Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Twenty

Ibn Warraq continues his Ramadan musings...

Doesn't time fly when you are having fun er... Ftour! Already we are into the last ten day of Ramadan 2015 and the days have vanished like dates after ṣalāt al-maġrib (the evening prayer).

Seriously though, so far it has been a wonderful Ramadan in Morocco, with the only real downside being the extreme heat. The next ten days see a continuation of the heatwave and nobody seems to remember Ramadan being this hot. And it is causing health problems, especially for older people and those who have to work during daylight hours. Thankfully, all the advice from the medical profession and most moderate imams, is "If you are feeling faint or ill, it is ok to drink some water." Of course many of those who do break their fast because of health issues will make it up in the days following Ramadan.

With the next week seeing temperatures rise to around 42 or 42 degrees Celsius it is interesting to contemplate going somewhere else for Ramadan. A very cool destination would be New Zealand, where last week saw temperatures in some areas dip to minus 21 Celsius! There are more than 46,000 Muslim Kiwis and many of them would be willing to trade some of their cold for some of our heat.

New Zealand's snow covered South Island as seen from space

There is another advantage in New Zealand  and that is that the fast only lasts for 11 hours - probably one of the shortest in the world and is, as one Muslim woman put it, "a breeze". Compare that with yesterday's Ramadan Diary report from my friend Lynn Sheppard, who told us that in Scotland Muslims are required to go without food for more than 20 hours. Then there is Finland and the other Nordic regions where Muslims in the Arctic zone will this weekend witness the longest day when the sun does not set and are at a loss over when to break or start fasting.

The debate about how to rationalise fasting hours goes on and on with different approaches from moderate and conservative scholars.  In New Zealand, Dr Zain Ali, head of Islamic Studies Research, said he supported having an international guideline for fasting periods during the Islamic holy month. "I will be comfortable with the idea of a set of Ramadan guidelines, and the Islamic tradition already has a number of guidelines, for example, exemptions of expecting mothers," Dr Ali said.

In the UK, an Islamic researcher from anti-extremism group Quilliam, Dr Usama Hasan, suggested following Mecca timing, where daylight during Ramadan lasts around 12 to 13 hours.

But is it really just about the hours? Dr Ali said it did not mean Muslims who undertook longer periods of fast were making a greater sacrifice. "We can't really measure the spiritual value of fasting in terms of hours spent without food," Dr Ali said."Muslim scholars always point toward the intensely personal nature of fasting, in that its value is dependent on an individual's experience."

Fasting NZ style: you can eat before you know it

Malaysian-born Nadia Najib, 21, says Ramadan fasting in New Zealand is "a breeze" because of the short hours. "You just don't feel it at all and before you know it, fasting is over and we get to eat again," said Miss Najib, who works her dad's halal Malaysian restaurant on Karangahape Rd in Auckland.

Short fasting hours are also good for business, she says. "Because people break fast around 5.30pm, we get Muslims coming to the restaurant straight after work instead of going home."

The biggest challenge Miss Najib faces she says is having to work around food during the fasting month. "It's not about being tempted to eat, but that you have to consciously remind yourself not to taste the food or drinks you are preparing."

First prayer - then its's a date, but no harira

When breaking fast some traditions are universal, in New Zealand, just as here in Fez, sweet dates are the first food consumed, following a tradition set by the Prophet Muhammad. But then it's not harira, but Malaysian dishes that are most popular for breaking fast including nasi lemak (coconut rice), roti canai and satay. Yum, B'saha.

Meanwhile in Ouzazate

Ramadan in Ouzazate serves as a reminder that while we complain of heat in Fez, the good folk of Ouzazate are experiencing some pretty warm weather with temperatures up to 43 Celsius. Thankfully, this week it looks a little cooler.

The Ramadan table in Ouarzazate has much in common with that of other parts of Morocco, but differs in some respects. Being invited for Ftour "in Ouarzazate, you can expect the famous harira soup,  chourba "(vegetable based soup) and" hssoua "(soup made ​​with semolina). All of these, according to the local grandmothers, are indispensable for "purification of the intestines" and "preparation of the digestive system" to receive food after a long day of fasting.

The local dates are famous and great for breaking your fast, while  there is also an abundance of sweet treats, or "chhiwate"  and traditional pastries such as "chebakia" and "briouates" (kinds of cakes soaked in honey). Moroccan pancakes as the "beghrir" (pancake prepared with semolina) or "msemen" (a kind of pancake puff) are everywhere.

Traffic light melting in Ouzazate? - It has been warm but the pic is fake. Temps only reached 41

For a moment consider how it is to work in a bakery during the hottest time of the day or the physical exertion in rural households where many of the ingredients are still prepared by hand.  The "Rha" stone (traditional hand-mill) and "Mehraz "(traditional mortar) still occupy a prominent place within households in the region and are widely used to grind or pound the flours that are the basis of traditional soups, such as barley (or Dchicha Ibrin), corn (Isenkar) and bean (Agren).

Another regional favourite is "Tikhdoukhin", a thick soup made ​​from wheat with high nutritional values ​​when consumed along with the "smen" (salted butter) or olive oil, plus a medicinal plant called "Chih".  Housewives are also responsible to prepare and store the ingredients of "Lehrif", a dish made ​​with green onion and pepper. The Suhoor meal (Shur in the local dialect) is crucial and centres around bread - "Tafernout", - straight from the oven. Surprisingly, this is probably a distant relative of the roti they are eating in New Zealand.

A Ramadan Hero

Tunisian hero Moncef Mayel

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

Chakib had a wonderful antique shop in Fez and one day he was visited by two teenage boys looking for a little work. Chakib having, as they say, a "heart of milk", agreed that they could help him clean up his storeroom.

In the dusty storeroom the boys uncovered an old manual typewriter. 'What on earth is this?" they asked Chakib.

"Oh, that's just an old typewriter," Chakib answered, thinking that would satisfy their curiosity.

"Yeah, but what does it do?" they queried.

"I'll show you," Chakib said and going back to the shop, returned with a blank piece of paper. He rolled the paper into the typewriter and began striking the keys, leaving black letters printed on the page.

"WOW!" the boys exclaimed, "That's really cool -- but how does it work like that? Where do you plug it in?"

"There is no plug," Chakib answered. "It doesn't need a plug."

"Then where do you put the batteries?" they persisted.

"It doesn't need batteries either," Chakib said

"Wow! This is so cool!" the boys exclaimed. "Someone should have invented this a long time ago!"

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:

Kerstin said...

Oh please...I'd expect more from The View from Fez. Fact checking and referencing rather than jumping on a social media image band wagon! The melting lights aren't from Morocco!!! Where have you ever seen lights/ buildings like this? Esp in Ouarzazate? It's a story from 2013 in Kuwait http://joannenova.com.au/2013/07/peter-gleick-thinks-or-pretends-co2-can-melt-traffic-lights/