Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Seven

Ibn Warraq turns his attention to a Ramadan problem...

Early this morning I took a walk through the streets and watched as the hard working street cleaners swept and collected the rubbish. They did a remarkably thorough job and within an hour there was not a scrap of waste to be seen. However, what they had swept away was a Ramadan problem - food waste.

Ramadan is celebrated as a month of piety, meditation, abstinence and sobriety. It is also a month of sharing food with family and friends. And therein lies the problem. It seems we are better at purchasing than consuming and during Ramadan the phenomenon of food waste explodes.

Bread is a perfect example. Economist Rachid Maaroufi estimates that of the 4.1 billion loaves of bread purchased during Ramadan, 120 million are thrown out, equivalent to 10% of Moroccan cereal imports.

And it is not just bread. According to ecologist and environmentalist Mohammed Aman, a specialist on waste statistics, Moroccans throw out more than 40% of dishes every single day of Ramadan. Unsurprisingly, the amount of waste is higher in wealthier communities with more upscale neighbourhoods throwing out as much as 70% of the food they purchased.

The reason for this over purchasing and under consumption does not appear to be gluttony, but rather the social pressure to provide feasts for family and friends. There is an element of pride involved which unfortunately results in wastage. It also promotes debt as many low income families run purchase everything on credit from their local hanout (shop)

Fatima Zahra, a mother of two, says,"Many families in Fez come to the end of Ramadan owing their hanout more than 1000 dirhams. And yet they will have thrown out food at the end of each day. Eating leftovers is not our Ramadan tradition."

Bouazza Kherrati, President of the Moroccan Federation consumer rights (FMDC), says that the general public is not aware of this waste and there is enough food in the waste bins to feed an impoverished African country.

A meagre Ftour in Kabul
Ftour in Dubai is a sumptous feast

Morocco is not alone in having this problem. Yesterday, a report in The Times (UK) said that while there were no official figures for Britain, studies showed that half of all food bought for Ramadan ends up being thrown away.

There are no figures yet for this year, but in 2014 the Mecca City Council in Saudi Arabia complained that it's having to deal with ever greater amounts of food waste. The Arab News website reports that refuse workers collected 5,000 tonnes of waste in the first three days of Ramadan and that did not include "28,000 sheep carcasses".

A study by King Saud University rates Saudi Arabia as the biggest waster of food in the world, with 30% of the four million dishes prepared during Ramadan being thrown away uneaten.

The Middle Eastern environmental group EcoMena says a quarter of the food prepared in Qatar during Ramadan is thrown away.

Impoverished women in Pakistan line up with food vouchers

Outside of the Middle East the story is just as bleak. In Malaysia during Ramadan 270,000 tonnes of food go straight into the dustbin, which, according to the Solid Waste And Public Cleansing Management Corporation (SWCorp),  could have fed 180 million people, six times the country's population of 27 million.

SWCorp chief executive officer Datuk Ab Rahim Md Noor said an average of 9,000 tonnes of food was discarded daily during Ramadan. He described the wastage as a worrying trend. "Food leftovers are the highest component in the solid waste composition scale at 45%," he said and added that the 9,000 tonnes of food could have fed six million people.

Some experts claim that the excessive leftovers during Ramadan are due to over-preparation of food particularly in hotels and that hotel owners should set up a mechanism to penalise customers who waste food. I can't see that working. The idea of a Ramadan food monitor standing over you telling you to eat your harira? Uh, no.

But, while on the subject of hotels, it is true to point out that they do promote lavish consumption and (dare I say it?) gluttony. Yesterday it was reported by the Arabia Business website that more than 100 people suffering from abdominal pain were admitted to hospitals in the United Arab Emirates after overeating during the first five days of Ramadan.

“Such numbers are normal during Ramadan,” said Dr. Magdi Mohamed, a specialist in emergency medicine at Burjeel Hospital which yesterday was in a state of emergency with the flood of people suffering from gastritis and gastroenteritis. Gastritis is an acute inflammation of the lining of the stomach and gastroenteritis is a bacterial infection of the stomach.

Iftar Dubai

According to Dr. Mohamed, Gastritis can be caused by eating any type of food very fast and in large portions after fasting all day. This can cause abdominal pain, stomach upsets and in some cases, vomiting.On the other hand, Gastroenteritis is an infection caused by bacteria in food. A fasting person could be more bacteria sensitive because they have not been regularly digesting meals.

In Dubai and Doha over eating seems to be almost obligatory. Far from promoting moderation the main ingredient in their understanding of Ftour appears to be opulence and ostentation.
"From classic Middle Eastern dishes to quirky Japanese spreads, the iftars in Abu Dhabi and Dubai cover a staggering range of tastes." - Ramadan 2015: Best iftars 
Go on a gastronomic journey through Arabia – this iftar option is a mixture of flavours from Turkey, Iran, Armenia, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco. Must-try dishes include kashgeh bademjan, salt-encrusted hammour and slow-roasted lamb ouzi. The festivities will include modern Arabian music and shisha.

Or maybe you want a genuine ethnic Bedouin feast?

For an authentic Bedouin iftar, head to Al Hadheerah’s air-conditioned tent nestled in the dunes 40 minutes from Dubai. The iftar spread will feature traditional Arabic cuisine with live cooking stations. Guests will also be entertained by a camel and caravan show, oud player and tanoura dancer.

And how could you sit down and impress your friends if you don't give them this year's "must have" Ramadan present, a personalised MyVimto bottle? You can't.

Nothing says luxury like a custom-made bottle of Vimto. The traditional beverage maker teamed up with Bloomingdale’s Dubai in honour of Ramadan this year to offer the limited edition bottles for the first time ever. The bottles can be purchased exclusively at Bloomingdale’s. Acquiring this unique gift is quite simply; merely visit the Vimto customisation station in the Bloomingdale’s Home store at the Dubai Mall on the lower ground floor. You can put any name on the label of the bottle, and Vimto will package it in a stunning limited edition gold and burgundy gift box.

What is so appalling about the Vimto promotion is that they say that the limited edition gold and burgundy gift box is "in honour of Ramadan".

By the way, Vimto is a soft drink originating from England. It was first manufactured as a health tonic in cordial form, then decades later as a carbonated drink. It contains the juice of grapes, raspberries and blackcurrants (in a 3% concentration), flavoured with herbs and spices. The original recipe was invented in 1908 by (John) Noel Nichols.

One of the driving forces behind the over consumption is advertising, particularly on television as the lifestyle shift translates into more time spent in front of the TV. Accordingly, TV advertising budgets soar to unprecedented levels and it is not uncommon for companies in Muslim areas to spend a third or more of their advertising budget over Ramadan, according to the Pan Arab Research Center (PARC). Food manufacturers such as Coca Cola and Pepsi, being the largest beneficiaries of the ‘Ramadan Rush’, are amongst the biggest spenders in the Middle East during the month, with TV advertising budgets ranging in the tens of millions of dollars.

A gentle reminder

Ramadan is about love and spirituality, not the amount of food that is prepared. Ramadan is not about being proud of the quantity of food you serve or the extravagance behind it, but the amount of love you put into the food. Even if you serve one dish with love and sincerity for the whole family, this is something very special.

A Ramadan treat for two (with no waste)

Mango, almond and honey smoothie
1 mango
400ml skim milk
½ cup low-fat natural yogurt
2 Tbsp almond flour
1 Tbsp Manuka honey
Ice cubes
Peel and chop mango and place in a blender with skim milk, yoghurt, almond flour, honey and a few ice cubes.Blend until smooth. Divide between 2 glasses. B'saha!

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

Abderrafia went to his teacher, Iman Ali Bensouda, to find out whether there was any difference between the two words COMPLETE and FINISHED, and if so to explain it in a way that he could easily understand.

"Some people say there is no difference between COMPLETE and FINISHED. I beg to differ because, there is!!!" the good Iman said to Abderrafia.

"When you marry the right woman, you are "COMPLETE"..

And when you marry the wrong one, you are "FINISHED"!

And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are ..."COMPLETELY FINISHED".

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy

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1 comment:

siobhan said...

Sharing this post with my Moroccan family! Keep up the good work its very interesting every day.