Since last writing, I have partaken in two trips of note. The first was a Nile cruise (with air conditioning!) for iftar, and the second was a Bedouin Night suhoor. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the nominations of 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 eaten pre-dawn to sustain an individual until iftar. Again, this is all only during Ramadan.
The two trips could not have been more different, and demonstrate that miracles really can happen when people want food. For the iftar trip, we met at 4:00 p.m. for a 6:30 p.m. 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 that we had almost two hours to watch the beautiful sunset from the top of the cruise boat. For those that were, 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 leave until after 11 p.m.. We arrived around midnight, after passing the PYRAMIDS, to blaring oriental music, sheesha, and couches all over the floor. We were each given delicious rice and the boniest meat I have ever seen (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 started dancing with the craziest figures I have ever witnessed. 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 (by Egyptian standards – about $3), and when I turned around I thought that I had stepped in to some form of Bedouin “Alice in Wonderland.”
Also, a clearly drugged lion manifested itself, with which we were encouraged to take pictures for 75 Egyptian pounds. La’a shukran (no gracias).
After that madness, somehow David Guetta started playing and it just turned in to a dance party in odd surroundings. Lots of jumping and clapping. The music was interspersed with fun stuff like this:
All in all, the night was a testament to how much food influences your actions. When one has neither eaten nor had anything to drink all day, even Africa can mobilize itself to be, not only on time, but early! However, once the food has been eaten there is no longer any rush, life continues at its usual unhurried pace.
Author’s note: I wrote the post above in 2010, when I studied abroad at The American University in Cairo for a semester.