Monday, July 06, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Nineteen

Ibn Warraq's Ramadan Musings...

Experiencing Ramadan in a Moroccan home it is hard to imagine how different it would be if you were in a foreign country where the support networks and extended family are not present as willing and knowledgable hands in the kitchen and convivial companions for Ftour and Suhoor.

My friend Lynn is experiencing her first Ramadan outside of Morocco. While she won't be missing the heatwave conditions, she does admit that Ramadan in Scotland is something of a challenge.

I tried to imagine a Scottish Ramadan. Haggis tagine, maybe? Scones and jam? But, joking aside, it was interesting to find out how she is coping in Scotland so I asked her and she was happy to share her impressions.

A Scottish Ramadan

I have always enjoyed the conviviality and hospitality of Ramadan in Morocco, but as a non-Muslim have felt a bit of a fraud benefitting from the ftour spread of friends and family when they haven't eaten all day and I have. Additionally, while Ramadan has fallen during the summer months, it has presented a good opportunity to leave the country to visit friends and family at home in Scotland. Since last Ramadan, however, there have been some major changes in my life and my Moroccan husband and I are currently experiencing our first Ramadan together in Scotland.

My impression from Muslim friends living in Europe is that observing Ramadan in a non-Muslim majority community, away from family and home, is always a challenge. The togetherness (and home cooking) are missing and the Holy Month lacks much of its special atmosphere. Also, in non-Muslim countries, little accommodation is made for Muslim employees and so many find themselves working all day and then grabbing something to eat at work, possibly not the foods normally associated with the occasion and maybe not even at the appropriate time.

We moved from Essaouira in Morocco to Edinburgh in Scotland in December last year. I wondered how my husband, Yassine, would observe Ramadan when it came around. I had heard of Muslim immigrants in northern Europe who choose to follow the prayer times of the nearest Muslim country (Morocco) or of Mecca, in order to regulate their fasting. When he asked around the few Moroccans he has met in Scotland, however, Yassine learned that they followed the prayer times issued by the mosque. He decided to follow suit, meaning he breaks the fast around 10pm. He doesn't eat at Suhour, but he tries to drink as much water through the night as he can. Muslims in Edinburgh have to stop eating and drinking at around 2:20 am - at the end of fajr. The sunrise call to prayer comes a couple of hours later at around 4:20 am. Almost 20 hours of fasting, while working full-time, in a new job, is no mean feat, but Yassine takes it in his stride. After all, he believes, the purpose of Ramadan is reflection and spiritual cleansing - he seems to be able to rise above and beyond his hunger.

This doesn't mean to say that he doesn't look forward to his Ftour when it comes around! I have tried to make Ramadan special by making some of the traditional foods, such as harira soup and chicken tajine. We have also found items in local ethnic food stores which approximate foods from Morocco, such as Indian parathas (like msimen), samosas (like briouats) and dates (from Iran and Tunisia rather than Zagora). On a recent trip to see the family, I was sent back with several kilos of amlou, argan oil and slilou, so we were all set for a Moroccan-style Ramadan! Sometimes I send Yassine to work with a kind of picnic Ftour to heat up and eat at work; sometimes we eat together at home. I have invited some friends over to share Ftour with us, but not many Scottish people are willing to wait until 10pm for what is essentially their dinner! Nonetheless, we have had fun sharing Moroccan Ramadan traditions with our non-Muslim friends at the weekends.

Yassane waiting for Ftour with Scottish friends, after twenty hours of fasting

Ramadan is, of course, also a time for giving. We found out that the Central Mosque in Edinburgh distributes iftar (using the Classical Arabic term) and dinner to dozens of local Muslims. It is provided by local Muslim-run businesses and enjoyed by Muslims from countries as diverse as Algeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey, Somalia and many more. It's rare to hear Moroccans at the mosque - the community simply isn't that significant. For North Africans, however, a Ramadan meal of curry and rice (those with their origins on the sub-Continent make up the vast majority of British Muslims) simply doesn't feel right! Luckily, a local Moroccan restaurant (the only one in Edinburgh) provides a more familiar Ftour on Fridays and Saturdays. We went along on the 10th of Ramadan. Along with the restaurant staff, a couple of young Moroccans and two Libyan guys, we were treated to a spread of harira, panaché juice, croissants and msimen, followed by mint tea and coffee, then a huge chicken tajine with salad. When we went to pay, the restaurant owner insisted that he couldn't charge for Ftour during Ramadan.

Halal chicken tagine - made in Scotland

With these long days and short nights and a limited Moroccan community around us, practicing Ramadan is not easy in Scotland. I asked Yassine what he misses from the Ramadan he knows in Morocco. He told me "the adhan" - without a call to prayer, we are reliant on a smartphone app to tell us when to break the fast. As a Swiri, he also misses "sardines" on the Ftour table, and he misses the buzz in the souks in those last couple of hours before Ftour when everyone is hurriedly buying ingredients and treats for the communal meal. On the positive side, he finds his new friends and colleagues curious about Ramadan and he enjoys explaining to them the traditions and meaning for Muslims of this special month.

Part of the essence of the Holy Month is about putting our own challenges and hardships into perspective and thinking of others less fortunate than ourselves. In this spirit, we have our health and our larder is full. We may be abroad, but we are very fortunate. El Hamdudlilah!

You can follow Lynn Sheppard's adventures on her blog: Marocophile

Ramadan Nights

The French Institute's Ramadan Nights continue in Fez at Dar Batha on July 9th at 10pm with Tunisian percussionist, Imed Alibi, Stéphane Puech: keyboards Zied Zouari: violin with Pascal Teillet and Massimo Tommacelli.

In recent years, the emergence of a generation of musicians from the Maghreb and Middle East have been producing new music, melding hi-tech to deep traditional motifs, throwing their sound as a bridge between East and West.

Imed Alibi, Tunisian is a prolific virtuoso percussionist, who delights in Sufi and Amazigh music, while Zied Zouari coaxes his violin into eastern emotions and rich orchestration, supported by thin dub lines and electro beats.

It is an invitation only evening, so to find out more (and get invited) contact:
French Institute: 33, Rue Loukili, BP 2277, Fes. Tel: 0 5 35 62 39 21/62 35 40 / Fax: 0 5 35 62 52 03
Space languages: 12, Rue Serghini, BP 2277, Fes. Tel: 0 5 35 62 41 49 / Fax: 0 5 35 62 56 65
Riad Dar Batha: 15, Salaj, Fes Medina. Tel: 0 5 35 63 67 13

Hot Weather Ftour

Témara Beach in Rabat - and a table well dug

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

Maha's husband, Saladin, was arrested for shoplifting and when he went before the court the judge asked him, "What did you steal?"

Saladin replied, "A can of peaches."

Then the judge asked Saladin why he had stolen the can of peaches and he replied that his wife, Maha, was not a very good cook, didn't feed him enough and that he had been very hungry.

Then the judge asked him how many peaches were in the can.

"Six peaches," Saladin replied

The judge said, "Then I will give you six days in jail."

Before the judge could actually pronounce the punishment, Maha spoke up and asked the judge if she could say something on her husband's behalf.

The judge nodded and asked her to speak up.

Maha replied, "He also stole a can of peas."

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy

Please feel free to contribute your Ramadan stories, thoughts, observations and photographs. You can contact me via The View from Fez contact page. Just put "Ibn's Diary" in the subject line - Shukran!

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1 comment:

Theo said...

zwina la photo bezzaf fikra w3ara bssaha lftour