During this year’s month of Ramadan, Morocco has been hit by a heat wave, which makes fasting even more difficult for the faithful. But that does not prevent the population stocking up from the souks and the popular markets to prepare the traditional delights specifically dedicated to this very special month in the Muslim world.
Moroccans who have been fasting since May 7th began preparations for the holy month a fortnight earlier. Families go out of their way to procure the necessary foodstuffs in the month of Chaâban (the 8th month of the Muslim calendar), with the markets alive to the rhythm of an unusual dynamic to meet the needs of their customers.
Women double their efforts to garnish the tables for iftar – the first meal Muslims take after sunset – with all kinds of dishes. The meal mainly consists of dishes based on local products, including the famous Harira (soup), Chabbakia (pastry), Sellou (sweet dessert made from flour and dried fruits), Baghrir (traditional pancakes) and Msemen (multi-layered pancakes), not forgetting the essential dates and dried figs.
Some families make sure that they cook at home, while others opt for bakeries and specialty stores. They also ensure that they make their neighbours taste their preparations, which reflects the sense of sharing and conviviality that mark the month of Ramadan.
Souks and shops, which abound with different kinds of products, are the scene of bustling activity, especially in the late afternoon, with people coming to shop after a day at work, purchasing dried fruits, dates, local cheese (Jben), fruits and vegetables.
Demand for food products related to Ramadan is remarkably high, much to the delight of traders who do not hide their satisfaction with the commercial dynamics marking this month. This increase in demand has not failed to affect prices, which have risen sharply, especially for some imported products.
In the realm of spirituality
In addition to these eating habits and the juicy business carried out by the merchants, the spiritual atmosphere is indeed the common denominator throughout the different cities of the Kingdom during Ramadan.
As the month approaches, mosques undergo renovation, upgrading and cleaning operations with the participation of many benefactors and volunteers. The great influx of worshippers to mosques during Ramadan requires doing everything possible to ensure the faithful experience conditions of comfort and well-being.
Throughout the holy month of Ramadan, the mosques of the kingdom invite scholars who not only give religious lessons based on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad but also discuss various issues related to the daily and religious life of the population.
Moroccans give a special place to religious aspects related to the holy month of Ramadan. Men, women, young and old alike make sure to pray in mosques, including that of Al-Ichaâ and daily religious vigils (tarawihs).
For most Moroccans, Lailat Al Qadr (the night of fate) remains by far the highlight of this month, and the majority will endeavour to pray in a mosque during this sacred night. According to tradition, it is when God revealed the Qur'an, and is considered better than a thousand months. The holy spirit and the angels descend on earth in great numbers and God decrees everything that will happen in the following year.
Back to traditions
The month of Ramadan is an opportunity for young Moroccans to revisit local habits and customs, discovering their rich heritage both in the culinary and clothing aspects of life.
In some cities of the Kingdom, a tradition consists on the installation by women of white flags on the roofs just after the announcement of the advent of Ramadan. The preparations also concern the acquisition of traditional clothes for both adults and children who want to experience fasting for the first time in their lives.
The clothing aspect is particularly important during this month, when women and men prefer to wear traditional dress, including djellabas, abaya, kaftans and babouches.
The nights of Ramadan are also an opportunity for families and friends to exchange visits and to enjoy the fresh air by strolling in public squares and sitting in terraces.