Egyptian woman takes on men-only Ramadan wakeup call job
Dalal Abdel-Qader, a 43-year-old mother from Cairo, is doing something that has for centuries been the exclusive domain of men – being a "mesaharaty", or the person who walks the streets before dawn calling out to wake up the devout for their last meal, "sahur", before their dawn-to-dusk fast.
It's a seasonal job that lasts the duration of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims during which they refrain from food and drink from dawn until sunset. It's neither salaried nor full time, but those who take up the job do so in part to serve their community and make a little extra money in tips.
Abdel-Qader, also known as Hajjah Dalal, does not deviate from the methods of her male peers, following in the footsteps of her late brother Ahmed, a mesaharaty before he died. She beats a drum on her nightly rounds, chants Ramadan-related religious phrases and even calls out children by name as she passes by their homes in the poor Cairo district of Ard el-Besary.
The Challenges of Ramadan
For one month a year, the daily routines of Muslims are determined not only by prayer rituals, but also by sunrise and sunset. During the hours of daylight, the faithful are required to desist from eating and drinking and instead exercise self-discipline and abstinence. But for many Muslims, Ramadan brings with it a whole host of other challenges.
Ramadan is traditionally a time for inner contemplation, charity, compassion and an intensive engagement with one's faith. During the fasting month, not only do many Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours, they also take care not to gossip or swear and call a halt to any disputes they may have with others. Photo: Annett Hellwig
The Islamic observance of a lunar calendar means the fasting month migrates through the seasons of the solar year. This year, Ramadan fell during the hottest time of the year. Temperatures of around 40 degrees and high humidity levels presented those honouring Ramadan with additional hardships. Photo: dapd
In the Gulf region in particular, the extreme heat is hugely problematic for people doing physical work. This year in the United Arab Emirates, manual labourers were granted religious exemption to drink water in temperatures exceeding 50 degrees, but only as much as they needed to be able to continue working. Photo: FARS
When the sun does not set at night or the day is very long – such as here in Gothenburg in Sweden – devout Muslims are confronted with the near impossibility of observing traditional fasting rules to the letter. In this instance, many of them fast in accordance with sunrise and sunset in Mecca. But from which line of latitude can the day be described as "too long"? This question can be answered in a variety of different ways. Photo: picture-alliance/dpa
During Ramadan, Muslim families – and, above all, mosques – invite large gatherings of people to break the fast together. In order to counter the mountains of rubbish generated by such events, and to avoid wasting too much food, recent years have seen the emergence of what's known as "green iftar", where people focus not only on the food, but also on the responsible consumption of resources. After all, for many people Ramadan is also a time to exercise respect and self-reflection. Photo: dapd
Fasting compromises performance, and unfortunately this year's Ramadan fell during one of the most important events in an athlete's career: the Olympic Games. This was a problem faced by some 3,000 Muslim athletes in London. The athletes found various ways to deal with the dilemma. While some observed the fast despite the impact this might have on their performance, others announced they would be donating money to charity and observing the fast after the competition or that they would not be fas
Thousands of Muslims from East Jerusalem and Israel often gather to pray together on Jerusalem's Temple Mount during Ramadan. Access to the holy site is strictly monitored by Israeli police during this period, although scuffles are sometimes inevitable. Photo: AP
This was the second Ramadan to fall during the Arab Spring. Above all in Syria, there were no signs that this might bring about a break in the violence. The opposition there had hoped that Ramadan would be the month that saw them seal victory over Assad. The fasting month has also been overshadowed in other nations in the region by the many uncertainties caused by this continuing process of upheaval. Photo: AP
Without doubt, this year's Ramadan was also a time to stop and reflect on one's own daily life. But as ever, there is often a huge chasm between pious aspiration and practical reality. Photo: dapd
Abdel-Qader, whose full time job is at a clothes factory, is proud of her second job and says she does it in part to honour the memory of her brother. Her son Mahmoud accompanies her on her nightly three-hour rounds so she is not alone at such a late hour.
"This job requires no official permits," said Abdel-Qader, who contends that the main requirement for the job is a loud and attractive voice, as well as friendly relations with neighbourhood residents.
"Although many people already are up late because this Ramadan fell during the summer, they still like to hear their names called out."
"I make about 50 pounds ($2.70) every night," she says, "It is not much, but they are worth millions to me." (AP)