Egypt’s street iftar comes with a community flavor

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People break their fast at a large gathering. (Photo/Supplied)
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People wait to break their fast at a large gathering. (Photo/Supplied)
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People break their fast at a large gathering. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 22 May 2019
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Egypt’s street iftar comes with a community flavor

  • Christian clerics in Egypt organize annual Muslim iftar meals to encourage national unity

CAIRO: Hardly a street in Egypt is without its iftar table as families organize “mercy meals” for friends, relatives and neighbors during Ramadan.

A tradition that began to help the poor has been extended to include entire streets and neighborhoods, giving residents and friends a chance to meet, share old memories and instil community values in their children.

In Cairo, people compete to organize large iftar tables laden with food items.

Each year Moataz Aburiyeh plans an iftar table for friends and neighbors in the capital’s central Abdin area.

“I consider it a great opportunity to see a lot of friends and talk about everything,” 38-year-old Aburiyeh told Arab News.

The table contains all kinds of food. “On the table is meat, chicken, rice, salad and other items. I know the family and neighbors’ preferences and I meet their taste,” said Aburiyeh, who owns a men’s clothing store.

Meanwhile, residents in Umm Reza, a village west of Cairo, organized an iftar table to gather all the people of the village for the second year in a row.

School teacher Khaled Kamal, who was behind the idea, said: “I suggested to residents that they gather during Ramadan and everyone welcomed the idea.”

Villagers donated money for the gathering until they had raised more than 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($600).

“We let all the people of the village, including Christians, share the meal,” said Kamal.

Another villager, Sayed Fouad, said: “The iftar was well organized and included hot meals consisting of meat, rice, vegetables, salad, pickles and damietta sweets.”

National unity

For the past five decades, Christian clerics in Egypt have organized annual Muslim iftar meals to encourage national unity.

In the 1970s, the Coptic religious brotherhood began hosting Ramadan meals for Muslims, a move that was followed by the Justice and Peace association a decade later.

Pope Shenouda, the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria, promoted iftar meals to strengthen the church’s connection with the Egyptian nation.

The Church of the Palace of Dupara in Tahrir Square in central Cairo has been organizing a breakfast table for several years, attended by Muslim and Christian leaders. The church is being supervised by a number of young men and women.

Coptic scholar Robert Al-Fares said: “The Christians of Egypt are organizing iftar to show that society has returned to a period of friendship and unified spirit.

“This is a positive phenomenon that confirms the end of a dark era of division between sects and religions,” he said, referring to the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2012 and 2013.

“Egyptians have returned to their normal state after a period of radicalization by extremists who sought to destroy the culture of tolerance and acceptance between Egyptian people,” Al-Fares said.


Libyan commander marching on capital dismisses negotiations

Updated 20 June 2019
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Libyan commander marching on capital dismisses negotiations

  • Khalifa Haftar vows that his fighters will get rid of ‘terrorist militias’

CAIRO: A Libyan commander, whose forces are fighting to take the country’s capital of Tripoli from militias allied with a UN-backed government based there, has dismissed an initiative by its prime minister for negotiations to end the crisis.

Instead, Khalifa Haftar vowed in comments to a news website on Wednesday that his fighters would press on with the weeks-long offensive until Tripoli is rid of what he described as “terrorist militias.”

“Our military operations will not stop” until Tripoli is taken, Haftar told almarsad.co.

“The situation is excellent and I call on the Libyans to ignore rumors about our withdrawal,” Haftar said in interviews with Libyan news websites The Address and The Observer published overnight Wednesday to Thursday.

The offensive to seize the capital “will not stop before all its objectives are reached,” he said.

The campaign by Haftar’s Liberation National Army has raised fears of another bout of violence after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi. Since then, the country has sunk into chaos, with rival administrations in the east and the west, and an array of forces and militias allied with either side.

On Monday, the World Health Organization reported the latest casualty tolls for the fighting in and around Tripoli, saying 691 people have been killed so far, including 41 civilians, and 4,012 wounded, 135 of them civilians.

The head of the Tripoli-based government, Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, told a news conference on Sunday he is proposing a “Libyan forum,” aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

The talks would draw up a roadmap for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held before the end of 2019, Al-Sarraj said. 

In his remarks to the news website, Haftar dismissed Al-Sarraj’s initiative and criticized him as an ineffective leader.

“Initiatives have no meaning unless they are brave and carry clear clauses that address the causes of the crisis and its very roots,” Haftar said.

Haftar has presented himself as someone able to restore stability. In recent years, his campaign against militants across Libya won him growing international support from world leaders who say they are concerned the North African country has turned into a haven for armed groups, and a major conduit for migrants bound for Europe.