Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ramadan Ends

Decked out
Today was Le’id Amzzan (or Le’id Lftur, or, in my town, just Le’id). It’s the day following Ramadan when everyone celebrates the ending of the fast. It’s one of the major holidays in Morocco, and in order to celebrate it appropriately, I went to the souq yesterday with my host father and bought new clothes – a tajlabit (jellaba), ikurbin (pointy-toed slipper-shoes), and a tarbut (woven skull cap) – all in white. Basically, dress clothes. In our town, to finish off the ensemble, you also wear a dagger. Since I own one, a rather beautiful one, I was all set.

Decked out in my new duds, I went to my host family’s house a little after 7:00 and had breakfast in the morning for the first time in a month. Actually, it seemed plain, though filling – just coffee, bread with olive oil, and dates – after the many-course feasts that evening lftur accustomed me to during Ramadan.

In my town, all of the men of the village gather in the morning for a prayer service at the top of a high hill just outside of town. About 8:45, Mohammed, my host father, signaled it was time to go. I asked one of my host sisters to take a picture of us in our finery. Wouldn’t you know it, the battery in my camera died. Not only would I not get a picture of us, I wouldn’t be able to get pictures of any of the proceedings! I did get some pictures later in the day. You’ll just have to imagine them peopled.

The shatu supplies water to the village
We climbed to the top of the hill, where the shatu (the water tank and pumping station that supplies tap water to the town) is. I’d never been up here before. The view was extraordinary. Along the way, we passed the cemetery. Since the graves were basically neat mounds of dirt and stones, some marked with tombstones, some with a flat, incised concrete, others with just an arrangement of rocks, I didn't realize it was anything other than the stony hillside till we were abreast of it. At the top of the hill, several hundred men, most of them in white tajlabits, were sitting on their prayer rugs chatting and waiting. At 9:00, the imam turned and faced east. All the rest followed suit, and they began their prayers.

The town cemetery
Behind them, I stood in the shadow of the shatu with a great view down the hill.  I could still see a stream of men coming up the hill, some breaking into a trot as they realized the prayers had begun.

I was standing with about 50 boys - it was all males here - who were cheerfully and loudly oblivious to the sacred proceedings going on on the other side of the chateau. One of the boys sold chick peas dusted with cumin for half a dirham. He served them up in cones made of sheets torn from one of his old school notebooks, the pages covered with the red, green, blue and black script – some sort of color-coding – that Moroccan teachers seem to require of their students. Other kids were sliding down the steel pipe that feeds water to the community. Occasionally a short scuffle – some pushing or kicking – broke out as the physical play of young boys went too far.

After about ten minutes, the prayer ended and all the men turned around and faced west. The imam gave a sermon, I guess, intoning from a prepared script for about 15 minutes. As the time wore on, some men pulled up the hoods of their tajlabits and others draped their prayer rugs over their heads to protect them from the sun. When the sermon was over they all stood up and formed a big U-shaped line. Beginning with the imam, the line started curling back on itself, with each man greeting every other man who was there. Hussain, a friend of mine from the village, saw me standing by the chateau and called me over. I reminded him that I had not taken part in the prayer or the service. "Mashi mushkil" (doesn’t matter), he said, pulling me into the greeting line. That process took longer than the whole previous service. In the meantime, someone had brought five or six large serving plates piled with couscous and set them on the ground. As we finished going through the line, many men went to the plates and took a handful of the couscous, symbolically breaking the fast, though a few seemed to linger there, making a meal of it.
The annual prayer service for le'id takes place on this
cleared ground with a concrete seat and platform for the imam

About 10:30, Mohammed and I, along with my nephew Sulayman and his dad, walked back to the family’s house, where the women had prepared tea and a spread of nuts and dates and cookies. For the rest of the morning and on into mid-afternoon, family, neighbors, and friends streamed through the house as they made the rounds of the village wishing everyone mbruk le’id – congratulations on the feast of breaking the fast.

So Ramadan is over. I managed to keep the fast the whole time, even while traveling, and I read the Qur’an in its entirety, my two goals for the period. I had several tough days, but I learned to schedule my physical activity so that it didn’t really put me at risk. I found that adapting to not eating for long stretches was not too difficult, but that it never got easy to go without water. And, as I’ve said before, it messed with my sleep. I’ll be curious to see: Will I return to my old pattern of falling asleep in seconds and sleeping straight through for seven hours, or will I be plagued with insomnia and fitful nights as I have been this month? Only time will tell.
From the hill there's a tremendous view of the town, the
green fields of the Dades Valley, Kalaa,and the
Atlas Mountains

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