Monday, August 08, 2011

Breaking the Ramadan Fast in Fez

For visitors to Morocco, the month of Ramadan can be a very interesting time. One of the great joys is the moment each evening when the fast is broken. Our special correspondent, Rose Button, gives a personal account of a wonderful evening in the Fez Medina.
Photo: Suzanna Clarke
 I am sitting and watching the sunset over the city of Fez. I have always thought this is one of the most beautiful times, when day turns to night in spectacular colour display - especially over the warm cities of Morocco. And today it is even more special. I am waiting to hear the beautiful call to prayer that resonates as mosque after mosque joins the chorus.

 Now the setting sun is turning more orange. Every change is like a ticking clock, for once it slips below the horizon the call to prayer will follow and it will be time to break my fast; to nourish and hydrate my weary body with water and food. In one way I am eager for the sun to set and in another , I want its beauty to last for longer.

Photo Rose Button
Ramadan is a great and strange time to be in Morocco - to see the usually busy coffee shops empty; shops closed and locals just sitting and waiting, or sprawled asleep. And about two hours before L’ftar, the Ramadan breakfast, the souqs (markets) are bustling with locals buying fruit and vegetables. They purchase fresh, hot bread from the bakery, freshly squeezed juices by the bottle to give the hit of sugar, water and vitamins that weary bodies need, and lots of sticky sweets. Then abruptly the stalls close, as everyone returns to their family to break the fast together.
During the month long period of fasting, emotions can run wild. There is a man who normally sits placidly selling cigarettes. Now I see him leaping up and down and shouting to everyone who passes, urging them to buy his cigarettes at low prices. Crowds squabble over the best figs or the last of the juice bottles. But mostly, everyone just waits.

Photo: Rose Button

 People ask me where I will break the fast and if I say I am alone, I am almost dragged to peoples’ houses. It is not possible to break the fast alone, as we are all in this together.

The sun slides lower and as the first meal is prepared; I can smell the gorgeous food. Today I have found it tough. I have wanted to drink and drink. As it is not an option, I have been dithery and ended up having an afternoon sleep, which felt much better. I still have a day job to do.

photo: Rose Button

I am a Kiwi living in Morocco and I am not a Muslim. I have chosen to fast to gain an understanding and link with Moroccan people. I also think of it is an opportunity for me to practice discipline; to learn about my body and how to take care of it. I have fasted before in England and that was different - there was not the togetherness and spirit that I feel here. In England I had to work so could not rest when I felt tired, like I did today. I like being part of this community, this culture, this way of life and want to experience all as many aspects as possible.

It is time for the sun to say goodbye. I hear the canon fire, which is the signal to eat, and then the call to prayer sounds and enjoy it even more than I usually do. In the minutes that follow there is an unusual silence in the city; no traffic and no talking as everyone disappears into their houses to break the fast with friends, family or with someone they dragged off the street.

Photo: Rose Button  
My fast is broken with dates, fresh fruit juice, harira soup, briouats (pastries) and other homemade goodies.

Hamdoulah bezzef! Ramadan Mubarak said.


Melissa said...

Rose I love this article. I a kiwi living in Australia and about to move to Morocco. I miss Morocco very much so your article on life during Ramadan has brightened my day and added to my education for my new adventure.

Rose said...

Melissa, I am pleased that you have enjoyed reading about my experience and it has connected you with your new life here. For me, it is participating in the culture and life here that I learn and understand more.... only slightly more though! There is something every day that is new to me, each day my understanding and judgements are challenged and I like that. Enjoy your move.

Hanaâ said...

What a great article (I'm glad Paula posted it on FB). I'm very much taken by the fact that you're fasting for the sake of "understanding"; understanding your body, the Moroccan people, Muslim people. Especially now that the days are long and it's hot over there (and air conditioning is very hard to come by). I wish you the best of luck and look forward to seeing more articles from the heart of Morocco :o)