Friday, 1 April 2022

Ramadan Kareem

The Beginning

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Ramadan vibes

Ramadan Kareem, friends: The holy month is almost upon us. This year’s festivities mark a partial return to “normal” after two years of celebrations against the backdrop of the pandemic. Shops, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to stay open until 2 am, mawa’id rahman (charity table) gatherings are back, and event halls at major mosques will reopen.

That said, we’re facing new challenges this Ramadan — including a major squeeze on prices thanks to global inflationary pressures, and uncertainty clouding supply chains for some essential commodities (see: wheat) thanks to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

From tips on how to celebrate without breaking the bank, to the best way to give your time and energy to those in need, this month’s issue of Your Wealth is here to help you plan a month filled with reflection, joy, and giving, even (or perhaps especially) in a time of crisis.

YOUR TIME

The illusion of time in Ramadan: Time takes on a new quality during the holy month. With the lucky among us getting out of the office or classroom a little earlier, and workloads easing off, Ramadan should bring the gift of more time. But the whirlwind of family and social commitments — and disrupted sleep and meal schedules — can leave us feeling even more exhausted. Here are our top tips to make sure you use this month to claw back time for yourself, your family, and your community.

A goal without a plan is just a wish: Take a beat before the action begins to define what a Ramadan well spent looks and feels like for you. Make your aims specific and measurable — and don’t hesitate to use the same tools that help you succeed in your career or business. Draw up a social calendar with automated reminders to make sure you finally get around to paying Tante a visit, or negotiate a schedule to make sure everyone in the household shares the burden of extra cooking and chores.

Beware time drains: One thing the holy month reminds us of is that a little discipline can do a world of good. Cut out that mind-numbing series that isn’t even fun to hate-watch, the daily (or twice, or thrice-daily) trips to a packed grocery store, or the doom scroll that stops you from getting a couple hours of shut-eye before sohour. Forward planning — and reminding yourself of your Ramadan goals — can help you recognize and reduce the amount of time you spend on things that just aren’t worth it.

Focus on your people: Two+ years of pandemic living has seen some of us withdraw into our cocoons, leaving valuable friendships and family relationships long untended — but not forgotten. If you’ve been feeling disconnected from those you hold dear, Ramadan is the perfect time to do something about it. Pick up the phone, send that “wahashtuny” text, and arrange to meet around the iftar table. Then leave the devices alone and get stuck into catching up IRL.

Then widen the net: We all know this is the month for giving back to our communities. For many, that means financial donation — but it doesn’t have to stop there. Deploy your time — and your skills — to further a cause or help someone in need. By helping others, you’ll also help yourself: Studies show that volunteering “is significantly predictive of better mental and physical health, life satisfaction, self-esteem, happiness, lower depressive symptoms, psychological distress, and mortality and functional inability.”

Where to start: Plenty of Egyptian NGOs are on the lookout for help. Some of them are always taking on volunteers for roles from administration, to family support, to organizing fun activities for the kids, allowing you to dedicate some time during Ramadan to orphans, the elderly, homeless people, and those with special needs among others.

Low commitment is no bad thing: Not looking to take on a formal volunteering role? Consider weaving simple acts of kindness into your Ramadan routine — like heading down to the street to hand out dates and water at iftar, or gifting a hot meal or blanket to someone sleeping rough. Forgive the cliche, but a little can go a long way.

Top tips to make it stick: Choose an activity that aligns with your values and that you enjoy and are good at; be realistic about the amount of time you are willing and able to donate; and bring friends and family along for the ride. The more easy, fun, and fulfilling the experience, the more likely you are to extend the habit beyond the holy month.

YOUR MONEY

How to keep your money in check during the busy season: This year, Ramadan — and Sham El Nessim, and Eid al-Fitr — arrive in the midst of a global squeeze on prices. The Russia-Ukraine war has exacerbated inflationary pressures, sending food and commodity markets sky high — and we’ve inevitably been feeling the impact here at home. In a time of back-to-back crises, it’s perhaps more important than ever to maximize our joy and generosity this Ramadan. Here’s the lowdown on how to go about celebrating even as household budgets come under strain.

Did you — like everyone we know — bulk buy your groceries ahead of Ramadan? Worry not if you haven’t. Contrary to popular belief, bulk buying can actually cost you more in the long run. When buying in bulk, we’re likely not assessing our actual usage of the product but only the per-unit price. This can translate into a higher purchase price, Investopedia suggests, when you end up buying too much to be able to use before it expires or goes bad, or when you simply end up getting tired of the brand and feel the need to switch it up.

Our advice? Divide your Ramadan grocery shop in two. Once you’ve used up your groceries for the first two weeks, you can better assess your needs for the rest of the month. Many supermarkets keep items on sale well into Ramadan. Another top tip: Do some couch-based research and check out supermarkets’ websites to compare prices before you grab your shopping bags.

If you’re indulging in some festive sparkle, consider reusing old decorations instead of buying new ones (or better yet, think DIY). We’re bombarded by lanterns, patterned linens and string lights at pretty much every turn these days, but try to resist. Ramadan decorations can be recycled, and can also be really simple to make yourself using things you have on hand (an activity that kids will love). Try making lanterns out of cardboard, a Ramadan Kareem banner, or an Islamic lantern garland.

Want to give sadaqah but not sure where? When it comes to giving back, we’re bombarded with advertisements throughout the month, and it can leave us a tad overwhelmed and confused. One of the most popular — and simple — ways of giving back is by donating food packs to less privileged families.

Not all food packs are created equal: While food packs are great, we advise you pay attention to the contents. Many food packs are heavy on fat and carbs, but miss protein and essential nutrients. Search for distributors that offer nutritionally balanced packs that provide families with realistic options to make healthy and well-rounded meals.

Spread the love when it comes to giving back. Make sure to divide your donations among various families and organizations. You can also consider donating things other than food and money: Clothes, and staple household items like appliances and cleaning supplies, are also much needed.

Ramadan is rarely kind to our wallets — but this year we’re getting a triple whammy of holidays. This is traditionally a time where people buy more food, dine out more frequently, and donate more than other times of the year. But make sure you leave a little something left over for the raft of long weekends coming fast on the heels of the holy month, including Sham El Nessim and Sinai Liberation Day in the last week of April. We’re sure you, like us, will be dying to get out of Cairo after the long holiday drought we’ve had the past couple of months, so don’t forget to budget for your vacation plans.

YOUR HEALTH

How to stay in shape during Ramadan: With the iftar gatherings, altered sleep schedules, and the allure of delicious desserts, staying healthy during Ramadan is difficult for most. But there is still hope. With just a few adjustments to your workout routine and some thought about the food you regularly turn to in the hazy hours between iftar and sohour, you’ll be able to make the most of the holy month without sacrificing your physical health.

For getting a good workout, timing is everything: Exercise can be tricky when you’re running on barely any fuel. That’s why for those who are fasting, it's crucial to focus on exactly when you plan to workout during the day— and how you’ll replenish your body — to get the most out of your exercise routine.

The main concern with high intensity physical activity while fasting is the risk of dehydration. Ideally you’ll want to have access to water during and after your workout routine, which makes exercising soon after the call to Maghrib prayer and right before dawn the safest slot. It's also fairly common for people to exercise in the hour preceding Iftar so that they are able to break fast immediately after wrapping up, but that final hour is also likely when your energy levels are at their lowest in the day. The “best” time to workout will vary from person to person, but the key here is staying hydrated.

Think about skipping the cardio: Training is the most effective when your body is sufficiently fuelled, and over-exerting yourself while fasting could force your body to eat away at muscle mass in search of some much-needed energy. If you can bear it, swapping out high intensity sessions for more frequent and less strenuous activities, like brisk walks, stretching at home, or a yoga practice, is one safe and healthy way to stay active during Ramadan.

Now is not the time to aim for a new PB: Staying in shape isn’t impossible over the course of the month, but it's best to remain realistic about your body’s ability to hit new personal records. Increasing muscle mass, for example, is difficult without regular food intake throughout the day. Instead, “aim to maintain your fitness levels rather than starting a new or intense exercise regime,” Dr. Sayyada Mawji tells Women’s Health. “Most importantly, remember to be sensible and listen to your body.”

Pay attention to the food you eat: It’s a common impulse to indulge in fatty and sugary deliciousness after a long day of fasting, but add in some foods that help maintain energy levels throughout the day. Fibrous and high protein items like wholegrain rice, beans, lentils, or sweet potatoes, which typically take longer to break down, are best for regulating energy over the course of your fast. Up your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables between iftar and sohour to help fend off cravings for refined sugars and keep your diet balanced.

Looking for some more specific meal prep suggestions? Try out something simple for sohour like oatmeal with fruit and nuts, or a Persian-inspired banana and date smoothie for a filling and nutritious pre-dawn meal. This Mediterranean beet salad works equally well as a side dish during iftar or eaten on its own for sohour, as does this quinoa salad with mint and pomegranate seeds. If you’re looking for something a little more ambitious (and meaty) try out this recipe for zaatar and lime chicken or chicken shawarma salad. And of course, classic dishes like stuffed grape leaves and lentil soup pack a huge nutritional punch and are unlikely to stir much debate around the dinner table .

YOUR TOP 5

Your top 5 pieces of business and economic news in March:

  • Surprise rate hike + EGP devaluation: The CBE convened a special meeting to raise rates by 100 bps — its first hike in five years — and allowed the EGP to depreciate against the USD.
  • Massive tax incentives to help the medicine go down: The Madbouly government announced a package of incentives that would see EGP 130 bn in tax relief doled out, while moving up the timeline of already-planned social safety measures.
  • Another round of IMF funding? The government has requested support from the IMF to mitigate the impact of the war in Ukraine on its economy.
  • Fresh batch of bread measures: The government upped its purchase price for local wheat as part of a range of measures to secure supply amid the war between two of our key grain suppliers, and announced price caps on unsubsidized bread.
  • Egypt successfully closed its maiden Samurai bond issuance, selling USD 500 mn (c.JPY 60 bn) of the JPY-denominated bonds in Japan.

TV GUIDE

Grab the popcorn — it’s Ramadan series time. Billboards are going up, trailers are coming out, and the mandatory social media debates are kicking off — meaning it’s time to get your Ramadan viewing schedule in order. Here’s what we know so far about a select few of the 30+ dramas set to hit our screens this month, from the weird to the wonderful.

Suits, but make it Masry: In the words of antihero Harvey Specter, winners don’t make excuses — and we hope we won’t have to make any on behalf of the cast and crew of Suits Arabia. The Egyptian adaptation of the US hit TV show sees Asser Yassin play the role of genius (if secretly unqualified) lawyer Mike, while Tara Emad caught some buzz in the British tabloids after being cast as Rachel Zane — the role that set a certain Meghan on the path to Duchessdom. Here’s hoping this latest cross-cultural TV export can bring some of the same high-octane corporate / courtroom drama silliness that made the original great. You can find the show on CBC and OSN. Catch the trailer here (watch, runtime 0:38).

Get your tissues (and Tweeting thumbs) ready: Our favorite Nelly Karim is out with new social-issue drama series Faten Amal Harby. The series sheds light on controversial custody and personal status laws through the story of Faten, played by Karim, whose decision to divorce pushes her into a struggle to change a law that may deprive her of her rights and children if she remarries. The cast includes Sherif Salama, Hala Sedky, Mohamed El Sharnouby and Fadya Abdel Ghany. Catch it on CBC, Watch iT and Shahid VIP. Trailer here (watch, runtime: 0:45).

Al Ekhtyar is back for take three: As in previous seasons, the series follows police and armed forces’ fight agains terrorism. Ahmed El-Sakka, Karim Abdel Aziz, Ahmed Ezz and Yasser Galal are all cast in the show, which will be broadcast exclusively on On E TV channel. Trailer here (watch, runtime: 1:44)

Also serving up military action is A’doon — from the writer of last year’s Hagma Mortada — featuring Amir Karara, Amina Khalil, Mohamed Farrag, and Mohamed Mamdouh. Catch it on DMC and Watch iT, and check out the promo here: (watch, runtime: 2:03).

Sitcom staple El Kbeer Awy is returning for a sixth season: The show that made Ahmed Mekki is back on our screens, and brothers Al Kbeer, Johnny and Hazal’om (all played by Mekki) are still causing mayhem in the Saeedi Al-Mazarita village. We still can’t get over the promo (watch, runtime: 1:42), which showed the series mocking South Korean thriller Squid Game. Landing on your screens on On E TV and WatchIT.

Looking for more laughs? We’re unsure of comedy this year, but we might be watching megastar Yousra’s Ahlam Saida, which follows the story of three very different girlfriends (watch, runtime: 1:16), played by Ghada Adel, Mai Kassab and Shimaa Seif. Meanwhile, Akram Hosny stars in Maktoub 3alaya (watch, runtime: 00:50), which tells the story of a man whose world turns upside down after a magic spell is cast on him. There’s also Rania Wa Sakina (boldly attempting a funny reference to notorious female serial killers Raya w Sakina) starring Ruby and Mai Omar. The series follows the story of two women on the lam and trying to clear their names (watch, runtime: 1:55).

Daesh drama is apparently a thing now: In Betloo’ El Rouh, Egyptian star Menna Shalaby plays a wife who is deceived by her husband (Mohamed Hatem) to embark on an irreversible journey, leaving Egypt to join a Daesh stronghold in Syria. The poster for the 15-episode series was met with a wave of sarcasm over what some saw as a tone-deaf dramatization of radical Islam — but Shahin has defended the series, saying it exposes how far the ideology of terrorist groups diverges from religious teachings. Catch it on MBC and Shahid VIP.

Mohamed Ramadan is once again fighting the good fight against injustice in new series Al Meshwar, which also stars Dina El Sherbiny. The series follows the struggles of a couple working for daily wages at an Alexandrian maritime company. Trailer here (watch, runtime: 0:38).

More action: Starring Amr Saad, Touba follows the story of a guilt-ridden ex-felon whose life changes when a secret from his past surfaces. Catch it on MBC, DMC, Watch iT and Shahid. (Watch, runtime: 1:53)

There’s always a story about losing your fortune: Rageen Ya Hawa follows the story of Baleegh (Khaled El Nabawy) who returns home to reclaim his inheritance after losing his fortune in Europe. But his plans turn sour by way of some twisty-turny dysfunctional family drama, courtesy of cast members Nour, Hana Shiha, Anoushka, Wafer Amer and others. Catch it on CBC, DMC and Watch iT, and check out the promo here (watch, runtime: 00:32).

For aspiring young entrepreneurs: Meen Aal on Shahid (watch, runtime: 1:44) brings us a father-son clash with a business twist. Ahmed Dash plays a young man desperate to launch his own company — to the horror of Baba (Gamal Soliman), who wants him to study engineering.

Gen-Xers (and older millennials) — time to get nostalgic: Shahid is throwing it back to the eighties with its animated adaptation of Khaled El Safty’s beloved mini-comic series Flash, giving you the chance to introduce the kids to an analog fave, reincarnated for the streaming age. Trailer: (watch, runtime: 1:40).

Thank you, next: Ramez Galal, take infinity. His new prank show, which now goes by the name Ramez Movie Star, will be shown on Shahid, MBC and MBC Masr. If it’s your thing, it’s your thing, but we’ll be flipping channels.

WHERE TO GO

Out and about in Ramadan: There’s no shame in spending your Ramadan curled up on the couch watching shows with family (as plenty of us here at EnterpriseHQ are planning to do). But if you’re looking for a little more excitement, there’s no shortage of events and entertainment scheduled for the holy month. Here are some of your options so far. As more Ramadan events are announced, be sure to check out the Out And About section in EnterprisePM to stay up to date.

First up: Ramadan tents offering iftar and sohour. Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski’s Si Omar Ramadan tent was extremely popular last year, as was the Wust El Balad Ramadan tent at the Nile Ritz-Carlton, held in the hotel’s spacious garden overlooking the Egyptian Museum. Layalina tent at ZED Park in Sheikh Zayed City is sure to present a month-long lineup of fan favorite singers and entertainers. For more tents, check out this article from El Shai.

This is a new one… spend iftar at Wadi Degla Protectorate. The coming holy month seems likely to offer just the right weather for outdoor picnics — and what better place to do it than at Wadi Degla’s tranquil reserve. If you want to break your fast with a little bit of adventure, Sahara Survival School is holding a survival course and iftar on 15 April.

Other places to catch iftar:

  • Villa Belle Époque in Maadi is inviting hungry fasters to Iftar at their Ramadan Garden, accompanied by live performances. The boutique hotel is offering a set menu on weekdays, and an open buffet on weekends. They’re also serving sohour later on in the night.
  • Karma Cafe is hosting a Ramadan tent experience at their branch in New Cairo’s Emerald Plaza mall.
  • The newly revamped National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat holds fitars during Ramadan under its “Mawlay experience”.

Head to the Cairo Opera. Ballets, operas, and orchestra performances are lined up throughout the month. Notable performances include the Cairo Symphony Orchestra on 9 April, the Heritage Arab Music Ensemble on 10 April, and the Alexandria Opera House String Orchestra on 17 April. Starting from 11 April, the opera will host Ramadan Nights performances featuring spiritual and religious music.

Ramadan à la française: The Institut français d'Égypte is getting into the Ramadan spirit with its ongoing ASWAT program. The series of gatherings and performances with academics and musicians focuses on the connections between Egyptian music culture and spirituality.

The Amir Taz Palace usually features Islamic song recitations and folklore dances during Ramadan nights. One of the most well-known Mamluk Palaces, the Amir Taz forms the main entrance to Medieval Cairo.

The Courtyard Maadi is bringing the nostalgic vibes this Ramadan, with events and decor evoking classic movies and beloved Egyptian actors.

Standup comedian Aly Kandil will perform two sets in Ramadan at the Sawy Culturewheel on 8 and 9 April.

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