Monika Sleszynska at Giza Pyramids - Courtesy of Monika Monika Sleszynska at Giza Pyramids - Courtesy of Monika

A different taste of Ramadan in Egypt

Sat, Jun. 10, 2017
Polish solo traveler Monika Sleszynska on spending Ramadan in Egypt

CAIRO - 10 June 2017: When Polish-born Monika Sleszynska moved to London in her early 20s, the glimpse into Ramadan she gleaned from fasting Muslim colleagues in college didn't make sense to her then.

“Why stuff yourself with food late at night and not eat during the day? This was against anything I knew about dieting, as this was the only reason I could give fasting any credit for,” says Sleszynska, who is a solo traveler and return visitor to Egypt since 2012.


Monika Sleszynska holding a Cobra snake at Kom Ombo in Upper Egypt's Aswan- Courtesy of Monika
Monika Sleszynska holding a Cobra snake at Kom Ombo in Upper Egypt's Aswan- Courtesy of Monika


Sleszynska’s first impression of Ramadan was inconclusive, and she did not imagine that non-Muslims could join the fast. The people she saw were looking forward to the end and were eating as much as possible at night. Their bellies were bigger than ever, and they did not share anything spiritual or religious about it.

But on her visit to Egypt in July 2015, coinciding with Ramadan then Eid al-Fitr, her perception changed. “The usual busy, even chaotic, energy of Cairo was transformed into a capital of peace. I saw the celebrations on the streets and in restaurants. It was then I witnessed the powerful energy of the collective peace,” Sleszynska says.

Raised a Catholic, the 36-year-old traveler recalls she wanted to delve more into the Islamic practice. In spring 2016 she watched a friend, her family and colleagues prepare Ramadan spreads during the month. She had heard so much about the coming fast and life around it that it made her want to stay and experience it.


Monika Sleszynska at Karnak Temple -Courtesy of Monika
Monika Sleszynska at Karnak Temple -Courtesy of Monika


“Having a taste of Ramadan in Egypt made me realize how little I knew about this religious practice of fasting in my earlier years. I can now see how the month of Ramadan affects the entire year, life and nation. . . . The air becomes permeated with sacredness and peace. Just the thought of joining others who have been dedicating themselves to a spiritual practice for a month since their childhood and participating in a ritual which has been performed for several hundreds of years is thrilling. It makes me realize that I am joining a sacred experience created by billions of souls,” she explains.

Sleszynska has experienced various forms of detox fasting, but doing it collectively, and without any food or water intake, for three days in Ramadan 2016 had a totally different feel that made her return to Egypt in 2017, especially for the time of the holy month. She plans to fast the entire month this year.

Monika Sleszynska in Luxor during cruising Alexander the Great - Courtesy of Monika
Monika Sleszynska in Luxor during cruising Alexander the Great - Courtesy of Monika

“Refraining from food and drink from dawn to dusk for the first time last year was beautiful and profound. I was jumping with joy when the sunset arrived as I was proud of myself to have accomplished the first day. It was much smoother than I expected.”

Sleszynska attended tarawih prayers (which last for about a couple of hours after the esha prayer) in the mosques of Alexandria with her Egyptian friend.

“It was then that I became mesmerized with the ritual of Ramadan fasting and prayers. I was deeply touched by the direct experience of people and energy. I consider myself lucky to have been introduced to different belief systems and religions. By honoring others’ beliefs, we create a respectful environment. By understanding others’ beliefs we create knowledge which unifies. I wish to share my surprise at how welcome I felt joining the preparations, fast and prayers at the mosques. I almost felt celebrated. Although I didn't know anyone apart from my friend, people were friendly, accepting and inviting.”
 
There are no comments on this article.

Leave a comment