An Epic Ramadan Walk To Mississauga by Umar Saaed

This piece was originally published in 2009: 

My sister and I are bad Muslims. It's the month of Ramadan and we haven't fasted once. Don't get me wrong, we're not bad people, just bad Muslims. Our parents, however, have taught us what Ramadan is all about — sacrifice. And so, on the last day of summer my sister and I set out to walk from downtown Toronto (queen and john) all the way to our parent's place in Mississauga (like 401 and Mavis). That's over 30km and it took us 7 hours. I'd like to share the highlights with you.

The moon plays a great significance in Ramadan, and I thought it was nice that when we woke up early on a Saturday morning I could still see the moon. While I was waiting in front of my building, snapping photos of the moon and excited about our trek, I realized that I was waiting for my sister at the wrong place.

We were late.

We scurried towards Bloor street and started walking West.

Some people feel sad when they see a dying tree. I always feel sad when I see a closed down Coffee Time.

I didn't ask.

Right around Dundas West we encountered a series of polish bakeries. We stopped at this one and ate some of that. We are both deeply in love with bakeries and butchers.

There's so much to see on Bloor street that the Humber river snuck up on us. We were already approaching Old Mill and it felt like we had only just started walking.

Things are getting uglier. Concrete apartment buildings from the 70's. Power lines galore. Racing traffic. Highway signs. We have to yell to talk to each other. We're in Etobicoke now. It's the end of the line — Kipling station. We decide to walk north and take Burnhamthorpe all the way to the heart of Mississauga — Square one.

All the signs that we were entering Mississauga were there. We had crossed highway 427. There was four-lane traffic zipping by us, long stretches between lights that allow the cars to go quite fast. We had passed a sign that welcomed us to Mississauga. We started to see trees that were held up with crutches. But we didn't know any of it. This was a stretch of Burnhamthorpe that we'd never seen before, and it wouldn't stop! To be honest, the walk up until Kipling was a joke. The stretch between Kipling and Square One was mentally draining.

When I saw a sign for Rockwood Mall, I was jumping for joy, because I had worked at the Royal Bank in that particular mall for about a week when I was in high school. When we passed Cawthra my sister's exact words were, "Hey, it's Cawthra! Remember Cawthra!?" I responded with an equally jubulated "Yeah, of course I remember Cawthra!"

Let me tell you something about Cawthra. Neither of us ever had any business on Cawthra. It was just one of those streets that you knew because you passed by it so often. But at that moment, we were so freaking happy to see Cawthra. We knew we were close.

We had finally reached Square One. We were slowing down, both physically and mentally. We had to stop for a Julius in the food court. On our way out my sister was telling me that a long time ago she had actually walked from Square One to home, and she remembered that it took over an hour. I didn't need to hear that.

But it was okay once we stepped outside to start walking again. We were basically home. Empty buses. Traffic lines on the streets seemed fresh. Blindingly bright sidewalks. Some brown girls honked at me to say "nice shirt," complementing my 100% Halal. Deafening traffic noise (because walking on major streets feels like you're walking on a highway). A general feeling of being unsafe as a pedestrian. My sister was getting angry at all the drivers.

The home stretch was all about pushing it. We had no idea how tired we'd gotten, but our arms had started to flail quite wildly, and there was a moment when we hit each other's hands, mid-stride, and both said, "oww!" simultaneously and then started to giggle. We finally got home and spent the next 1/2 hour convincing our parents that we had indeed walked all the way home. We spent the rest of the weekend trying to explain why.


Umar Saeed is an accomplished professional in finance and accounting. On his website (, he writes essays to explain the elaborate connections between people and money, without making your head hurt. You can follow him on Twitter @UmarSaeedCA. Or you can read the rest of his posts at The Little Red Umbrella here.


Anonymous said...

Hey Umar,

Please don't mourn the passing of any Coffee Time. Generally, the death of a Coffee Time is a sure indicator that a particular neighbourhood is finally climbing out of the gutter and getting a new lease on life. I can't wait for the one up my street to close down.

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