Ramadan is a month that follows the lunar calendar, the basis of the Islamic (or Hijri) calendar.
The holiness of this month comes from the fact that it marks the day when the Holy Spirit, Gabriel, started the transmission of God’s message to the prophet Mohammad, fourteen centuries ago. The exact date has never been identified, but it is believed to be on one of the last ten days of this month, which Muslims call "Lailat el-Qadr". According to Islam, the month is dedicated to prayers, as it is believed that it is an occasion to wash one’s sins away and enjoy God’s unlimited mercy.
Principal ritual during Ramadan is fasting. This entails abandoning eating, drinking, smoking or sinning, even if minor, throughout the whole day, from dawn to sunset. Though the usual daily practice is in most ways normal, Muslims prefer to spend more time praying or reading the Qur’an, particularly at night.
The daily meals become limited to two, the first of which is the "iftar" when fasting is broken just after sunset. The iftar can be a real bonus to tourists, as many of the hotels offer highly competitive specials for iftar. Iftar" is considered the main meal of the day during Ramadan and is often very rich. Any type of food might be served, but traditionally the desert almost always includes "konafa" or "qatayef".
The timing of the second meal, "sohour", is variable according to personal preference, but usually delayed as much as possible until just before dawn. In between "iftar" and "sohour", people are allowed to eat as they wish.
Since Ramadan is considered to be the most joyful month of the whole year, children also have their share of fun. The "fanoos" or lantern is a must for every kid. These are traditionally made of tin and colored glass, with a candle inside or more modern examples are battery operated. All mosques and streets during the whole month are full of colored lights in a festival fashion, and in the past, children played in the streets with their lanterns.
After the first few days, people start to go out after "iftar". Hence, many gatherings between families, friends or colleagues take place for the main meal, and for socializing afterwards.
Egyptian Christians also share also participate in most of these practices with their fellow Muslims.
On the last day of Ramadan, observatories again check for the new moon. The month ends after the 29th or 30th day, when the "eid" or feast begins.