IFTAR, 2004, video installation still
Courtesy of The Townhouse Gallery, Cairo and the artist
'Iftar' is a video installation that raises several controversial issues in Egypt. The video is a reconstruction of a typical Iftar, (Ramadan breaking of the daily sunrise to sunset fast) in an urban lane in the centre of Cairo. Each afternoon throughout the city and towns of the country workers leave their activities and sit at public tables set up in the streets providing free food for those who can neither afford the meal or are transient workers in the city that have left their families behind in the villages to work in the city. Iftar tables have in the recent past become status symbols of the rich and affluent who vie with each other on the splendour of the meal they provide and the restaurants that cater the tables.
In the public districts and working lanes of the city the affair is a more humble one. Often a small shop will provide a meal of beans and chicken to the workers nearby as a tribute to a family member who has passed away or in thanks to God for their daily living.
In the lane beside the gallery where the artist Ayman Ramadan works, Moustafa the carpenter loans his battered table to Ahmed the owner of the coffee shop and a meager fare is provided to the 12 or 14 shoe shine boys, mechanics, waiters, welders etc. who work in the lane itself. The diners stand around the table in anticipation of the meal set in front of them and then at the call to prayer, break the fast with first a drink then slowly share the food set in front of them.