By Malak Mihraje
By Malak Mihraje
Rabat – As the streets fill with people after Iftar, cafes swarm with hungry families. At a side-café in Agdal, Moroccans and foreigners alike gather around the small wooden tables, spooning Harira into their mouths with speed. Adriana, a Norwegian woman in her forties sits, murmuring pleasantries and sipping coffee with her Moroccan husband Mohammed. When asked about Morocco during Ramdan, her eyes shine with a childlike excitement.
“I find it a bit difficult not to smoke during fasting hours,” she said while lighting a cigarette, “but it is not a big deal, I got used to fasting during my vacation in Morocco; respecting my husband and his family. Besides, I adore the Harira soup we have during Iftar.” Her husband, who seemed to be in his forties as well and who lives in Norway, said that he doesn’t push her to fast; it is something she doesn’t mind doing.
The café is full of customers reveling in their Iftar meal. This traditional break-fast meal is composed of dates, Chabakiya (Moroccan sweets) Harira, boiled eggs, pancakes and juice. Most of the café’s patrons were enjoying Iftar, so the two American men who were anxiously waiting for a pizza immediately stood out as different. This is our first time in Morocco and the situation is not good. It is difficult to find an open café or restaurant during the day to eat well.” Then the pizza came, and the Americans focused on their food.
Although Ramadan may inconvenience some visitors, many travelers enjoy the changes Ramadan brings to Morocco.
Marilyn, a young American studying at the Qalam Wa Lawh Center for Arabic Studies, enjoys the unique aspects of Moroccan life during the holy month. She has been living with a Moroccan host family for two years. She says that she finds the atmosphere of Ramadan enjoyable: “I spend my day normally. I don’t fast but I like the traditions of Ramadan, especially the unique Iftar meal.” She added, “it is normal for restaurants to be closed, during the fasting period in Ramadan, and foreigners must get used to respecting others’ customs and traditions.”
Not far from Mohammed V Street in the old medina, we met Joseph, a twenty- year-old student from Cap Verde. It was apparent from his facial expression that he was exhausted. He said that, at the beginning, he found it very difficult to get used to Ramadan; “I have been studying in Morocco for three years. In my first year here, everything around me changed. The most difficult thing for me was that the trams and taxis seemed to stop running, but now I don’t face any problems as I used to.”
It is very rare to see foreigners eat or smoke during the day, in public. But a sixty year Marine broke the tradition by smoking on the street, so we asked her if she was ever harassed for this behavior during Ramadan. She replied “I live in Morocco, and it is rare when I’m harassed and it doesn’t disturb me much. Morocco is a Muslim country and it has its own customs and traditions which I accept.”
This article was first published at Morocco World News Arabic and translated into English by Ihsane Kh’Leeh
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