OK, so I did an involuntary fast on Saturday. Two Fulbright scholars from Fes came down for the day. I wasn’t hungry before they arrived, but had planned to make a nice salad for lunch. Then I find out that they’re both fasting. So there go the lunch plans, and I know they’re thirsty, but it’s not like I’m gonna drink in front of them. So instead, off we go to the meetings I’d set up for them w/the Adwal women and the ATPF Association women. By the time they leave and I run a couple of errands, it’s l-ftr time (break of fast at dusk) and I’m very lightheaded since I’ve been sweating up a storm all day long. I drink some water and eat a shbekya (fried dough slathered in honey) that the ATPF women were making. Have a bit of dinner. Feel like crap. Watch some download TV shows. Go to bed and read. Until 3am. Not sleepy. No energy all day, seriously dehydrated all day long in 110 degree heat, then feel like crap when I finally consume something. I had no motivation whatsoever to fast before, and now having made it only a single day, I’m not going there again.
We did have a good day talking w/Adwal and the ATPF women. Lauren and Rebecca are researching the impact of microfinance on women’s business enterprises and both want to stay after their Fulbright money runs out to develop training on domestic violence. They’ve both got great language and had good discussions with all of the women they met. Lauren had her camera to take shots of the women making shbekya and I hope she remembers to send them to me-it’s such a tradition. Of course, they also fell in love with the women and REK-naturally. Is it any wonder that I love ‘showing off’ REK and the wonderful people here?
Then yesterday I was invited to join Khalid and Siham in El Menzel for l-ftr. I haven’t been travelling as much during Ramadan this year, so had not really checked out the late afternoon transport situation. Mushkil. Nothing running out of REK after about 4:30pm. Nothing-unless you want to buy out a taxi for round trip fare. (Taxis take 6 passengers-2 in the front passenger seat and 4 across the back. You want to buy it out, you pay for all 6 seats. And if they aren’t otherwise going, you have to pay r-t fare. Gets pricey to say the least!). Imagine-no means of transport out of your town after 4:30 in the afternoon, until the next morning. Of course, it’s hard to blame the drivers-they’ve been driving while fasting all day long in the heat and want/need a break. Fortunately El Menzel is the next closest town, so buying out r-t fare was all of 60DH, or about $7.50.
Khalid met me and took me to Siham’s family’s house. What a nice house, ie; western toilet and tp!, and a wonderful family. Naturally we all sat around and watched the DVD of their wedding-both DVDs, maybe 3 hours worth. This is very typical-visitors are almost always brought family photos to look at and wedding videos. The difference here was I wanted to see the video since I wasn’t able to go to the wedding (it was while I was in Uganda).
We had l-ftr and then went for a walk around town. I was absolutely amazed at the number of people out walking around. Since there is almost no vehicular traffic (only a few personal vehicles on the road), the people flood the street. I didn’t realize how much bigger El Menzel is than REK until I saw the streets so filled for such a distance. Everyone comes out and walks around after l-ftr and they’ve got full bellies and are hydrated and it’s cooled off a bit. It’s a parade of ‘meet and greet’-feels festive every night. I think this is my favorite thing about Ramadan.
I also had an interesting discussion w/Khalid about enforcement of fasting. He mentioned that Max at ‘the Clock’ refused to serve some Moroccans who came into the café since it was Ramadan. Case it point, it was reported yesterday: ‘Moroccan police arrested two minors in Marrakech because they were eating in the street during daylight hours this month of Ramadan, reported the Moroccan daily "Assabah". According to the newspaper, the juveniles were arrested and are waiting to be brought in front of a judge. The newspaper quoted an eyewitness, who said that the minors were arrested after an officer of the security forces saw them eating in public in plain view of several people. Article 222 of the Moroccan Penal Code punishes public eating during daylight hours during Ramadan with a penalty of between one and six months in jail and a fine of about $150.’ So how is ‘the Clock’ responsible if they serve a Muslim person? And how do they know that this “Moroccan” person is Muslim? After all, even if born Muslim in Morocco, they may have converted. And this is a café that serves food all day. Maybe just to those who look like ‘foreigners’? Could Max and the café personnel be held liable if they serve a practicing Muslim who breaks the fast ‘publically’ in the café? I asked Khalid what he thought. He thought Max did the right thing-it would be hard for the café staff to see a Muslim eating during the day during Ramadan. Hmm. Interesting.
Anyway, Khalid and Siham had to go to work today, so they had a friend who was going to take them to Fes also return me to REK on the way last night. But first we had to stop back by Siham’s house so she and Khalid could have some dinner (it was now around midnight). Despite the insistence that I eat, I told them that since I don’t fast, l-ftr was my dinner and I didn’t need another meal (I mean really, just take a look!). They’ve invited me back for couscous anytime, and if they lived closer, I’d readily take them up on it-such a lovely family. Shukran bzzaf.