By Jenna Kleinwort
By Jenna Kleinwort
Rabat – Eid al-fitr “the festival of breaking the fast” – is the celebration that marks the end of the fasting month Ramadan, and is celebrated in Morocco in the circle of abig family with, of course, a lot of food.
As Morocco follows the determination of the exact time by the Islamic lunar calendar and sighting of the new moon, this year’s Eid al-Fitr was celebrated on Monday, June 26.
I was invited to spend the Eid at my friend’s place, and preparations for it had already begun the day before: a lot of time is spent in the kitchen preparing all dishes for Eid. In many Moroccan families ,celebrations for the Eid begin in the morning with a family breakfast, which is the first daytime meal after a whole month where food and drink areto be resisted from dawn until sunset. The night before,women do some beauty preparations and wash their hair, shave or wax their legs, cover their bodies in Henna decorations, and do their hand- and toenails.
In the morning of the Eid, a special prayer called Salat al-Eid takes place, where people gather in mosques or open spaces. The Salat al-Eid is not obligatory like the other five daily prayers, since the Eid is also about freedom and enjoying food and all other habits freely again. Traditionally, men go to the mosque for the prayer, while women stay at home and dress up in beautiful traditional dresses and finish the last preparations for the breakfast.
The traditional breakfast consists of many different Moroccan pastries, cakes and breads, accompanied by Moroccan mint tea and coffee. It is a special occasion for the whole family to gather – at my friend’s house (apart from her parents and siblings), her grandma, several uncles and aunts and their children visit. Whoever is in the country tries to travel to Rabat for the Eid, and some family members have travelled all the way from northern Tanger for the holiday.
My friend’s uncle Hamid explains the importance of this family gathering. “I cannot be happy by myself in the Eid. Happiness is mutual and thus needs be exchanged and shared. That this happiness comes along with a lot of food is even better,”Hamid sayswith a laugh. It is actually written in the Quran to pay special attention to sick and old people during the Eid, and it is obligatory to visit sick people, your family and friends during this holiday.
Another important aspect that completes the fasting and Ramadan is the principle of Zakat, the almsgiving. Hamid explains to me that in case you have perform any behaviour that should be refained from during Ramadan (such as looking at a woman more than an accidental glance or speaking badly about someone), you can pay Zakat, in order to make sure that the fasting is still accepted. The amount of Zakat that is due to be paid this year is 2.5 kg of what the person is eating, such as flour or rice.
Before the Eid-al fitr there is an obligatory alms. “The head of the house has to give food or the equivalent in money on behalf of all his family members or all people who live with him, even for guests,” explains Hamid. “The Zakat has to be paid in the night of the last day of Ramadan and the morning of the Eid-al fitr.” The Zakat is paid so that everybody, also the poor, can be happy on the Eid. All Muslims around the world are supposed to celebrate Ramadan together on this day.
At around noon, it is time for the next meal. Many Moroccan families serve couscous, the most traditional dish. Couscousis perfect for sharing, and therefore perfect for the Eid. In my friend’s house a huge dish of chicken and vegetable couscous is served, along with some watermelon for desert.
A side effect of couscous is that it makes you feel very full and tired quickly, so it came at no surprise that around thirty minutes after the Couscous meal the whole house was silent, and all family members spread out on the long couches in the living room to rest or sleep. Experiencing this Ramadan celebration not only taught me more about Moroccan traditions, Ramadan rituals and family and community bonding, but also finally solved the riddle of the long couches in Moroccan living rooms.