Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Ramadan Dairy ~ 2015 ~ Day Fourteen

Ibn Warraq's Ramadan musings continue...

We all need nourishment during Ramadan: spiritual, intellectual and culinary. For many Moroccans reading the Qur'an provides the first two. For others, there is companionship and conversation in the evenings. For a great many people, there is television.

Hassan El Fad’s famous comedy sitcom, “The Couple,”

According to the old and the wise among us, the way Ramadan is celebrated now is a change from how it was when they were young. And it is the same across the Muslim world. In Jeddah, 65 year-old Ali Al Ghamdi told a local newspaper, "There is a significant difference between how we receive Ramadan today and how we used to welcome Ramadan in the past, particularly as the advanced technology and television we enjoy today has tremendously weakened our intimate, simple, and easy-going attitudes, as well as the spirit of Ramdan. We used to have more family visits then, attend to the poor and the needy, and prepare Ramadan dishes such as soup, samosas, and various types of desserts. After the taraweeh prayer, we would take part in recreational games and play sports in the city centre, such as football.”

And things have changed everywhere. As Amjad Hemidach, an English teacher, pointed out in Morocco World News, during Ramadan, thousands of people attend prayers and frequently read Qur'an for religious insight. However, when Ramadan ends, many go back to their old habits, while others repent. Religion has become a culture, and people focus only on mechanical practices that do not reflect their daily interactions.

I'm not sure if it was low blood sugar, or fatigue, or the heat, but last night after visiting friends I decided to give up television for the rest of Ramadan.  We enjoyed Iftar and then my friends sat, mute, in front of television. The Ramadan TV obsession, like too much sugar, is unhealthy. Egyptian soap operas, Turkish soap operas, unfunny comedy shows and banal cooking shows - give me a break.

For Television stations Ramadan is jackpot time with advertising revenue reaching a peak. For the millions of Moroccans Ramadan is when they overdose on series and comedy sitcoms including “Nayda fi douar” and the second season of the sitcom “Kenza fi Douar,” which was watched by over 10 million viewers during Ramadan 2014. And then there is “The Couple”, shown every day just before Iftar.


Maybe it is just me, but I can only watch so much mediocre TV before becoming, not just bored but irritable. Abderraouf... no thanks. Al Awni, no thanks... the list goes on, Sidi Ahmed, Mahadi, Trika or Camera Annoujoun. I would prefer a lobotomy!

Of course, after a day fasting in the heat, I can understand that turning into a vegetable in front of a TV seems the only option. But, an entire family, zoned out, and incapable of conversation makes me feel that too much TV is a drug. An entire family? No, in reality, millions of Muslims around the world are addicted. The minute they come home the TV goes on, some have a small television in the kitchen so as not to miss things while preparing Iftar.

That is not to say that there are not worthwhile programs that stimulate thought, reflection and conversation.

Al Jazeera has been running some interesting documentaries that fullfil the hunger for intellectual nourishment. Filmmaker Yasser Ashour's look at Ramadan in Kenya is a good example.

I knew very little about Kenya and even less about how they celebrate the Holy month. Muslims have lived in Kenya for centuries and today make up about 11 percent of the country's population. These communities live on the coast in cities like Mombasa - where nearly half of the city's inhabitants are Muslim - and in the country's northeast.
"The attitude of the people of Mombasa is that they are very friendly people. You can just go in, go join anyone, anyone you see ... If I don't know you, you don't know me, you are very welcome to come sit with me. Let's have Iftar together, let's have prayers." 
Arafat bin Taleb, in a shelter for orphans, says the month of Ramadan acts like a guide

To watch it on your computer click here: Ramadan in Kenya

On the other hand, why not turn off the television, get up, go outside, take a walk and remind yourself that there are better ways of spending your evening.

The White Nights - Ramadan St Petersburg style

Early on in Ramadan, I mentioned the problems encountered by Muslims living in the far north of Europe, Russia and Scandinavia, where fasting in a normal way is impossible as the sun only sets for a very short time and a person would be fasting for between 21 and 22 hours every day. St Petersburg in Russia is famous for its White Nights Festival at this time of the year, but for local Muslims the long-lasting daylight in the region is an extra challenge to their faith.

While the Qur'an gives a lot of advice about fasting it does not give explicit instructions on observing the fast in the far north. Some Muslim scholars have written that residents of northern regions can forgo the fasting ritual, which is meant as a way to strengthen the will and rule over desires.

Other religious authorities suggest that Muslims living in the far north can observe the Ramadan fast according to the time of sunrise and sunset in Mecca or the nearest Muslim city.

“According to the instructions of the Holy Qur’an, fasting in regions [near the poles] is never obligatory, for it is established as such only for a set amount of days, that is, in those places where night and day are comparable in length,” Russian Tatar scholar Musa Bigiev wrote in a text on fasting.

Muslims praying in St Petersburg

Although there are no exact figures on how many Muslims live in St Petersburg, last year’s Eid al-Fitr festivities, which mark the end of Ramadan fasting, drew 42,000 worshippers to the city’s two main mosques.

No parking penalty - but parking reward

A mosque in America has let its congregation know that parking in a considerate way will earn them heavenly rewards.
Please leave parking available near all mosque entrances for the elderly and expectant mothers in our community. You will be rewarded for every step you take towards the mosque. Park farther away and earn multiple rewards.

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

David and Quentin were lost in a desert and very close to dying of thirst and hunger. Then they came upon an oasis and a beautiful mosque.

David turned to Quentin and said, 'Look, there is a mosque, let's pretend we are Muslims, otherwise we won't get any food or water. So, I am going to call myself Ahmad.'

Quentin refused to change his name and said: 'My name is Quentin and I will never pretend to be other than what I am.’

They stumbled across the dunes to the oasis and in the mosque the Imam received both of them warmly and asked for their names.

‘I am Ahmad’ David said.

‘I am Quentin,’ said Quentin.

The Imam nodded, turned to his helpers and instructed them to bring food and water, but only for Quentin.

And then Imam turned towards David and smiled. ‘Ramadan Mubarak Brother Ahmad!’

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy
DAY ONE          DAY FIVE             DAY NINE            DAY THIRTEEN
DAY TWO         DAY SIX                 DAY TEN
DAY THREE    DAY SEVEN          DAY ELEVEN
DAY FOUR      DAY EIGHT           DAY TWELVE  

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Moroccan Tbourida, ~ the Powder Game ~ on Show in Beijing

Photographer John Horniblow has a major exhibition opening in Beijing on July 4th. The exhibition Tbourida : The Fantasia of Morocco, is a series of photographs describing the thunder, smoke and dust, colours, energy and spectacle of the Moroccan Tbourida

Shot at a number of moussem across Morocco including Moulay Abdellah Amghar, Moussem des Cerises Sefrou, Tissa, Festival du Cheval, El Jadida, and Meknes, the photographs are part of a selection for a pending book publication.

Gunpowder smoke and muzzle blasts as the sorba ( riding team) ends its charge in Seffrou

Tbourida, also known as the ‘Powder game’, is a traditional and popular equestrian art inspired by the historical wartime attacks of the once feared and fiercely brave cavalrymen of Morocco.

The sorba wait anxiously before forming charge lines. Moussem Moulay Abdellah Amghar in Doukkala
A seasoned rider poses stoically atop his horse in the trooping of the sorbas in Seffrou, Morocco

The colourful spectacle of Tbourida is a contest of speed, endurance, grace, discipline and manoeuvrability for Morocco’s horsemen and horses. Tbourida is practiced across all rural areas of Morocco to celebrate national and religious moussem (holidays), as part of Morocco’s national culture and the past tribal identity. Tbourida or Fantasia is wildly popular with Morocco's predominant rural population and troops or sorba can be found all across the country and congregating to celebrate moussem in colourful tournaments often lasting for days.

Reflective young horseman, mentally preparing for a pending charge. Oued Merzeg, Morocco

John Horniblow past his work has been referred to as having an understanding of the human connections that are common across the cultures of the world. His work is often shot in close intimacy with his subjects using a style of work that immediately invites the audience into being present in the scene, a style referred sometimes as « candid intimacy », like a window or invitation into a scene.

A riding mentor  offers some advise to a young woman rider in Oued Merzeg

The work is on exhibit at Zarah,  46 Guloudongdajie, Dongcheng , Beijing Sat July 4th ( opening 6.00 pm ) - August 28th   北京东城鼓楼东大街46号

About John Horniblow
John Horniblow is a photographer, writer and filmmaker who recently moved to Beijing after living for 4 years in Morocco. John's photography has been published with Time publications, Geo Mundo, National Geographic, Penguin books and many other periodicals. He commenced his photographic documentary career as media and documentation officer on Expedition to Circumnavigate South America including voyaging to Antarctica. He has worked on assignment for National Geographic with leading wildlife photographer Franz Lanting , and CNN and produced documentary stories on a range of subjects.

He is also the Founder, Editor in Chief and publisher of the online photo documentary magazine Photojournale. In 2010 he published Photojournale’s first book anthology “Photojournale – Connections Across a Human Planet “, a virtual, web 2.0 global publishing collaboration with Photojournale’s global community of photographers. John trained as a cinematographer and has shot, directed and produced award winning short, television documentary and industrial films working with broadcasters such as BBC, SBS, and ABC. His documentary and drama work has also been screened at International film festivals and on network television.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Thirteen

Ibn Warraq continues his Ramadan musings...

The day started with a bang - literally. An initial explosion in Derb Bab El Hamra, just after 11am, sounded identical to the cannon shot that marks the end of the day's fasting. Except it was followed by another and then smaller sounds reminiscent of gun fire. Happily this was not the case. But, with Morocco having raised its alert level to the maximum following events in Tunisia, it was understandable that some of the Fez locals swore they could hear small arms fire. The incident caused the destruction of a gas depot selling bottled gas. See more details here


The drama on the hillside in Fez was not the first strange thing to happen in the last twenty-four hours.

Just before the end of the fast yesterday, my friend Hamid and I were on our adjoining rooftops chatting while waiting for the cannon and the call to prayer. To our surprise, a mosque in Laayoun began the call to prayer and then stopped. At the same time, from the fort up on the hill overlooking the Medina came a small puff of smoke and a less than impressive cannon shot. The misfire caused a few seconds of confusion, before a second cannon shot boomed across the Medina. It was good to know that the good folks on the hill have a backup shot ready. And in this case the problem was overcome quickly, unlike the incident in Agadir at the beginning of Ramadan when an over-eager Muezzin sang out the call to prayer seven minutes early.

Security in Morocco

All this talk of cannons and explosions reminds me that Abdellatif Hammouchi, a security heavyweight in the  Moroccan Security Service, has let it be known that his agents have strengthened surveillance around the resorts, hotel facilities and public sites known for their tourist appeal, as well as border crossing points to avoid any infiltration of terrorists.

Bombing threats were recently made via Twitter by a man named Al Mohcine Bidaoui.

"One of the immediate manifestations of this new security is a start strengthening the surveillance system at land borders and airports," says a security spokesperson, stating that firm instructions had been issued to ensure meticulous control of cars crossing land borders of the Kingdom, in order to  prevent the entry of vehicles carrying weapons.

Meanwhile the UK authorities have reassured travellers that while Morocco has the same potential problems as other countries, at the moment is it okay to visit.

What are the Brits smoking?

The misleading headline award for the day is shared by the WalesOnLine website and the Gazette in Gloucestershire.

Wales weather forecast: Country will be hotter than MOROCCO today as mercury tops 27C - WalesOnline

Temperatures in Gloucestershire to soar beyond those of Morocco as heatwave gets underway - The Gazette

27 degrees Celsius? Oh really? Then you read the small print and it becomes clear that they don't actually mean "Morocco" but rather "Casablanca".  Just to let those in Gloucestershire and Wales know, in Fez the temperature today was much cooler, down from 41 to 34.

A fountain of coolness
Chilling out Moroccan style

The strangest change to Ramadan!

Ramadan just got longer and you can blame the Time Lords. Sorry, but this is not a joke. It is also complex, so if you have been fasting, you may need to concentrate and read very slowly.

Today the world will experience a minute that will last 61 seconds, a weird event that is known as the leap second. It occurs when timekeepers adjust high-precision clocks so that they are in sync with Earth's rotation.

Few of the planet's 7.25 billion people are likely to be aware of the change and even fewer will have set plans for how they will spend the extra moment. But for horologists, the additional second is a big deal and there is much dispute as to whether it is vital or should be scrapped.

Service of the Rotation of the Earth (SRE) director Daniel Gambis admits "there is a downside", the poetically named branch of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS), is in charge of saying when the second should be added.

hang on... er, wait a second...

The leap second is hardly a great leap forward, and is not something for most of us to stress over, but it's important for atomic clocks, as well as caesium and rubidium clocks which regulate of our Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, by sending synchronised signals so that sat-nav receivers can triangulate their position on Earth. Get it wrong and your car could take you to Figuig instead of Fez.

The internet, for instance, sends data around the world in tiny packets that are then stitched together in micro-seconds. Some algorithms in financial trading count on gaining a tiny slice of a second over rivals to make a profit.

There have been 25 occasions since 1971 when the leap second has been added in an effort to simplify  GMT. And it has not always gone well.

Airlines, trading floors and technology companies are braced for chaos today as world timekeepers prepare to add a leap second to global clocks.

When the last leap second was added in 2012 Mozilla, Reddit, Foursquare, Yelp, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon all reported crashes and there were problems with the Linux operating system and programmes written in Java.

In Australia, more than 400 flights were grounded as the Qantas check-in system crashed.

Ramadan just got one second longer - El Humdullilah!


Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

An elderly Moroccan lived close to New York City for more than 40 years. He would have loved to plant potatoes in his garden, but he was alone, old and weak. His son was in college in Marrakech, so the old man sent him an e-mail.

"Beloved son, I am very sad, because I can't plant potatoes in my garden. I am sure, if only you were here, you would help and dig up the garden for me.
I love you,
Your Father"

The following day, the old man received a response e-mail from his son:

"Beloved Father,
Please don't touch the garden. It's there that I have hidden 'the THING'.
I love you, too,
Ahmed"

At 4pm the US Army, The Marines, the FBI, the CIA and the Rangers visited the house of the old man, took the whole garden apart, searched every inch, but couldn't find anything. Disappointed they left the house.

A day later, the old man received another e-mail from his son.

"Beloved Father,
I hope the garden is dug up by now and you can plant your potatoes.
That's all I could do for you from here.
I love you,
Ahmed."

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy
DAY ONE          DAY FIVE             DAY NINE   
DAY TWO         DAY SIX                 DAY TEN
DAY THREE    DAY SEVEN          DAY ELEVEN
DAY FOUR      DAY EIGHT           DAY TWELVE  

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