CAIRO – As the sun set on the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, families across Cairo gathered for the fast-breaking iftar meal in a country that in the last two weeks has seen protests by millions, a coup against an elected president and the deaths of dozens of people in clashes with the military.
Ramadan is traditionally a time of personal reflection and feeling a sense of brotherhood with fellow Muslims, but in the aftermath of the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, the divisions among Egyptians extend even down to this traditional meal.
On one side of the city, Tahrir Square remains the symbolic center of the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak and later opposed Morsi. Across town in an eastern district, Morsi’s supporters have coalesced around a major intersection in front of the mosque of Rabaah al-Adawiya.
Breaking their fast outdoors, the people in the two camps expressed bafflement and disdain for the other side.
“I don’t know if the people at Rabaah al-Adawiya are out of their minds or if they are brainwashed,” said Shenouda William, a 35-year-old lawyer, who sat with about 100 people in the echoing emptiness of Tahrir Square to break their fast. Others described the Morsi supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood as ignorant peasants or possibly Palestinian and Syrian refugees looking for food and a place to sleep.