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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ramadan in Egypt

Fatma Tharwat is an Islamic Relief aid worker in Egypt. In a recent diary entry, she tells of the difficulties faced by one elderly couple but the joy they still feel during the month of Ramadan.

Driving from Ayyat town towards the village of Al-Arab the road finally ended and we were surrounded by nothing more than green fields and grazing sheep and cattle. With no other option, we took the food parcels we had in our arms and walked for miles and miles to the first hut on the edge of the village.

The villages surrounding Ayyat are very poor and people here live far below the poverty line. There are no medical or educational services as people are preoccupied with finding enough food for supper and ensuring they have somewhere to sleep at night.

The first hut that we came to was very simple; it was made from mud with a roof of palm leaves. There was just one room and no kitchen, bathroom, running water or electricity. The house was even devoid of basic furniture such as beds or a table.

This was the home of 70-year-old Mouha and her husband of 40 years, 75-year-old Soliman. Mouha lost her eyesight last year because she could not afford the treatment she needed and Soliman has problems with his spine which makes moving around very difficult and painful.

The elderly couple survive on a small monthly pension which they use to purchase food, clothes and medication. They are at an age when they should be enjoying peace of mind but instead are struggling to have enough food. The only possession they own in their hut is a small mat and a couple of pieces of clothing that hang from the wall.

Last year when Mouha’s eyes began to hurt the couple had to visit the hospital for treatment. Soliman desperately searched for money to pay for the medication his wife needed but could only afford to buy one month’s supply. She had an operation that did not work and is now on medication that consumes more than half their meager income.

When I gave Mouha her Ramadan food parcel she held my hand and said, “I had a dream about you last night. Yesterday I dreamt that a young woman visited us and she had a bag with her that was full of our favorite foods, including macaroni that I have wanted to eat for so long.

Soliman explained that his wife had been longing to eat macaroni for a week but they did not have any money and that they had not eaten a nourishing meal for over a month. I was speechless and wished I had visited them a month ago to ease their suffering.

Soliman said, “Normally we live on bread and cheese. We don’t eat every day and often go to sleep without supper. We never eat meat or even vegetables.”

Even if the couple do receive a little food from their neighbors, they do not have a fridge keep it fresh. But as Mouha told me, they are so desperate for food that they
will eat it even if it has gone bad.

"Ramadan is a month of generosity and charity,” said Mouha. “I didn’t sleep the night before they announce the first day of Ramadan because I am excited like a small child. I love to fast even if we have nothing to break it with but bread and water. Even though fasting is hard at my age, I still find so much joy in it.”

After we have broken our fast, we sit outside in front of the fields. I can’t see them anymore but I can feel the cool air and enjoy drinking tea and listening to the Qur’an on the radio.

Mouha told me that in the winter they don’t have anything to keep them warm except a single blanket. Every night they sleep on the cold bare floor and huddle together to try to keep each other warm. I could feel their helplessness and their agony, but also their hope and faith.

"God never forgets us,” Soliman says. “Sometimes our neighbors help us cook food, clean our house and wash our clothes. And here you are with this food parcel. This parcel means so much to us; before you came to our house we didn’t have a morsel to eat and were starving. This will be our only source of food this Ramadan but it will mean that I will be able to fast with a strong heart now.”

As Soliman went through the food items with overwhelming joy and handed them to Mouha, I thought of the donors around the world and how far their generosity had come – all the way to an elderly couple in a small village in Egypt. Their dedication and devotion helped us reach the poorest of the poor, and that makes all the difference. I then watched as Mouha took the packet of macaroni in her hands, hugged it to her and said with eyes full of tears, “Thank you –thank you.”


  1. Mashaa' Allah! I'm really very impressed of you! You really let my eyes watered with tears. I can't believe that the utmost dream of the people in Egypt is to eat macaroni or vegetables, and not meat! I read other examples of Ramadan in other countries, but I never met such a hurtful example like that. It is really a tragedy to still have such poverty like that in Egypt!

  2. Hey
    i wanna to know where is the islamic relief center in Egypt as soon as u can plz wish i can know this infomation so soon and thank you so much !!
    plz reply me on this E-mail :

  3. This will be our only source of food this Ramadan but it will mean that I will be able to fast with a strong heart now