Rabat - House cleaned, top to bottom? Check. Fridge stocked with dates and milk for ftur, and a new tagine for 'aesha? Check. Psychologically prepared for fasting 16 hour days, 30 days in a row? Not so much.
Rabat – House cleaned, top to bottom? Check. Fridge stocked with dates and milk for ftur, and a new tagine for ‘aesha? Check. Psychologically prepared for fasting 16 hour days, 30 days in a row? Not so much.
I am not a very religious person. Although I was born Jewish, and I consider myself a ‘cultural’ Jew who follows the traditions of her faith, I would not call myself devout. I also have major issues with my blood sugar–if I don’t eat for more than three hours at a time, I get angry. After four hours, I start to get dizzy. After five hours, I can faint.
So then why put myself through this thirty day test of willpower, appetite, and faith? I think it all comes down to my first ever Ramadan in Meknes. I remember when I first came to Morocco last summer, I came just two weeks before the fast. I got a taste of ordinary Moroccan life–the sweet, creamy breakfasts, the late-night dinners, the constant meetings in smoke-filled cafes. And then, just like that, everything changed. Women in jellabas filled the streets, where girls in jeans walked before. Men in thobes, sober faced, hurried back and forth from mosque. The whole city slept and prayed, eager for the call to ftour, pale and hollow cheeked from the combined rigors of the fast and the heat.
I didn’t even consider fasting. I was alone in a strange country, studying classic Arabic 6-8 hours a day. I have (the aforementioned) blood sugar issues, which would have made fasting in the Meknessi heat both dangerous and probably medically inadvisable. None of my American friends in the program with me were fasting, for many of the same reasons.
But still, Ramadan was the best month of my life. The way the call to prayer lit up the faces of my friends and neighbors, a holy joy glowing in their eyes. The way strangers became friends over shared dates on the train, smiling past language barriers, sharing laughter in the fading sunshine. The way children ran in the streets, following the beating of the midnight drums, calling a new gladness into the world.
When I made the decision to move to Morocco (for both personal and professional reasons), I knew that I would fast this time around. I don’t want to be an outside observer anymore, watching this great tradition without taking part in it. I want to feel the rigors of hunger, and meditate my way through the pain. I want to prepare ftour for friends, family and strangers alike, and invite them gladly into my home. I want to laugh like a child when the drum beats for ‘aesha.
Most importantly, I want to wish all of my readers a Ramadan Mubarak. I am so happy to be joining you for Ramadan this year. I would love some tips on fasting and recipes for ftour in the comment section, so don’t hesitate to share your thoughts!
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