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Egypt’s long, hot summer just got hotter

This year, Ramadan falls in summer, inflaming passions over its timing and the general level of observance.

Observers will have to get up earlier for their predawn meal, and they’ll have to wait longer to break fast after sunset.

The upper classes worry about the effect a summer Ramadan will have on the vacation months. Ramadan demands modesty and piety — meaning no bikinis, no martinis.

"Ramadan is getting hotter. The summer holiday got shorter this year," said Reham ElDesoki, a senior economist at a brokerage firm in Egypt called Beltone Financial.

Egypt’s blue-collar labor force will likely suffer the most. They’ll be obliged to work in excruciating temperatures that frequently top 110 degrees Farenheit. And, for the next couple of years, the days will be getting progressively longer, meaning that they won’t be able to eat, drink, or smoke until 7 or 8 p.m. each night.

There is one other Ramadan twist that many in Egypt have begun to bemoan. Ramadan is meant to be a month in which, by living ascetically, Muslims give up the material in favor of the spiritual. In Egypt, though, food consumption goes through the roof each Ramadan.

“Instead of people reducing their excessive consumption of food and trying to empower themselves, especially after the break fast they fall back on food,” lamented Mohammad Habib, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s main Islamist group. In fact, increased food consumption in this intended month of humility has become such a problem, that Egypt’s Central Bank, which controls interest rates, begins months in advance to shape its policies around the strong inflationary pressures brought on by food consumption during Ramadan.

Much of the excess is driven by the fact that many Egyptians see Ramadan as a time to party. Workdays, at least in the upper levels of society, can last as little as four or five hours. Then, to break the fast, friends, families and businesses throw elaborate banquets each evening.

And the richest Egyptians enjoy splurging on exotic foods they might not otherwise eat.