Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rhythms of Ramadan

Morocco welcomed Ramadan Friday night w/sirens after nightfall from the mosque after the crescent of the new moon was spotted. The month of fasting and religious observance is upon us..

So what are the rhythms of Ramadan? I’m still learning. We were in training all of last year’s Ramadan, so were fairly insulated from the day-to-day impact. We had our meals and drank our water as usual. We participated in the l-ftr (break fast at dusk) meal with our host families in Ain Leuh. Some stayed up for the middle of the night big meal-I skipped it, as that would have been a 4th meal I didn’t need.

This year I’ll see more of how Ramadan changes daily life. So far, into day 2, here’s what I’ve noticed:

Transportation: Some run as usual, but noted that transit out of Sefrou left yesterday morning before it was full-very unusual-and the first one didn’t leave until 9:30 (very late in the morning). Others tell me that the schedule runs normally-we’ll see tomorrow when I need early transportation to make it to a meeting in Ifrane at 11am (takes 3-4 hours travel to get there). It’s general knowledge to avoid transit late in the day, before l-ftr, as that means the driver has had nothing to eat or drink since the middle of the night and may not be as sharp as usual. I think this also means I need to allow for overnights this month, where I’d usually push to make single day travel, ie; to and from Fes. Also, don’t plan on travelling the 2 hours around dusk, as everyone is either rushing home to eat or is already there-no one is picking up a new fare. (Kinda like Fridays around 2pm-hard to find a taxi in Fes, as all the drivers are home eating couscous).

Shopping: Souk in Sefrou was sleepy yesterday morning. When I got to REK around 11am, everything was business as usual. Go figure. Need to plan ahead so that I have food at home if I’m going to have lunch, and that I buy before shops close. Shops work shorter hours. Typical is to either work in the morning and close for a long nap before l-ftr, or sleep late into the morning and work in the afternoon. Not everyone adheres to the same schedule, and not necessarily the same schedule each day. Get your things when you can I guess. Food shopping also means different foods available-tons of dates, shebekya, etc.-those things that are traditional Ramadan treats. Interesting to note that while there are traditional Ramadan foods-everyone breaks fast w/Harira-traditional tomato/garbanzo bean/pasta soup, taken w/hard boiled eggs, the dates and shebekya of course, olives and juice, but other dishes are not necessarily the same each Ramadan, ie; the big middle-of-the-night-tagine, since with the Islamic calendar, different foods are in season each Ramadan. (Remember that the Islamic calendar is lunar, and moves forward relative to the Western calendar, approx. 2 weeks each year). Hard to think of Ramadan in the middle of the winter, but certainly the “no water” would be easier.

Work: Work hours are also shortened all month. Peace Corps staff will be working either 8-2 or 10-4 and normal Moroccan gov’t hours will be 9-3. The Coop women, still cranking out their table runner order, will be working 8-2. This also means I’ve got to get confirmations of meetings before travelling to see anyone (much easier said than done). The field workers are not so active now-but it explains all the plowing of the wheat fields that has been going on the last couple of weeks. They were getting this done so they didn’t have to do it in the heat of Ramadan.

Socializing: Cafes are shut all day. No men lingering together for hours over their nsns or atay (coffee or tea). Where the heck do they go all day during Ramadan? No clue. Cafes open up after l-ftr and dusk when the streets fill back up w/people-they’ve got energy again and it’s cooled off enough to get out and about.

Mbruk Ramadan.

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