CAIRO – Just before dawn, Dalal Abdel-Qader paces the streets of Cairo, beating a drum and calling out to her neighbors to wake up and eat a final meal before the start of the daily Ramadan fast.
The 43-year-old is one of only a few women to serve as a "mesaharati," a volunteer who wakes up the Muslim faithful so they can eat "suhour," the last meal before the start of the dawn-to-dusk fast. The centuries-old tradition is mainly carried on by men.
During the lunar month of Ramadan, which ends next weekend, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset, with even a tiny sip of water invalidating the fast.
With Ramadan falling during the long, hot days of summer, the pre-dawn meal is more important than ever. And many Cairenes rely on the local mesaharati to wake them up. Volunteers like Abdel-Qader see it as a good deed — and also accept tips.
Abdel-Qader, who works a day job at a clothing factory, says she delivers the wake-up call in part to honor her late brother, Ahmed, who also served as a mesaharati.
She beats a drum on her nightly rounds, chants Ramadan-related religious phrases, and even calls out children by name as she passes by their homes in the poor Cairo district of Ard el-Besary. Her son, Mahmoud, accompanies her on her nightly three-hour rounds.
"This job requires no official permits," said Abdel-Qader, who contends that the main requirement is a loud and attractive voice, as well as friendly relations with neighbors.
"Although many people already are up late, because this Ramadan fell during the summer, they still like to hear their names called out."
As far as tips, she makes around 50 Egyptian pounds, or less than $3, a night. "It is not much, but they are worth millions to me."
Here is a gallery of photos by Amr Nabil of Abdel-Qader at work.