Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Twenty-one

Ibn Warraq's Ramadan musings...

First of all, thank you to the readers who took the time to email me with comments, suggestions and contributions. Given the cumulative effects of Ramadan and heat, my brain has atrophied and doing a pretty good imitation of warm jelly.

There is only one word that describes how I feel on day twenty-one: melting. The problem with a long run of heatwave conditions is that, even inside a normally cool room, the walls have absorbed so much heat that it doesn't dissipate during the (slightly) cooler nights.  Cold showers, or sitting in the courtyard fountain is only a temporary antidote and, as I discovered, leaves your the skin on your hands all wrinkly!

Grumpy gripe time. Cooking a meal for friends I had everything ready except the sauce. "Has it got enough salt?" my friend asked.  Great. I can't try any to test it, but a seed of doubt has been planted in my overcooked brain. I begin to wonder if I added any at all. Should I put in more? How come you can't just smell if there is enough salt?

Trivial as that must seem, it is the reality for every fasting cook in every kitchen across the country. I am sure the older women can cook by instinct, but then they have been doing it for years.

Then there is babysitting. It is only during Ramadan that you realise just how much food and formula a youngish baby eats during a single day. Mashed bananas, stewed apple and pureed vegetable porridge. Honestly, in the middle of a day's fasting, that stuff looks and smells as appetising as a gourmet meal. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger? Yeah sure. But I'm resolute. I'll wait until Ftour to have some mashed banana porridge and a chilled glass of formula.

Where is everybody?

Streets quiet? Nobody home next door? Don't worry, they are probably in Mecca. According to reports from Saudi Arabia, there have been over twenty million pilgrims visiting the city - and that was just during the first half of Ramadan.

Some locals want fines for taking selfies

There appears to be a bit of a culture clash going on with the Saudis at odds with foreign visitors. The issue? Taking selfies! Taking selfies at the Grand Mosque and in front of the Ka’aba has provoked the ire of some clerics, even as younger Muslims argue that it livens the prospect of traveling to Mecca.

"Selfies are just a way to make the memory last in the coolest possible way. Haj is always seen as something very serious and for older people. Selfies make it cool again," said Amir Marouf, a 30-year-old Egyptian.

Locals have been quick to show their anger via social media. "We now have people who during the Friday prayers, instead of listening to the imam, prefer to take pictures of worshippers or to indulge in selfies. The problem is that you cannot talk to them because these are the Friday prayers and worshippers must not speak at all," says blogger Al Harbi who called for fines on pilgrims taking selfies.

"People can no longer worship in tranquility and peace of mind. You want to walk and you inevitably bump into someone who stopped to take a selfie. We need solutions," another Saudi national said.

However, other netizens said that pilgrims visiting Mecca were justified in taking selfies to record memories.

A volunteer at the Grand Mosque said "Even though taking selfies could stall the movement of the crowds around the Kaaba or between Safa and Marwa, you cannot tell people to drop their mobiles and move on. Some of these people have come from far-away places or have been saving money for years to be able to come to the Grand Mosque, and they have every right to record the auspicious moments. What we usually try to do is to help them move to less crowded areas where they could take their selfies."

On another front things havn't all gone smoothly, with a small fire in the Grand Mosque injuring five people. The fire broke out on the roof of the mosque at a construction site and no worshippers were injured. According to Arab News reports Civil Defence members, a security officer and construction workers, suffered light injuries. A short circuit led to the fire at around 2 am on Monday, and the blaze was brought under control soon, according to the report.

The Saudi Gazette, however, reported that a forklift caught fire in the Masaa, which is an area where pilgrims travel seven times between the hillocks of Safaa and Marwa.

Another fire was also reported at a hotel in Mecca. Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence evacuated more than 20 pilgrims after a short circuit led to a fire on the sixth floor of the hotel.

Of course if your neighbours haven't gone to Mecca, they may well be in the local mosque. During the last ten days of Ramadan some people stay inside a mosque. Some local mosques began midnight prayers on Tuesday and continue up to Eid ul-Fitr, which is probably July 18th.

Ftour home delivered

Of course, if you live somewhere swish, say like Casablanca, then you can have Ftour delivered to your home. According to the Yuzu website it takes just an hour from your phone call or online purchase until it arrives in your home. Sadly, that rules us out in Fez. But in Casa, it arrives and all you have to do is cook it. Estimated time? Forty-five minutes.

Delivery in Casablanca is limited to Bourgogne, Racine, Maarif extension, Racine extension, Gauthier, Palmier, Mers sultan, Anfa, Val d'anfa and Goulmima.

The service is run by Yuzu Chief Mohamed Filali and nutritionist Ilana Chetrit). For just 80 dirhams you get Yuzu Ftour: harira, minced meat tarts, Zaalouk, chebbakia, dates, milk and orange juice. Everything comes pre-cut, vacuum, ready to cook. It goes without saying that I would be happy to come and taste-test it for you.

Ingredients arrive - now get cooking

Tolerance on trial during Ramadan

The outrage over the treatment of the two girls charged with indecency for wearing dresses refuses to go away. It is a constant subject of conversation after Ftour, especially amongst my women friends. The story is also getting worldwide attention and painting Morocco in an unfortunate light. It is hard to understand why someone high up has not stepped in, apologised to the young woman and had the charges dropped. The longer the nonsense goes on, the greater the national shame.

There have been demonstrations across the country in support of the women

Yet, there are conflicting double standards in play. For example: the case of dancer Noor Talbi.

As a teenage boy, Nourredine Talbi was a national champion in the 440m hurdles. Now, glamorous, talented - and transgender: Morocco's most famous belly dancer is changing her country's conservative attitude.  Her ability to seemingly transcend the restrictions of her culture speaks both to her star power and to a kind of tolerance toward sexual minorities in Morocco. But, despite her fame, Noor cannot get her ID card changed to reflect her new gender, and Moroccan state television refuses to put her on air.

Noor Talbi at the Marrakech International Film Festival

And during Ramadan? Quran Reading, card games and lots of walking is the everyday life for Noor during the month - a month in which the dancer hardly eats, with a menu including briouates and spring rolls because she does not want to be "weighed down by food".

Noor says that the holy month is a holiday month for dancers because "Ramadan is not a month of dance". She says that dancers have 11 months to dance and party. And she dresses conservatively, abandoning clothes that can be described as provocative.
They tell me my costumes are too suggestive or my past — what past? We are speaking now of the woman of today, who is an artist and seduces her public ~  Noor
Noor doesn't hesitate when asked about the almost universal condemnation of the treatment of the two young women from Inezgane who were charged for wearing dresses. " I followed the case. It is not logical what happened. We are in a country of freedom and tolerance. Each year in Agadir there is a concert of tolerance and we can see girls dancing swimsuits. No one complains because they are foreign. Now that two girls want to wear dresses we complain? We are not in Kandahar".
"What is currently playing is not a war between conservatives and progressives, [...] but about Morocco's ability to learn to live together and to integrate minorities with tolerance" - Rachida Azdouz
And why does she not get harassed" 'We accept Noor. Her art is burlesque, a kind of reality and fiction which plays with the imagination of people," said Ahmed Najim, director of the news site who has followed Noor's career for years. "She introduced Moroccans to the costumes, music and choreography (of belly dancing) and made it famous."

(My thanks to Hicham and Miriam in Marrakech for contributing)

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

Saladin went to Imam Lotfi and asked him for his understanding of why all girls are so sweet, loving and nice but all wives are angry and bitter.

Imam Lotfi looked at him sadly. "Brother Saladin, all girls are made by the Almighty, but all wives are made by husbands".

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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