Sunday, September 20, 2009


Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting. It falls on the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. From sunrise to sunset, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and everything else ill-natured for the sake of God.

Muslims wake up around 4am to eat sehri (predawn meal) and perform the fajr prayer. (Last year in CBT training, there were two men responsible for waking people up for sehri. Thank goodness my village has everyone set their own alarm clocks.) Muslims do not breakfast until the maghrib, the fourth call to prayer at sunset. A typical breakfast (lftor) includes harira, shabackia, dates, juice, cake, eggs with cumin and xubz shama (fat bread). Around 8pm sounds the last call to prayer. I've noticed a significant increase in mosque attendance during Ramadan. Women who ordinarly pray at home, will go to the mosque and pray. They typically stay until 10pm. Afterwards, they eat sahor and go to bed.

Some PCVs choose to fast. I wanted to try. I fasted three days and then became completely unmotivated. Yes, I wanted to understand what my community was going through. However, I'm not Muslim. I like running in the morning. I like being productive during the day. And I don't think it's healthy to starve yourself during the day and then stuff yourself before bedtime. Perhaps my thoughts would be dramatically different if I felt religioius conviction behind these actions. I don't. Everyone in my community asked whether I was fasting or not. On the three days that I fasted, I told them so. But the other 90 percent of the time, I had to explain why not. After a couple weeks, I became tired of reexplaining my choice not to fast. It was either that or lying. So I patiently explained to everyone who asked. Perhaps next year I'll enjoy Ramadan instead of viewing it as an inconvience, inchallah.

Tomorrow is 'id el-fitr, the end of Ramadan. And I cannot wait to get them working! My ladies have to prepare for an exhibition in Fes. They also have an export order to finish by mid-October. The Sewing and Needleworks teacher and assistant have four new products to introduce to the ladies. So you can imagine how happy I am that Ramadan's end is almost here! This past week, I saw signs of the encroaching holiday:

1) Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. A couple days ago, ladies were all busy cleaning their homes inside out. My neighbor Fatima was no exception. On any given day, she (or one of her two daughters) sweeps and mops her floors at least twice. But this thursday was different. When I passed by her door in the afternoon, I saw her house flooded. That's how you get a deep clean! A cascade rolled down the staircase. They had a pool right by the front door, where the floor sinks in. We could have easily swam a couple laps! (I was grateful to reuse her water to mop my floors, clean my walls and flush my toilet. Gray water is a wonderful thing!) All the mats were out to dry on the roof. The house's furniture was bathing in the sun. Since coming here, I've learned a whole new meaning to cleaning.

2) Shopping for new clothes. It's customary for Muslims to buy new clothes for this holiday. And they are. They've flooded the marketplace. On Friday, I ran some errands in my souq town. It was jam packed! During Ramadan, I've grown accustomed to the crowded marketplace around 4pm, when everyone scurries around to buy food for lftor. But this was ten times that! Peopled filled the marketplace, bargaining for this and that. In my village, most women go to Habiba's for their clothes. Habiba purchases clothes, scarves, perfumes, lotions and other various products. She resells them in the unfinished second floor of her house. All week, I ran into ladies who were either coming or going to Habiba's. I knocked on at least five doors this week, only to find out that they had left to shop at Habiba's.

3) Hammam-ing. Walking around yesterday, I smelled the burning fires from hammams. The hammam is Morocco's version of a steam bath. In my village, households have their own hammam which fits two to three people at once. There's a "fireplace" below the hammam. It steams the cement room and heats up the water. Inside, there are buckets for hot water, buckets for cold water and buckets to mix the two. You use a qss (scrubber), to exfoliate and get a wonderfully deep clean. I've grown to enjoy my hammam trips, especially in the winer. Around 4pm, all the ladies I visited were glowing red from their recent hammam trip. BssHaa!!

Aid mubarak said! Mbark lwaishir!!

Enjoy the holiday! :)

No comments: