By Jenna Kleinwort
By Jenna Kleinwort
Rabat – The fasting in Ramadan has manifold aims and goals. One of the holy month’s main ideas is that fasting for a period of time allows one to step into the shoes of the poor and hungry. Moreover, it is a month of spirituality and reflection.
Additional prayers are incorporated into the Ramadan routine and believers try to embrace and intensify their connection to God. Ramadan is about far more than simply abstaining from eating and drinking from sunset until dawn, and there are many different traditions and rituals followed by Muslim countries across the world.
The rhythm changes
In Morocco during the time of Ramadan, life is simply different, and its pace and rhythm changes. People follow their normal daily routines, but those that have the possibility to sleep in a few hours later than normal. The streets are less busy in the morning hours. Most businesses do not open until 10 a.m.
Cafés and restaurants, except for a few places which hope to attract tourists, remain closed during the day. The streets and markets, especially the souks, get busy in the early afternoon. And from two hours before breaking the fast many rush to the beaches and parks in order to do their daily exercise or sports practice.
The first days of Ramadan
The beginning of a new month in the Islamic calendar is marked by the new moon. The exact time of when the fasting begins can thus either be determined by the physical sighting of the new moon or follow calculations of the new moon.
Morocco follows the Saudi Arabian declaration of the beginning of the month. This year the new moon was sighted in the evening of May 26 and thus the first day of fasting was Saturday, May 27.
The day begins in the middle of the night
Suhur is the pre-dawn meal, which is consumed early in the morning and is thus the last meal before the beginning of the daily fast. The exact time until it can be taken depends on the location. This year Suhur can be eaten in Rabat until approximately 3:30 am.
The Suhur meal consists of light dishes, which preferably have a long-time energy release. Dates, yoghurt, some fruit as well as Moroccan “Sellou” which is a Moroccan sweet made from toasted sesame seeds, fried almonds and flour and rich in calories and nutrients and therefore helps to restore energy.
Suhur is followed by the fajr prayer, which is one of the five prayers offered. Fajr prayer is practised between the beginning of dawn and sunrise. It has been interpreted in accordance with the Islamic prophet Muhammad to be God’s most favoured prayer, since others are still asleep at the time of the prayer. The call to the fajr prayer marks the beginning of the fasting.
After the fajr prayer it is time to go (back) to bed and get some sleep.
Then in the morning the normal daily routine begins, which means that Moroccans go to school or work, until it is time for the next prayer: the Dhuhur prayer, or the “noon prayer” after midday. The Asr prayer takes place in the afternoon. The preparations for the ftour (“breakfast”), the first meal of the day, also begin in the early afternoon with shopping in the souk or market, which get very crowded, and then the cooking and preparation of all dishes begin.
The cannons sound and the meal begins
Traditionally cannon sounds mark the call to the maghrib prayer, which means that it is sunset and the fast can be broken. In Rabat the cannons are shot in the central district of Hassan and this year’s Ramadan time of the call to maghrib was between 7:30 and 7:45 p.m. The time of the call changes, as days get longer. Following the tradition of the prophet Muhammad, many Muslims break the fast by eating three ripe dates and drinking some water or milk and after that perform the maghrib prayer.
After the prayer, the real ftour meal can be eaten. In Morocco the ftour meal consists of the Ramadan soup harira, alongside with eggs, dates, chebakia, as well as different kinds of breads such as harcha and rghayif served with cheese and honey, as well as milk, different juices and of course water. The ftour meal is completed with a cup of the traditional Moroccan mint tea or coffee. Then it is time to go to the mosque, the asha prayer begins around 21:15.
Time for socializing
After the prayer it is time for many to socialize with their friends, and they rush to their favourite coffee shops or restaurants. In Rabat, popular areas such as the Avenue Feranza in Agdal or the Petri square in Hassan get crowded, and those trying to secure their spot in one of the cafés try to arrive as early as possible after they finish the prayer.
Ramadan is not only a month of abstinence and spirituality, but also one of bonding and getting closer to each other and the shared beliefs and traditions contribute their share to strengthening the compassion and society in general.
In many Moroccan families a dinner meal is eaten after the prayer around midnight. Many serve the national Moroccan dish tagine, with either chicken or beef and many different vegetables, sided by bread. Others may prefer fish or seafood dishes or a lighter meal. Since this year’s Ramadan luckily coincides with the season of melon, Moroccans enjoy honeydew melon or watermelon for a dessert.
During Ramadan, there are additional prayers – the taraweeh prayers- for more spirituality and reflection. The Arabic word “taraweeh” means something like “relax and rest” and in these prayers long sections of the Qur’an are recited. The taraweeh prayers are usually prayed in congregation at the mosque.
Conscience, control and compassion
Without any doubt the month of Ramadan is a very special time in Morocco. It gives the opportunity to slow down the hectic pace of everyday life, step back, and reflect and reconsider the things we are doing and why. Some also use this month to get rid of one bad habit or another, even if it is just small changes.
Prophet Muhammad stressed the importance of small improvements, which might be more successful than radical changes that cannot be maintained. And of course fasting teaches endurance, patience, and gratitude for what we easily tend to take for granted.
Ramadan is a month that strengthens the social relationships and creates deep connection in the community. Describing the feeling and experience of the month Ramadan is difficult, but it can be found in a blend of conscience, consideration, control and compassion.