweets. Several people take time, though, to talk about the significance of celebrating Ramadan now that Mubarak is no longer president.

“I feel like people have started to love each other more and cooperate with each other more,” said one woman interviewed at the marketplace.

“There is some change since Mubarak got deposed and those thieves left," said another woman with her child. "But we’re still waiting for something good to happen to the country.”

Walid, the owner of a large stall that sells goods, has a more negative view.

“There’s a lot of tension and nervousness in the street these days," said Walid. "We changed the regime. Now it’s time for people to change.”

Another vendor, Mahmoud, said the holy month is always the same. “Ramadan is a blessed month. It is the same every year," he said. "There is no change with Mubarak out.”

But that is not the view at the headquarters of the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood’s new political party. Senior Brotherhood member and party Vice-chairman Esam El-Erian spent eight years in prison under Mubarak.

“It has a very good significance because mosques are free now for all activities, which reflect unity of not only Muslims, Muslims and Christians, and solidarity between rich and poor, and free speech for all scholars to give and address the population about the real facts about Islam,” said El-Erian.

While many Egyptians may not be thinking about politics as they do their holiday shopping, they likely are noticing a different sort of change.

Prices are up sharply on some items, meaning that while Egyptians who opposed the old regime may have something extra to celebrate this year, they will find it more expensive to do so.

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