The Ramadan Slog

A week to go until the end of Ramadan and Cairo’s usually bustling streets grind to a halt as temperatures get high as 43 degrees celsius.

[caption id="attachment_287" align="alignleft" width="200"] Palestinian worshippers pray outside the Dome of the Rock at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem AFP/Getty images[/caption]

The combination of physical exhaustion from fasting, reduced working hours at companies and sweltering heat takes its toll on workers.  The fatigue and drowsiness that sets in  prompts employees to make their way home early.

The result? Day-long fasting drives down business and economic productivity.

The holy month cuts Egypt’s monthly GDP by 7.7%, according to a report published last year by Dinar Standard, a consulting group that focuses on the Muslim world.

That translates to a loss of $1.4 billion in Egypt.  Losses of $1.47 billion were estimated in the United Arab Emirates, and $2.4 billion in Saudi Arabia.

Working throughout Ramadan holds great significance in Islam, with the writings of the Qur’an regularly referring to the importance of earning a living through lawful means.  However, employees are sometimes found taking advantage of the shorter days to pass off work.

In Kuwait, government statistics showed that over 15,000 public sector employees lodged sick leaves during the first three days of Ramadan.  Around 100,000 were late for work.

It’s a familiar story in Egypt.

An executive at a big publicly traded Egyptian company yesterday became increasingly exasperated on the phone as he struggled to get through to any of his colleagues’ landlines at 3pm.

“Home time is actually at 3.30pm but the phone keeps ringing. That’s because it’s Ramadan and people think it’s an excuse not to work and leave early,” he said.

“I’m fasting, do you see me working? Yes, I’m working as normal because it’s only four hours until Iftar.”

On the flip side, increased spending on food, garments and gifts in the run up to the Eid Al Fitr celebrations when Ramadan ends, provides a fillip to an otherwise quiet month.

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