Qal lek that during the fasting month of Ramadan, Shaytan, this much greater devil than Insan, gets chained up for the duration. This has for effect that in some unsought way, the human beings we are, are offloaded from his wickedness (that is not to say from all wickedness, only Shaytan's inspired own).
Effectively, during the month of Ramadan, Shaytan is neutralised, out of circulation, pulled off the streets. Puff.
And who would have thought that the combination of fasting and a lack of inspiration for evil doings could lead to: a very great street party.
A great nocturnal fest, not only a feast, is taking place in Algiers nightly (this year and perhaps so for a long time) featuring all manners of concerts, museum tours, exhibitions, theatre plays on a wide array of themes, and open-air cinema. Not to mention sweet-cakes, mint tea and salty peanuts stalls, ice-cream parlours, brochettes vendors and various restaurants opened from dusk to dawn. This is most probably going on in other larger cities too, and potentially in smaller ones as well.
Food excesses, and their contradictoriness to what fasting is about, are well documented, this is not what made me wonder about what the future in Algeria might look like. Similarly unsurprising is the increase in activity, cultural and traditional. What goes on here on the food and outings' front is what goes on here during non-fasting summer months, it just all happens during the day normally. Food-heavens opened overnight are only the recuperation of business loss because places are closed during daylight hours. The difference during Ramadan is in the atmosphere, which is a lot more elated because of the sheer excitement this holy month generates and a lot more euphoric because of all the sugar intake. This Food x times x Culture Fest is rather wonderful and beautiful considering the years of want and conflict that can still be seen just round the past's corner.
While the month goes by, I go by it, walking about my area unaccompanied every evening from 10pm, raising no eyebrows from neighbours, coming home between 1am and 2am on the same said feet, not-raising the same said eyebrows, in concert with numerous other women accompanied or not, with children or not, but mostly not with men, crossing the streets of what some call “popular areas” of Algiers believed to be cut-throats the rest of the year's months.
We, women and men alike, during this month are enjoying a visible and much greater ease of movement, a freedom to circulate at night that is not present, not as much and that people generally do not feel comfortable seeking, during the rest of the year. During Ramadan, men keep their mouths in check, it is expected that women will be seen walking about everywhere, and it's accepted that it's no one's business – although sometimes as I walk around with other women, I feel that we're all pretending to not go and have fun but to go visiting our sick aunt, having forgotten our red riding hood home in the haste of doing a good deed).
So, thanks be to Shaytan and all thanks be to God, Ramadan in Algiers turns the city into a strange but wondrous place full of civic freedom where group-gathering-in-public-places-around-smoothies requires no signature of acceptance from the authorities. We become a place where civic freedoms are born out of, not present religious obligations, but future religious rewards or the hope thereof.
Yet, is this the right order of things?
Yet, is this the right order of things?
Could it be that all this freedom of movement and carefree attitude towards women's right-to-a-night-stroll-not-related-to-peripatetic-undertakings come from, not Shaytan being in chain, but from both God and Shaytan having taken a break from us all. They have a right to a holiday after all. What if G and S had effectively buggered off to let us deal with world and underworld affairs? Think of it, if Shaytan were really in chain, the space he's left unoccupied would fill with goodness. From God's goodness to more goodness, we would consequently become the supermen and women of goodness. But that's not what happens is it. There's plenty of crime going on during Ramadan, not least of which the daylight theft (prices rocketing sky-high, to only talk about local crime). Plain robbery committed by people who fast with their heart I expect but not with their purse.
So while I'll accept that Shaytan's taken off, I do wonder whether God's taken a break also, so as to not tip the balance off blatantly in his favour. God is fair and just.
When you contemplate the possibility of the Holies' holiday, you do have to wonder about their eventual Holy disappearance, and by disappearance I mean their death.
One day, there will be a separation of power in Algeria (that's what's badly needed). The religious will be separated from the executive and the justice system. When that happens, God will die a little. Humans will have taken the responsibility of their action and behaviour into their own hands, and will be sole judge of them on this earth. Because Shaytan is tied to God, the more He “disappears”, the more Shaytan will too. Once their immortal presence is compromised, they will become mortal and death will surely come for both eventually, however much we love them and however much we will be sad to see them go.
After we have buried them both in our Book of Myth, will Algerian nights, every night, feel as magic as a Ramadan's nocturnal escapade? I'd say yes.