Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ramadan Diary ~ The Longest Thirty Minutes

Today The View from Fez continues its exploration of Ramadan (thanks to Wikileaks) with another leaked excerpt from the Ramadan Diary*. 

*Warning: this story contains images of food

All the food is on display. I check my watch. It us 7 pm. People wander past with shopping bags full of fruit juice, baguettes and plastic containers with harira.

Untouched in front of me is a chilled bottle of mineral water, the condensation on its surface sparkles alluringly.

At the food stalls the people are lining up. Nobody is eating, but simply looking at the food. They have already peeled their hard boiled eggs. Glasses of fresh orange juice or avocado smoothies have been poured. There is smoke and the smell of a charcoal fire and chicken being grilled, coming from the restaurant beside me.

A wandering vendor offers dates stuffed with walnuts.  I buy eight of them.

The huge watermelons are split and cut in glistening segments.

People check their watches. Men in white hurry down the street on their way to the mosque. It is 7.20 pm and the temperature has dropped down to 32 degrees Celsius.

In the restaurant next to where I am sitting are five French tourists. They are eating kefta, salads and drinking Coke. Although people glance at them, there is no animosity towards them. They are foreigners, they don't observe Ramadan and that is their business. But, when one of the women lights a cigarette, the smell of it pervades the street and the Moroccan men who have not had a smoke for sixteen hours don't smile.

From the hamam behind me the last of the women hurry out and make their way home ready for Iftar (Ramadan breakfast).

On the street in front of me a man stops, checks his watch, and touching his hand to his heart, mouths the words, "Ten minutes"

At another table a young man slowly unwraps his small plastic bags of food. He looks so calm and serene. He has been sitting there for almost forty minutes and not once have I seen him check his watch. Then I see he doesn't have one.

At the table next to me are Jerome and Suzette. They tell me they are from Amsterdam and that this is their first time in Morocco.  They have their food in front of them and although they are not fasting, they are refraining from eating until the official end of the day's fast.  I admire their sensitivity towards the locals.

The sound of the cannon booms out across the Medina followed by the call to prayer. It is 7.36 pm and it is time for breakfast.

Back when Istanbul was still called Constantinople, Italian writer Edmondo de Amicus described the fast-breaking in Istanbul:
Now nothing can be seen but a tiny point of fire: a thousand hunks of bread are held close to a thousand mouths, and then the fiery eye drops out of sight, the cannons thunder, and on the instant thirty-two thousand teeth tear a thousand huge mouthfuls from a thousand loaves! But why say a thousand, when in every house and cafe and restaurant a similar scene is being enacted at precisely the same moment, and for a short time the Turkish city is nothing but a huge monster whose hundred thousand jaws are all tearing and devouring at once?
Things are a little different in Fez. Thousands of mouths whispering "Bismillah" as hands reaching for thousands of dates and glasses of milk. It is a somewhat more gentle scene.

My friend, Hamid, plonks himself down into the chair next to me, helps himself to a slice of watermelon and then, with a grin on his face, lights a cigarette. "Why is it," he asks, "that the last hour before the fast begins each morning goes so fast and yet the thirty minutes before F'touh (Iftar), seem so long?"

Normally I would have had an answer, but at that moment all I really wanted to do was eat. "Bismillah," I say and offer him one of the stuffed dates.

Then, suddenly the streets are empty and silent. The crowds have vanished. Some have gone into their homes, others are squatting on the curb beside makeshift tables. Eating is now the only activity. It is a serious business and talking is not important. Now, nobody is checking their watch.

Other excerpts from The Ramadan Diary:
Once Upon a Time in Ramadan
The Singing Alarm Clock
Working and Fasting in the Heat
See all the Ramadan Diary excerpts - RAMADAN DIARY

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1 comment:

Gabe said...

Gabe wrote: "Yes, yesterday did seem a little longer than the day before! I have been so touched by the Moroccans who have offered to share their Iftar with me when they see me on the street also looking somewhat parched and blank eyed at that time. Yesterday I was passing by a second-hand vendor with a poor display of goods in an alley way. He called to me.. and I saw that he had already poured two bowls of harira, clearly intending to share with the first person who came his way. I felt blessed that it was me."