Feasting, fasting and fighting

The fasting always gets to the market boys after 3pm. The hours before fitar (known as breakfast even though it occurs around 6.30pm – it’s literally, ‘breaking the fast’) are known as the starving hours. Of course, it must be harder for those fasting when Ramadan falls in summer, when the days are longer.

Downstairs, in the multitude of shoe and fashion shops that line my street, the boys argue and squabble at the best of times: the arguments can be triggered by anything from parking theft to traffic gridlock or underhand football tactics. But it erupted yesterday louder and more scarily than ever I’ve heard, and when I and all my neighbours opened our windows, we saw a group armed with long sticks gathered around two men, who were shoving and shouting at one another.

Ramadan is supposed to be a time of reflection and kindness, so we were relieved when the yelling stopped and the boys smoothed their features, like so many roosters in a farmyard scrap. And as the adan called from the nearby mosque as the last of the sun sank below the horizon, they all stopped and ate, breaking bread on their shop’s steps, and a rare silence cloaked the streets of Cairo.

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