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

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.

Third Algerian protest figure detained within a week

Updated 24 min 32 sec ago

Third Algerian protest figure detained within a week

  • Fodil Boumala was arrested on Wednesday evening in front of his home
  • He was detained pending trial on accusations of “undermining national unity”

ALGIERS: An Algerian court on Thursday ordered the pre-trial detention of a leading figure in protests that have gripped Algeria for nearly seven months, one of his lawyers said.
Former state TV journalist Fodil Boumala was arrested on Wednesday evening in front of his home in an eastern suburb of the capital, his lawyer Abdelghani Badi said on Facebook.
Boumala was detained pending trial on accusations of “undermining national unity” after a hearing with an investigative judge at an Algiers court, his lawyer added.
He is the third protest movement figure to be detained on the same charge within a week, following Karim Tabou a week ago and Samir Benlarbi on Tuesday.
The arrests come as the army toughens its line on the demonstrations that have regularly thronged the streets of Algiers and other areas since late February, continuing despite the April resignation of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika after 20 years in power.
On Wednesday, the military ordered police to block protesters from outside the capital entering Algiers, days after a presidential election was announced for December despite pushback from demonstrators.
Army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah has led the push for polls by the end of the year.
But protesters have demanded political reforms and the removal of the former president’s loyalists — including Gaid Salah himself — before any legitimate vote can be held.
The police have made multiple arrests in Algiers before the start of Friday rallies in recent weeks.
Officially, demonstrations had been banned in Algiers since 2001, but the prohibition had been ignored since the demonstrations started in February against the ailing Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth presidential term.
According to the coordinator of the National Committee for the Release of Prisoners, 22 protesters arrested last Friday were placed in pre-trial detention on Sunday.
In Relizane, 300 kilometers (190 miles) west of Algiers, two people were killed in overnight clashes between security forces and protesters angered by the death of a teenager in an accident involving a police car, the prosecution said Thursday.
The fighting broke out as the demonstrators tried to storm the town’s police station and find the police officer who had been driving the car when it hit the 15-year-old’s motorbike, killing him.
Two people wounded during the clashes later died, the prosecution said.