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Ramadan In Morocco: Where The Markets Are Empty During Sunset

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Faruq Senin  •  May 28, 2019

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It's always interesting to see how Ramadan (or Eid) is celebrated around the world. While Muslims all over the world share practices like eating dates, going for Tarawih and Tahajjud or doing more volunteer work, local practices and traditions might be different. In this edition of Ramadan Around The World, we had the opportunity of interviewing one of our readers from Morocco, Sara Maourouri. Coming from Morocco's capital Rabat, she tells us how Ramadan is like in her hometown.
1. How is Ramadan like in Rabat/Morocco?
It feels like every day, only that everyone is fasting, and restaurants and coffee shops are closed. Besides, the office hours change and are shortened (for public sector it becomes from 9am to 3pm). The markets can be busy during the day.
Locals shop in markets in the rest of the year, but unfortunately, during Ramadan, a large population focuses on grocery shopping and what to make for iftar. But as soon as the Maghrib approaches, the people start going back home and the streets are empty by the time the sun has set.
 After Iftar, there’s Taraweeh prayers, which we go to at our nearby mosque. The imam leads the prayer for Isha and Taraweeh which consist of 8 rakaat, two by two. One Tomoun by rak’ah, making a total of a Hizb in all of the Taraweeh prayers. Men and Women alike go to the prayers. Before Suhoor, there's also a set of prayers ‘Tahajud’, which I personally don’t go to, but it is held in the Mosque and people do attend them. There are also TV shows and programmes made specially to air during Ramadan, though in my family we don’t watch them, as we usually have the TV on a cable channel that broadcast Mecca live, so we can immerse ourselves in that spiritual atmosphere 😊 
2. What’s your biggest challenge during Ramadan and how do you overcome it?
The thirst definitely! I can handle the hunger but not drinking is a challenge. So I make sure to drink plenty before and after iftar and to eat fruits.
3. What are the timings for sahur/iftar like especially in summer vs winter? How does this affect your fast?
 I don’t remember well for winter since it has been a few years now that Ramadan comes in summer/spring time. But for this time of the year, Fajr is around 3.45am so we wake up at around 3 - 3.15am, while Iftar comes at around 7.20 pm. In winter, the days are definitely shorter. Meanwhile, in summer it’s long days and short nights. Fasting can appear easier in winter than summer. Summer in Morocco can vary depending on the region, it’s generally hot but hotter and drier in the south. Up north, the temperature is more clement, and with the closeness to the sea, the weather is on the humid side. This year’s Ramadan is between spring and summer and so far we’ve been blessed with good weather, except for the heat wave on some weekends. 
4. What are some of the activities locals in Rabat do during Ramadan?
Since it’s a Muslim-majority society, most people do iftar at home, sometimes with relatives. Some people do group iftar at the beach, whether with family or friends. Charity associations donate food, supplies and grocery essentials to remote villages and poor families. During Maghrib, people are given dates to break the fast. In every mosque and in some restaurants, homeless people will find shelter and fresh food to break their fast, served and carried by volunteers.
 The activity I took part in this year is a group iftar with my friends. I have graduated from university but I have been studying Japanese as an extra language for 4 years now at a language faculty. Classes are divided from beginner to advanced level. Students from each level as well as the teachers gathered at the beach for a group iftar. We rented tables and chairs from a coffee shop and we shared food and fun moments. 
5. Are there many non-Muslims where you are? Do they understand fasting and what are their reactions to it?
Morocco is a multicultural society so there are some non-Muslims living here and having witnessed Ramadan for many years, they’re fully aware of what it is and what it means.
Some of the non-Muslims living in Rabat (my city) that I know are my Japanese class teachers. They’ve adapted to it and said they like the atmosphere. They’ve also been invited to gatherings (as mentioned above) and to students’ homes, so they’ve enjoyed the local food and the spirit of it on quite a few occasions.
6. What does Ramadan mean to you and how do you take care of yourself during this month?
I love Ramadan! It’s a period not only to detox your body but also your mind and reconnect with God. It’s a chance to have a fresh start, to do spiritual activities we might overlook as we carry on with our busy lives and reap double, triple or God knows how many times the benefits and the rewards.
 I make sure to eat healthily, drink plenty of water, exercise, sleep well, do self-care and have a consistent skincare routine. The spiritual side is indeed important, but as an Arabic saying goes: “A sound mind is a sound body”, so taking take care of one’s self both spiritually and physically is a duty to have a healthy and happy life. 
7. How do you reconnect with your faith/God during this month?
Fasting already takes away the distraction of the body and makes way to focus on the spiritual part of ourselves. I try as much as I can to read the Quran, pray Taraweeh, give charity, help those in need and just basically do more good deeds and actions.
8. What tips would you give to someone who’s visiting Morocco during Ramadan?
If you’re coming in summer, be aware that the south and east part of Morocco can get super-hot. Cities like Marackech, Fes, Agadir, Ouarzazate etc can have temperatures over 40-50°C. It can make fasting very hard and you can get dizzy from the heat. Make sure to drink enough water and to avoid the afternoon period as that’s when the sunlight is at its peak!
 In the north of Morocco, the weather is not as hot as the south, so the fasting can be easier in those regions. 
9. What unique dishes do locals eat for sahur/iftar?
Typically, in my family we break fast according to sunnah, we drink water and eat 3 dates. We pray and afterwards we have vegetable soup or Harira, Morocco's most famous dish in Ramadan. Some eat it with Chebakia, a sweet delicacy made with almond and honey, but we find that it's high in calories, so it’s been a few years since we’ve taken it off our iftar table.
We then have a freshly made fruit juice, boiled eggs and what we call mkhamer, or batbout, depending on the region. It's actually a pita-like soft and chewy Moroccan bread which has a pocket, and can flavour it with different sorts of fillings. For iftar, we have oats porridge with fruits, dates and nuts.
10. How do you celebrate Eid in Rabat/Morocco?
 Usually, Eid prayers are around 8am, so we wake up early, dress in newly bought clothes and head to the nearest mosque while doing adkar (dhikr) on the road. The Eid prayer consists of prayer and Khutba, the Imam’s recital - it's usually about the importance of what we've accomplished during the month, and a reminder to keep doing the good deeds after it’s over, and to enjoy the day with family and with good intentions. After prayers, we visit family, friends, share food, and just enjoy the day. Enjoyed this story and want to read more Ramadan stories around the world? Head over to this link!