Ramadan traditions are great, but staying alive comes first.
When Morocco implemented a COVID-19 lockdown on March 20, some were sure, and others hoped, that life would return to normal by Ramadan. Last week, when the government extended the lockdown until May 20, my sister turned to me and said, “Huh, we won’t be going out with the girls after breaking fast this year!” That is when it dawned on me that lockdown will break a tradition I have upheld, like so many Moroccans, since I was 15 years old.
As it turns out, girls’ nights out is only one in a list of traditions that the lockdown will interrupt this Ramadan.
Throughout the entire year, nightlife options in Morocco are limited to pubs, nightclubs, and the very few restaurants that stay open until 11 p.m. Morocco’s restaurant scene is an entirely different experience during Ramadan.
For one, virtually all restaurants and cafes stay open until dawn. With cafes closed during the day because of the fast, nighttime, after the ‘Ishaa’ prayer, becomes the service industry’s workday. The hospitality itself does not particularly change, but the atmosphere is marked by a unique bliss.
For an entire month, it becomes a shared culture to go out at night and stay out until dawn. The clients at cafes and restaurants are families, friends, and couples looking for a nice cup of coffee to complement their conversations or games of cards. Ramadan presents quite a change of scenery from the usual youngsters in search of parties.
I will honestly admit I am a proud partying youngster myself, but I feel it would be lovely to have the option of nighttime family outings all year long. As it turns out, neither are an option during a global pandemic.
Large family gatherings
Ramadan teaches many beautiful lessons. To cite a few, observers are reminded to care for the less fortunate, to cherish their own blessings, and reach out to their loved ones.
At least once a week during the Muslim holy month, Moroccans visit their families and loved ones to break fast.
The lockdown is, with reason, trying to minimize physical interactions and social mingling. This Ramadan, driving out of the city to break fast with grandparents and cousins does not seem like an option. It is unfortunate and seemingly not in line with the Ramadan spirit, but at least grandpas and grandmas will be safe.
The religious relationship between believers and their creator is a continuous and lifelong work in progress. There is no optimal time to start nurturing the relationship, from a divine perspective. Still, Ramadan provides Muslims with a strong support mechanism to pursue such a goal, and one aspect of this support is the unity in attending mosques.
Mosques witness a surge in devotees during Ramadan, especially during night prayers. Often roads near mosques are blocked. I remember my mom taking me with her during the first Ramadan I fasted. We went early and picked a spot on the mosque’s rooftop to feel the breeze. It was intriguing, exhausting, and soothing. To think that this Ramadan will go by without similar prayers seems so unorthodox.
Practicing Muslims can still find comfort in praying from home with their loved ones. After all, God is everywhere.
The lockdown is meant to safeguard individual and public health, but that does not make missing out on Ramadan traditions any less saddening. The good news is that if we all stay safe at home this Ramadan, we will have many more years to come to celebrate our beloved traditions.