Ramadan started last night at sunset. One of the major holidays in the Muslim calendar, Ramadan is marked by its obligation for Muslims to fast – no food or water between sunrise and sunset, which during the summer here means about 16 hours of not putting anything in your mouth.
And as if on cue, the weather here in T– has finally decided to act like summer and go up into the 100s. More about that in a minute.
Not that I can in any way pretend to know a lot about this month-long holiday, being a foreigner here both in terms of nationality and religion, but for those of you who only have seen the word “Ramadan” printed on your wall calendars without being really sure what it is, here’s my rough description of the month:
Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, so its start date is moved up every year by a certain number of days. Ramadan doesn’t start until the moon is spotted in its correct shape by the proper religious authorities. Here we thought the first full day of fasting would be Tuesday, but the moon said Wednesday was the day.
Unlike Christmas or Easter, which in the United States have kind of been co-opted as gift-giving parties, the main point of Ramadan for pretty much everyone in Morocco remains spiritual. It’s a chance to clean out your body and your mind for the year ahead, as one of my English students described to me last night. Everyone is required to fast during daylight hours (no food, no water, some people even say don’t brush your teeth), unless if they are pregnant, menstruating, a child below the age of puberty, or ill.
Although Morocco made the time change in the spring, on Sunday we all set our clocks back to “old” time, and will switch back again at the end of Ramadan. Break fast comes at night, around 8 p.m. followed by dinner and then an early morning meal (around 4 a.m. or earlier).
Most Muslims I’ve talked to so far have told me that whatever good acts you do during Ramadan are multiplied, but also are the bad things you do, so people try to be extra good and many people make it a point to read the entire Koran during the month.
There are some specific dates and special events during Ramadan, I think, but I’ll write about those as I come across them.
Now to my dilemma. I’m well aware this holiday is a very big deal for people here. It’s something they take very seriously. And knowing that, I have been struggling with whether to try to fast alongside them, as I know that for myself it would be more of an experiment and not a spiritual thing. Although most people are happy and excited when you tell them you are going to fast, I’m a bit uncomfortable with the knowledge that this is not a light undertaking that I would be taking on with a much less serious and soulful attitude.
In addition, it’s hot here. And not drinking water is something I’m not even marginally ready to take on.
So, as many people have suggested only doing a partial day fast to see how I manage it, I’ve decided on a compromise. My site mate Liz, wants to attempt the full fasting, and I don’t want to make things harder on her either.
What I have decided is to eat my normal breakfast in the morning, as I usually accomplish that before she wakes up anyway. I will then fast through lunch and eat dinner once the sun goes down. I will continue to drink water throughout the day. I feel like this will allow me to still be moderately functional during the day, supportive of Liz, and respectful of others who are fasting around me.
With the fasting, daily activity during Ramadan gets cut way back, with most people staying up later at night and then sleeping longer during the day. My English classes at the Dar Chabab have told me they want to continue having class during Ramadan, but I’m not sure if that will happen or not. I’ll just show up for a few days and see if anyone else does.
Anticipating quite a bit of free time ahead of me, I have set forward a few goals to last me until I go to summer camp at the end of July and life will once again become busy.
During Ramadan, I will:
- exercise daily
- write for an hour a day
- read through as much of the Wheel of Time series as possible (14 books, all 700 pages)
- study Darija every day
I’m also trying to readjust my sleep schedule to be better prepared for summer camp, where they follow a more Ramadan-friendly schedule of eating dinner at midnight. My bedtime is currently 10 p.m. I’ve got to train myself up.
And as a last note, it’s my mom’s birthday today! Happy Birthday hugs across the ocean to you!!!