Ramadan is upon us and the revelry of it all has started to seep into Cairo, as households and venues alike add the final touches to preparations for the Holy Month.
Charity, piousness, late nights and, of course, food are some of the main elements that will have begun to swirl inside the minds of Cairenes, but there still seems to be a lack of caution when it comes to staying healthy while fasting. It's an issue that has been made all the more crucial this year thanks to a particularly unpredictable spattering of soaring temperatures, but it's also an issue that is easily remedied.
The most common issue fasters come across in a city like Cairo is dehydration. It's crucial to stay hydrated throughout the day. Drink plenty of water between fetar and sunrise and try to avoid coffees, teas and soft drinks – caffeine will speed up the dehydration process, as will cigarettes.
Lack of energy?
With your body not getting its usual nutrients, it's normal to feel tired and drained. What you need here is high fibre, slow-release carbohydrates, especially for sohour. Eating whole grains, fruits, yoghurt and nuts will help keep you fresh and energized the next morning.
Another common side-effect of approaching Ramadan wrongly is weight gain. First of all, don't try to eat as much as you would in a normal day in the hours between sunset and sunrise – that's simply not how it works. The lure of pigging out is certainly tough and so if you do go all out with fetar, try spacing out the foods into courses, for example. This gives your body a chance to readjust to the shock that comes from breaking your fast and gives your dormant metabolism time to get going.
Exercise is a tricky thing to navigate during Ramadan as it will invariably dehydrate you, especially before sunset. First of all, try to avoid prolonged periods in the sun when exercising, working out or playing sports. Many athletes who fast will have a very light meal to break their fast, before undertaking some very light exercise for no more than half an hour – even just going for a walk. This will help regulate your metabolism and the release of energy if you want to go for a more intense workout later on.
The biggest thing to remember is to strike the Golden Mean - nothing in excess, everything in proportion. All in all, though, when it comes down to it, it's all about being logical and sensible. Fasting has been proven to have health benefits, but only when done correctly and judiciously. In a busy, bustling, sweltering city like Cairo, it's absolutely essential that you take care of your body – because, if you don't, it will catch up to you.
On that unintentionally grim note, Ramadan Kareem!