Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day One

Each day Ibn Warraq shares his Ramadan thoughts...

Oh how I love the confusion! Last night the boom of the cannon thundered across the rooftops of the Fez Medina. Was it the start to Ramadan? Or was it a test firing to make sure the cannon was working? My friend Abdul swore black and blue it was just a test, while Abderrahim proclaimed it the start of Ramadan. He was right of course.

The firing of the cannon is the signal each evening that it is time for Iftar or (Ftour) - time for breakfast. It is strange how hearing the cannon brings back all the memories of previous Ramadans - an echo of Ramadans past.

The cannon is a real "blast from the past" - a beloved Ramadan tradition which began in Mecca. As in Fez, it is fired twice each day, alerting Muslims at dawn to observe fast and during dusk to break their fast.

Its origins go back to the 15th century. One story traces the origin to the Hijri year 859 (around 1455), when a Mamluk sultan of Egypt wanted to test a new cannon that he had just received. He fired a ball that exactly coincided with Maghreb time during Ramadan. People then thought this was the sultan’s way of telling them it was time to break their fast.

Whatever the historical truth, the cannon plays an important role - it is the signal that gets even a dry mouth salivating. A boom for each of the two large meals of the night hours, the predawn suhoor and the sundown Ftour. Bring it on!

Out on the streets?  Everything is quiet. A few women shopping in the Rcif souq, children too young to fast are scurrying about carrying bottles of milk. And the cafes, with the exception of two just inside the Bab Boujloud, are all shut.

The cafes at Batha are shut but sweet treats are everywhere
An expert werqa maker can make over 200 sheets an hour

The busiest shops are those selling chebekiya, dates or helweh. In a few places women were hard at work producing hundreds of sheets of the crêpe-like werqa (a slimmed down cousin of phyllo pastry). This is much in demand for making P'stilla and customers order it well in advance. With the demand both from homes and restaurants, the werqa workers are certain to have a busy Ramadan.

Incidentally, if you would like to make your own P'stilla, check out this photo essay

One last observation before heading back to sleep (yes, I am one of those sleep through the day types)... It is wonderful to see so many streets with their walls repainted and swept clean in preparation for Ramadan.

Clean streets for Ramadan
Okay - enough for day one. I am off to sleep - wake me for Iftar.

See Ibn's Ramadan Diary DAY TWO

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