News / Middle East

Middle East Heat, Economy Make Ramadan Challenging



The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is due to begin Wednesday across much of the Middle East and families are feverishly preparing for the event.  However, economic troubles and an unusually hot summer are expected to make the annual event something of an ordeal for many this year.

Housewives crowded the cooperative supermarket in Cairo's Dokki neighborhood Tuesday as they bought fruits, nuts, beans, rice and other foodstuffs to make copious Ramadan meals to break the fast at sunset.

Wafaa, a smiling housewife with her 8-year-old son Gamal in tow, complains that inflation is making many traditional foods unaffordable for the masses, this year, but that those who can afford it are donating bags of groceries to the poor.

"Many, many families can't buy meat," Wafaa said. "They will eat only fool [baked fava beans] - and maybe chicken. But me and my sister, we always buy bags of food and give it to poor people.  One bag for each family."

The nearby Qods supermarket has lined over 50 bags of Ramadan food packages in front of the store, ready to deliver to poor families in the neighborhood.  When Ramadan begins, long tables of evening meals, or iftars, will also be set in many places for poor families to eat.

In Lebanon, traditional Ramadan tents are also being set up in many places for both the rich and poor to eat their meals after sunset and to spend their nights watching television or listening to music.

Tents for the poor, or Khaimat al-Kheir, are donated by the wealthy, says Mustapha, a young man who lives just outside of Beirut.

"Rich people help poor people by donating food and drinks at Ramadan's breaking fast time, which is sunset," Mustapha said. "They build tents, which are 'khaimat al-kheir,' to let these people eat and help them to break their fast.  Mainly it's soup with dates, with vegetables; sometimes they make rice; sometimes they make chickens."

Record heat this Ramadan has also raised fears that people who fast may be at greater risk of suffering from dehydration.

In Baghdad, the extreme heat this year has many families worried.  One Iraqi housewife, Umm Hussein, pleads with the government to provide more electricity to help families cope.

She says that everyone is pleading with the government and with God to help them find a solution to the electricity crisis, because the weather is extremely hot and everyone will be fasting.  She complains that it is unfair to give everyone only one hour of electricity every six hours.

In the Gaza Strip, many are angry that the enclave's only power plant has run out of fuel just before Ramadan.  People, like Abdul Rahman, also complain that they have no money for food.

He complains that the market is stocked with almost everything, but that many people cannot afford what they need because of the economic situation in the region.

With Ramadan set to begin Wednesday, many across the Arab world are concerned about poverty and the heat.  To ease the woes, religious leaders in the United Arab Emirates have issued an edict allowing workers to break their fast early if the heat is extremely bad.  Egypt's al Azhar University has also approved the ruling.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs