Since today is a holiday for New Year's, it’s a good time to share a little cross culture info w/you.
The Gregorian (western) calendar is based on solar cycles. It is used in Morocco for business and civil purposes. The Islamic calendar is based on the cycle of the moon. The Islamic year is divided into twelve months, each a complete cycle of the moon. A lunar cycle consists of 29 or 30 days, so the Islamic year consists of 354 or 355 days. Thus, the Islamic calendar gains 10-11 days on the Gregorian calendar each year. A coincidence of the 2 calendars takes a cycle of 33 solar years. For example, in the Christian year 1981, the Islamic month of Ramadan (it’s the 10th month of the Islamic calendar) corresponded very closely with the Gregorian month of July. This will happen again in 33 years. In the meantime, Ramadan will slowly “move forward”, beginning 10-11 days “earlier” every year. At the end of this 33 solar year cycle, nearly 34 Islamic years will have passed. There is no standard scientific method of determining which years will consist of 354 or 355 days, nor which month will consist of 29 or 30 days. Instead, each Muslim country has its own method of determining when one month ends and another begins. In Morocco, this is done by the sighting of the new moon, which is carried out by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in Fes. It can and does happen that the same Islamic month begins on different days in different Islamic countries. It is also why we didn’t know if today was a holiday until the full moon was spotted at 8pm last night. Happy New Year!
Now having shared all of that, I asked my host family what the traditions were around the Islamic New Year. They got today off for the Islamic New Year, and celebrate New Years on December 31st-and get January 1st off, but don’t do anything special. Go figure. I’m trying to be culturally sensitive and prepared to participate as custom dictates. Oh well-at least I tried!
So Xmas was nice-spent w/other PCVs-very low key, but first Christmas carols I heard all year! That was followed by the weekend in Fes. Hamdullah! What a great respite from it all. There were 6 of us-stayed in the same el-cheapo hotel to save $$. I splurged and on my way there went to a supermarche in Fes and bought 4 bottles of wine, corkscrew, cups, cheese and crackers (all things only avail in city like Fes-in the “go straight to Hell section”) and we had a little celebration on the roof of the hotel Friday and Saturday nights. We all enjoyed an Italian dinner on Friday night—all the books for Fes give you recommendations for fabulous Moroccan food. OK, we get it every day, every meal w/our host families. Not a complaint. We were just ready for a change. Pasta. Pizza. Yum. We walked all over the old Medina-got back down to the infamous tanneries area w/camera in tow. We also walked all over the Ville Nouvelle (new town) area for a change. It was just good to be able to share our experiences, commiserate w/one another, and rejoice that, despite how wonderful our host families are (and they are), we’re more than ready to move into our own places Feb 1st. Inshallah.