Saturday, July 13, 2013

Once Upon a Time in Ramadan - Ramadan Diary

Ramadan in Morocco is very much a family affair but what of those who are on their own? The View from Fez would like to thank an anonymous Wikileaks source that details a day in the life of a chocoholic's experience of just one day during Ramadan.

Fez Medina Morocco - Ramadan (2013)

Day two:

11 am:  There is a frozen Mars Bar in my fridge. I am dreaming of eating it when the heat wakes me. Or maybe it is the cat. I look at the clock. It really does say 11 am. I can't remember when I was asleep at this time of the morning - ever. Well, maybe in some other country and cooler climate when I had got home from an all night bash and stumbled into bed at 7am.

Craving coffee, I mumble 'good morning' to the cat and haul myself out of bed.

I am half way down the stairs to the kitchen when I realise the world outside my walls is totally silent. There are no yelling kids on their way to school, no clopping of donkey or mule hooves on the cobbled streets. Totally silent. It is Ramadan and I am probably the only person in the entire Medina who is awake.

The fog in my brain clears. Of course everyone is asleep. It's the second day of Ramadan. Which also means no coffee. Not for another nine hours. No coffee. no water, no ice cream. The Mars Bar in the fridge is safe for a while yet. The cat joins me and reminds me that cats don't have to fast. After I feed the cat I check the thermometer in the courtyard. It is 37 degrees Celsius. I go into the downstairs salon, close the curtains, switch on the fan and, stretching out on the sofa, go back to sleep.

2 pm: There is a loud bang. A fuse has blown and the fan has overheated and stopped. For a moment I wonder if it is sweat trickling down my face, or if I am melting. The courtyard thermometer reads 39.

2.20 pm. Cold shower. Fix the fuse. Then I make the mistake of checking if the refrigerator is still working. The door swings open and the light comes on. In front of me are all the temptations. A jug of iced lemon-water. A packet of Norwegian smoked salmon, a bottle of Schweppes Tonic, a large slice of watermelon glistens at me from inside its protection of cling-wrap. In the door are two bottles of Sidi Ali and a 2012 Entre-Deux Mers. The Mars Bar sits on the middle shelf, mocking me.

I don't open the freezer. The vanilla bean ice cream is there, knowing it is safe for another six hours.

5 pm: Another cold shower and then I head to the souk. Every single person in Fez is in the souk. The price of everything seems to have gone up. I buy some bessara in a plastic bag, a baguette, some beautiful dates and ten eggs.

6 pm: Not that I am watching the clock, but with only a couple of hours to go I excuse my rising sense of excitement - and my obsession with the time. Maybe my watch is running slow? I check my phone. It is the same on the computer. It is still 6 pm.

6.50 pm: Four eggs are hard boiled. Dates are split and stuffed with walnuts. Iced water is on the table. Bessara is in the pot, ready to heat. Table is prepared. Again the cat reminds me it is not fasting. I feed it and give it a bowl of cool water

7.30 pm: Temperature down to 32 degrees. I make a pot of coffee. I peel the eggs. Everything is ready.

7.40 pm: The cannon fires twice. Or maybe it is two cannons. From all the mosques the cry rings out 'Allah Akbar'. And in a thousand households people are saying the same thing - 'Bismallah'... and a thousand dates are eaten, a thousand glasses of milk are drunk. 'B'saha'... and in the fridge the Mars Bar thinks it's safe - not for long.

8.30 pm:  The dishes are washed. The Mars Bar is gone.

10.00 pm  Around the Medina the rooms flicker blue as the latest episode of the Egyptian soap opera unfolds.

11:00 pm. Sleep.

1.30 am: A yelling, knocking and drumming wakes me. It is the Dkak - the man who goes through the streets and wakes the Medina up for the last meal before the fast begins again.

2.00 am:  The cannon roars its warning to eat now.  So after showering I take some fresh basil, pine-nuts, garlic and parmesan and make pesto. While the pasta is boiling and the chicken pieces browning, I blend some cold milk and avocado, banana and yogurt.

2.30 am: A friend phones to make sure I am awake and eating. 'Drink plenty of water,' he advises. 'And eat chicken or lamb.'  I explain what I have cooked and I know he is grinning as he says 'Al hamdullilah.'

3.30 am  The temperature is 22 degrees. In ten minutes the call will come from the mosques, announcing that the fast has commenced again. Tomorrow promises to be hotter. It will be the same again. Fasting, sleeping, eating. Only with one less Mars Bar.

See all the Ramadan Diary excerpts - RAMADAN DIARY

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