Women in Morocco prepare for Ramadan by getting in extra fasting days, hosting Sha’bana parties, shopping, preparing ingredients, making traditional recipes, stocking the fridge, and cleaning their homes.
Rabat – Muslims across the globe are preparing to welcome the holy month of Ramadan. Moroccan women, however, have multiple missions to accomplish during the month of Sha’ban, the eighth month of the Islamic calendar, which comes before Ramadan.
Moroccan women welcome Ramadan in special ways, but each woman has a preference for what she starts with. For women with jobs, Moroccans find the time to balance their employment and housework.
While keeping in mind that Ramadan is a period to devote most of the time to prayer and reciting the Qur’an, women also find time to get extra work done, the following seven in particular.
Fasting for extra divine rewards
During Sha’ban, the eighth month in the Islamic calendar, some Moroccan women start fasting some extra days ahead of the holy month either to gain rewards from God or to make up for days they did not fast during the previous Ramadan.
In Islam, women are allowed to eat during their menstrual periods in the holy month, but they usually will fast for the same number of days they missed in the weeks or year following Ramadan. Women are also not allowed to pray during menstruation.
When Ramadan is only 10 days away, Moroccan women, especially in the old medinas (walled cities) celebrate a ceremony called Sha’bana. The word is derived from the month’s name.
One woman takes the initiative to host the ceremony at her house and offers foods and pastries to her female friends and relatives.
The ceremony is also often accompanied by special music, especially “amdah” or “issawa,” musicians who perform religious chants.
During the ceremony, Moroccan women also adorn their hands with green Moroccan henna.
Shopping, shopping, shopping
With Ramadan coming closer, Moroccan women rush to the nearest souqs to buy all the products they will need to make traditional foods ready for the Ramadan table.
Some products and spices are more important than others! Into the shopping bag go sesame seeds, almonds, cinnamon, colorful spices, nuts, dates, and many more ingredients women need to make sweets and pastries.
Some Moroccan women also tend to buy new kitchen materials during Sha’ban, such as new bowls and the famous wooden spoons used for eating harira, a flavorful red chickpea soup.
But after shopping is when the magic begins to happen. The period is when Moroccan women start using their ingredients to make delicious food and pastries to serve during the breaking of the fast, called “iftar” in standard Arabic and “ftour” in the Moroccan Darija dialect.
But before they can make the food, there are several steps to prepare the ingredients that take place in the majority of houses across Morocco, including sifting the stones and extra material out of products like sesame seeds before using them.
Women gather with their female relatives every evening to clean sesame seeds using wood, plastic, or metal basins.
After thorough cleaning days, women wash the sesame seeds, which they will later toast and use in several recipes.
Women use the same procedure for all other seeds.
Making the food
The first thing women make is the famous sellou and chebakia, two important foods that Moroccans serve throughout the holy month.
Following all the shopping and cleaning, women start using the ingredients in their dishes. To prepare chebakia, Moroccan women use seeds, butter, cinnamon, blossom water, saffron, honey, and vinegar.
Once they mix the ingredients and shape the dough, the pastry makers fry chebakia in a large pot filled with hot vegetable oil. The sweet little chebakia flowers should be removed from the oil when they get a sandy color, and Moroccans will pour a large quantity of honey onto them.
For sellou, Moroccan women will use a pot to slowly melt butter. In another container, cooks mix all dry ingredients: Browned flour, powdered sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, ground mastic gum, and salt. Moroccans then add crushed and ground almonds, sesame seeds, and honey.
Stocking the fridge
Correct me if I am wrong, but if you look into a Moroccan kitchen now, you will find that most are stuffed with plastic bags of pureed tomatoes, chopped-up coriander and celery leaves, and frozen chickpeas.
Women tend to make life easier for themselves during Ramadan by stocking up and preparing ingredients ahead of time. The stored items will be used for a fresh and flavorful harira soup.
Grand house cleaning
After the shopping, cleaning, and preparation of sellou and chebakia, women mobilize themselves for a grand cleaning, especially in their kitchens.
Some families also like to dye their houses during the month of Ramadan, which symbolizes purity for them and serves as an opportunity for Muslims to clean their souls through prayers.