Ramadan is the holiest month in the lunar calendar, which can also be referred to as the Islamic calendar. While those that follow the Gregorian calendar know it to be 2013, those who follow the religion of Islam know it to be 2013 AND 1434 A.H. The Lunar calendar follows the moon’s cycles which creates 354 days in the year, approximately. This means that the lunar calendar is about 11-12 days shorter than that of the Gregorian calendar. It takes about 33 years to realign with the solar calendar (or Gregorian calendar). Which means that for those living in the Northern Hemisphere, it has been about 33 years since the amount of daylight hours have equaled 14 or higher. It is quite the feat, fasting from approximately 33o am until about 730 pm, especially in the heat of 100 degrees or higher. But when inquiring about whether people prefer summer or winter fasting, I usually hear summer. The answers vary to the preference for free time (with no school and sometimes less work) to the extreme heat actually making easier to fast (during the summer the body naturally eats less). Regardless of the season though, I most often hear that Ramadan is a favorite holiday.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five Pillars of Islam. During this time, it is believed that the gates of Heaven are open for the entire month and the gates of Hell are closed. With this belief and many others, it makes Ramadan a time for celebration, family and remembrance. Fasting is purposely one of the most difficult things to do, it is intended to remind people to be closer to God, to express their gratitude and remind them of those who are living in poverty. It is is also more than abstaining from food and water, it is abstaining from all sins. Violence, anger, greed, lust (yes this does mean no* sex during daylight hours), profane language, gossip, addictions (specifically, smoking and/or drinking)… the list can go on and on. It has been told to me that during this time, harassment towards women is ***doubly shameful.
It is customary in Morocco to wear traditional clothes in Ramadan, be more intentional about praying in Mosques and spending time with family. It is also normal for the work hours to change. Normal work hours are from 830-12 with a break for lunch and people return to work from 2 until 6. During Ramadan, however, many many places do not open until 11 or 12, close at 7 and do not open again until 10 or 11 pm, this is even if a place is open at all during Ramadan.
Morocco is one of the only countries to still go by the actual moon- some started on July 9th- but by the moon we go, so July 10th was the start of Ramadan. Other countries are more diverse in Muslim and non-Muslim citizens as well as fasting and non-fasting Muslims. But as it appears, Morocco is more homogenous and even has been known to sentence jail time for those that break the fast more than three times in public.
As a volunteer, this can be a time to really integrate into one’s community. Breaking the fast (also called lftur) with members of the community and even sharing in the pains of fasting- white tongue and all (who knew that not drinking or eating would give someone a white tongue!). Because we live in a larger town (and maybe also because we are married), we are not often invited to lftur at people’s homes. Last Ramadan, this was heartbreaking to me, because I knew of many many other volunteers, even married couples, to be invited to someone’s house almost every night. However, it is important to remember to not compare sites with anyone else as well as anyone else’s experience. When we are invited, it is a special treat and we enthusiastically accept the invitation. Last Ramadan, I also felt listless and anxious because we were not doing very much. This Ramadan, I wouldn’t say that I am any more active, but I feel good about the time-using it to catch up on my reading, watch tv shows and movies, and thinking about other projects/ our last TEN MONTHS in country! It has also helped that my schedule has had more to do with teaching yoga (more on this later) than anything else, which is pretty freakin’ wonderful!!!!
So there you are! I hope I was able to share some of the ins and outs of Ramadan!! As I learn more… so will you!!!
*** not sure if doubly is a word… but sometimes there is just not another word that can be as accurate as made up words!