June 17 marked the end of Ramadan, what is known as Eid Sghir. At around 7am I could hear the morning call to prayer echoing through the alleyways. This pray was specifically for Eid Sghir. Later, parades of people gathered out in the street giving each other hugs and kisses. Families and friends sat together sipping on tea and eating cookies, congratulating one another and wishing everyone a happy Eid Sghir. Ramadan was over, the new moon had risen.
Ramadan is one of the holiest Islamic holidays of the year. It’s a time of self-discipline, reflection, and self-cleansing of mind and body. For 30 days people abstain from food and water during the day, and any behavior that is ungodly. They believe it brings them closer to God.
Once the sun goes down and the call to prayer goes off you are then allowed to eat. Everyone gathers around the table and reaches for the bowl of dates saying “bssmila” (god bless me). This meal is called lftr (breakfast) and later many people make
their way to the mosque while others stay at home as they prepare for the next meal, shuuur. Around 1:30 – 2 in the morning you can hear a man parading around the street banging his drum waking people up and signaling it’s time to eat. People gather around the table to eat their last meal of the day (actually night) as they prepare for another day of discipline and reflection.
At first I thought that during Ramadan everything was going to be put on hold, but that’s not the case. People still went about their day, just a bit slower and a bit later. Every afternoon around 4 o’clock the women where busy cooking up a storm. I could hear the buzzing of blenders as they prepare delicious juice. There were the smells of khobz shima (stuffed bread with veggies and meat), hrira (Moroccan soups with garbanzo beans, noodles and other spices), honey soaked cookies, and many other delicious foods. It was amazing to watch these women cook these delicious foods and lay out this huge spread of food, knowing that the last time they ate or drank anything was around 2:00 – 2:30am! I would watch and help my sisters cooking up a daily feast while my brothers head out to work, all pushing past those hunger pains and the longing for a drip of water. How????? Just how were they doing it???
Morocco is a communal culture with a strong relationship to religion. It’s one of the things I love about Morocco. There’s something beautiful about hearing the call to prayer 5 times a day as it echoes through the alleyways. Or watching my community fasting side by side one another. Being invited to so many lftrs (the first meal after sundown) you have to turn people down because you don’t have time. People insisting that you sleep over at their house because they can’t stand the idea of someone sleeping all alone.
Leading up to Ramadan I got a lot of pressure to fast. Everyone I talked to would ask me if I was going to fast. And after it started, everyone wanted to know if I was fasting. I attempted to fast, partly because my community was so happy to hear that I was trying and partly because I wanted to experience what it was like. For the first couple of days I tried to fast, but I found that I lacked the discipline and willpower to truly fast – fasting the way my community was to abstain from food and water for 17 hours. I started asking myself why was I doing this? I’m not Muslim nor was I getting any enjoyment out of it. So again, why fast? This communal culture is so strong that sometimes I find my identity getting lost. I’m doing so many things I normally wouldn’t do, like fasting. People always say to me “Nti Maghribya!” “Nti Maghribya!” (You’re Moroccan!). Whenever I hear that I always feel a mix of emotions. On the one hand I’m accepted. I think, “great, I truly am integrated,” and well, that’s part of the job! On the other hand I think, what about my American identity? What about American Audrey?
During Ramadam I started really thinking long and hard about that question. What about American Audrey? I have been immersed in this culture for nine months. Living side by side with my community members. There’s not a day that goes by were I don’t spend significant time with my Moroccan family. It wasn’t until two of my closest Peace Corps friends and I went on a trip down south that I was able to reconnect with my American self and realized just how important it is to take time for yourself, to truly be at ease, without a care in the world.
I’m fortunate enough that I’m able to walk away from this communal culture when I
want to. To take a break and reconnect with myself. I can do things like hiking the second
tallest mountain in Morocco, lying around on the beach in my sports bra and shorts, and going swimming in a lake. And that is what I did! I was able to truly be at ease!!! I was able to be my American self!!!
Ramadan is a time of refection. Reconnecting with one’s self and God. During Ramadan I realized just how important it is to reconnect with myself…to take off my shirt and jump into the water!!!
For the past couple of months I’ve been working with the women in my community helping them start up a Sewing Co-op. BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP!!!! We are seeking donations for our grant. This grant will help purchase additional sewing materials and machines to help start a Sewing Co-op.
More information found here –> https://www.peacecorps.gov/donate/projects/womens-sewing-coop-pp-18-378-023/