Ramadan in Morocco!

Ftour (Iftar) Recipes
All Yum Yummy Ramadan Recipes in the Moroccan Table!

Recettes bien gourmandes pour Ramadan sur notre table marocaine.
 Héritage, Culturel et Tradition!

وصفات رمظان 

You can read my article at Morocco World News by clicking on the link below: 

I often receive emails from my blog readers asking if it is ok to visit Morocco during Ramadan and what this celebration exactly means, and how long it lasts etc..., so I have decided to write this article to talk about Ramadan in Morocco, hoping it will be helpful and answer all your questions..

Ramadan {R A M A T H A N} in classic Arabic and Ramdan {R A M D A N} in Moroccan Darija is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and the most sacred of the twelve months of the year. The month of Ramadan marks the anniversary of the revelation of the Quoran (also spelled as Coran or Koran) to the Prophet Mohammed in the Cave of Hira.  During Ramadan, all Muslims around the world abstain from food and drink during the daylight hours. It is One (1) Month Celebratory Holiday, but there are also deeper spiritual meanings tied to this month.  Ramadan is not all about "Food" and "Drink", but it is an occasion that marks the beginning of the Month, during which all Muslims reflect upon their actions over the past year, seek forgiveness for their transgressions, purify their soul, refocus on spiritual practice and help the poor and needy.

The Fast starts the 1st day of the month of Ramadan according to the Islamic calendar, and since the Gregorian date changes every year, so whatever date Ramadan starts, it is assumed that it will start about 10-12 days earlier the following year, and so on.  Three years ago, Ramadan started on August 2nd, 2011 (I remember well the date, since it was my son Nassim's Birthday), and in 2012, the First Day of Ramadan was around July 20th or 21st, then in 2013, it was around July 11th or 12th.  So, this year 2014, Ramadan is likely to start around the end of June or beginning of July. Unfortunately, Muslims have never agreed on one day to start the Fasting of Ramadan because of the differences between Chiâa and Sunniyine (الشيعيون-السنيون ), so don't be surprised if some countries start their fasting with Arabia Saudia and others with Iran and Syria, no doubt, there are some political issues behind all these.  Generally, in Morocco, the 1st day of fasting is based on the moon sighting as it is the case for many other Muslim countries; however, two different opinions are implied here: some believe Ramadan should start at one (1) single moon sight regardless of the place, whereas others insist that the moon should be sighted in each locality of the country. Sadly in Morocco, Muslims would split on this issue, and there is always a group of people called "Ikhwan Muslimine =إخوان مسلمون " who fast one day before the rest of Moroccan Muslims, and even celebrate Eid adha one day before.  Ironically, the religion that is supposed to strengthen the ties of families, relatives and friends has been reduced to a spiritual tool by a minority religious group, leading us to separated paths and formation of distinctive groups.

Who should fast and who shouldn't?

All  Muslims should fast one month per year except:

1-Children under 16: are definitively not obliged to fast but this is again very controversial between Chiâa and Suniyine, and between the Islamists and social-modern Muslims.  Quoran doesn't specify exactly the age when to start fasting, but as parents, we are responsible for our children's well-being and it goes without saying, a little of common sense should be used here, and NEVER force a child to fast. Forcing children to do Ramadan is an inhuman, irresponsible parenting act and just wrong.  During Ramadan, some Islamists-Extremists force their children to fast at the age of seven (7) years old, and they will proudly repeat in front of friends and family how "good Muslim" is their child, who already fasts the whole month at this very early age. I think we need to create sort of new jobs with the title "Ramadan Social Workers"!

However, I do believe it's good to allow the children to find out what Ramdan feels like, by letting them fast a few hours or even half day if they can and as long as fasting does not physically harm their health.  Ramadan should be a good childhood souvenir instead of a horrifying physical experience, and of course as the children mature, they will eventually embrace their parents' religious beliefs and understand the meaning of Ramadan, just like we all did!

2- Travellers: if you are travelling, it is permitted to break the fast, provided that you make up the missed day when you can.

3-Pregnant and breastfeeding women : should not fast, since this will definitively harm their babies.  Drinking and eating on different hours during the day is quite important and vital if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. What you eat and drink will help your baby to develop and grow healthy!  Of course, these women can make up the missed days when they can.

4-Menstruating women, women with postpartum bleeding, women going through menopause and suffer from SEVERE migraine : should not fast since blood loss frequently results in fatigue, severe headache, stomach ache, dizziness, vomiting, physical weakness and bad mood. Of course, you can make up the missed days when you feel better after.

5- Old people, mentally sick people and people with diabetes should not fast. In general, if you are suffering from any sickness and you have to take medicine several times during the day, and you know that fasting is making your sickness worse and no better, you shouldn't fast. Listen to your doctor and use your common sense.  Ramadan should be a happy and healthy celebration and not a torture.

Zakat الزكاة:

Ramadan is viewed as the Month of giving and generosity and all Muslims have the obligation to assess and pay their "Zakat" during Ramadan. Zakat is the arabic word for the acts that we call "Charity" as known in English language, and it refers to the obligation that all Muslims have to donate a certain proportion of their wealth each year.  However the act of  "Charity" is quite different from the obligation of Zakat in Islam.  If Charity suggests a magnanimous act by a small group of people who are very wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor or a certain institution, Zakat is rather a mandatory process, and not considered as a magnanimous act. It is obligatory upon all Muslims to give a certain percentage of their wealth and assets each year to the poor and needy.  Zakat is viewed as an act of justice, fairness in taxation, and a duty, so it's every Muslim's responsibility to find out exactly the amount of money he/she should donate at the end of Ramadan. Some Muslims use Zakat calculator or ask help from specialists to define the right amount for Zakat.

Food and preparation for Ramadan:

Even if Ramadan means fasting all day from dawn to sunset, this does not mean "Light Food or Less Cooking". Actually, in Morocco, there are so many traditional, rich and versatile dishes made specially for Ramadan and which differ widely from one region to another.  The main meal in Ramadan is called "FTOOR" in Darija  (known in Arabic as "IFTAR"), which means the end of fasting at sunset.  Ftoor is a happy, special occasion for all families to get-together around the table, listening to Quoran, or to Tarab Andaloussi (Moroccan Classic Music), or simply watching TV, chatting, sharing recipes, etc.....  Ftoor, an important meal which lasts for a good couple of hours, happens just after the sunset after Maghreb prayer, and this meal is served surrounded by all family members, and sometimes Ftoor is served on 3 or 4 tables especially during the four (4) weekends of this month, it is pretty much akin to Christmas Night!

During the few days before Ramadan arrives, everyone becomes excited especially children and mums: children because they know Ramadan means less hours at school, less exams, less homework and most importantly a lot of special and traditional treats on the table every single day for 30 days. It is almost like a party atmosphere every night for the happy children.  As for mums, they are responsible for a well stocked pantry and an essential list of ingredients to have on hand before the start of Ramadan, and the dads have to pay the bills, of course. If you go to the Souk or market few days before Ramadan, you can see mums shopping, hustling and bustling about preparing the most popular Ramadan treats in Morocco i.e. Chabakiya, the famous tressed cookies soaked in honey, Krachel, Hrira, Briwat, Mini-Bastilla, Salloo, Rziza, Mssamen, Malwi, Baghrir, Harsha etc... That's why, exactly one week before Ramadan, Morocco streets are transformed into Food Workshops and Iron Food Competition!

Traditions of Ramadan in Morocco:

1 )Air Raid Siren, called "Zowaka" = الزواكة : 
This is a traditional practice of Ftour in Morocco.  An Air Raid Siren (Zowaka {Z O W A K A}) goes off and can be heard throughout the whole town to announce the end of fasting.  So if you happen to be visiting Morocco in Ramadan, don't be surprised if you hear the air raid siren blasting out at sunset.  Eventually this loud sound is followed immediately by the ritual “Adan or Athan” , which means "the call to prayer".  For some reasons, this tradition has been stopped in some towns, and replaced by a recorded sound, aired on national TV or Radio.

2) Lilt Sab3a W3achrin = ليلة سبعة عشرين or ليلة القدر:
Called in Quoran "Laylat Al-Quadr or Al9adr", and which is the 27th night of Ramadan Month. This is a special night for all Muslims because the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the prophet Mohammed on this very night. The first Sura revealed to him was "Surat Al-Alaq" = سورة العلق:

... اقرأ باسم ربك الذي خلق
Read in the name of your Lord who created...

This is such a big family gathering night where the children offer gifts to their parent and grand-parents to show their appreciation. The gifts given are usually traditional clothes, Kaftan, Jlaba, Charbil, Balgha (traditional Moroccan clothes), or simply money.

On this night, it is also important to perform Tarawih = التراويح, which are prayers that come after Isha prayer, and they are performed in pairs, and can be prayed in at 10, 20, 40 until dawn, this again differs from Shiaa to Sunna Schools. Women usually prefer to pray their Tarawih at home, whereas the men choose the Mosque, taking brief breaks between Tarawih by coming back home for a cup of mint tea and some spoonfuls of Sellou or Tquawt.

Another particularity that sets "lilt sab7a w3achrin" apart from all other Ramadan nights is that lovely smell in every single house. It's called L'Bkhour (incense) which is burnt in M'bakhra (incense burner), and after few hours the house smells just heavenly, some call it the "Smell of Paradise".  This smell can sometimes lasts for few days after, especially if L'Bkhour used is of high quality. When I was young I was told that L'Bkhour coming from Arabia-Saudi is the best and the most expensive.

3) Stars of Lilt Saba w3achrine: Children who feel ready to go for their first day fasting, choose the special night of Laylat Al-Quadr. To celebrate the children's first day of fasting, parents held a traditional family ceremony, after Ftour meal, for their little stars to mark the beginning of their upbringing in the Islam faith. With the help of Negafa (Lady who offers stylist and make-up services), the girls wear beautiful make-up, formal Moroccan traditional clothes and gold. Whereas the boys wear traditional Jelaba, Fassi hat, and Balgha. Then the boys should take a short ride on a beautiful horse, usually accompanied by one of the parent. The horse is dressed in beautiful traditional attire, parading the neighbouring street, followed by a group of traditional musician group, performing cheerful music, followed by Zgharit (women roll their tongues and produce this cheerful sound).  The horse enjoys the music, moving his head and legs responding to the music rhymes. These horses look stunning and I think they are well schooled to tolerate all what is associated with the drums, dancing and music sound. What a night!  These are one of the best childhood moment and souvenir for every single Moroccan star!

4) Nafara volunteer who is a kind of town "Crier" = النفّار:
This is another special, old tradition of Ramadan in Morocco.  A Nafar is a kind of town "Crier", whose task is walking down the streets, and playing a special instrument, like a trumpet, or calling people by their family names, to wake them up for Shoor meal, which is the last meal before sunrise. A Nafar is usually chosen from the local community and he knows everyone in the neighbourhood.

5 ) Charities : During the whole Month of Ramadan in Morocco, there are many charities, volunteers and mosques throughout the kingdom, who hand out free Ftoor meal to the poor and the needy.

6 ) Night Promenade : After Ftoor meal, most families, including children will start going out to have fresh air, forget about food and enjoy the rest of the evening. Needless to mention that working and school hours are greatly reduced to suit Ramadan hours.

7) Greetings : Since Ramadan is the time for celebrations, all Moroccans send greetings and best wishes to their family members, hoping that they have a long life and a healthy one.  A long time ago, greetings were conveyed by family visits one or two days before the starting of Ramadan, talking about the excitement and preparation of Ramadan, and enjoying a fresh mint tea with Dwaz-Atay.  However, nowadays, most greetings are conveyed in the form of phone calls, text messaging, e-mail, facebook, google, twitter, blogging, etc...

Visiting Morocco in Ramadan:

Most tourists avoid travelling to Morocco during Ramadan, but if you happen to be there during this month, it is good to know before you land that Ramadan is a very special time for majority of Moroccans-Muslims. However, not all Moroccans celebrate Ramadan, there are Moroccan-Jews, Moroccan-Christians and Moroccan non-believers who don't fast.  In general, Moroccans are very tolerant of non-Muslims eating, drinking and smoking during Ramadan, and luckily, Morocco is not Saudi Arabia that threatens to expel non-Muslim expatriates who eat, drink, or smoke in public during the Muslim fasting month.  In tourist areas, you will be able to find a few restaurants and food stores open during the day to serve non-Muslims, but it is good to show some respect and avoid doing this publicly, instead, you can eat in the Hotel during the day. It is also beneficial in some way to visit Morocco during Ramadan since during the day, especially in the morning, the streets, markets, souks etc.. are less crowded and less busy as usual. The beaches are almost empty, no Moroccan-Muslim will go to the beach while he/she is fasting, so tourists usually will have the whole beach for themselves! There are also interesting flight deals to travel to Morocco during Ramadan, so you can have a nice trip to Morocco in 5 stars hotels for 1 or 2 weeks without blowing your budget.

If you have Moroccan friends, don't hesitate to ask to join them for Ftoor meal to experience this special moment in a 'proper' home setting, because in hotels, to be honest, it's not the right place to taste the authentic Moroccan food, especially the one prepared for Ramadan. The food served in our hotels doesn't represent Moroccan Cuisine, most of the Chefs hired are either French, Asians or Eastern-Europeans.

Enjoy your trip in Morocco, celebrating Ramadan!

Ramadanlly yours,

Wish all of  you and your Family a very blessed Ramadan!
Ftourkom Mabrouk, as we say in Morocco
فتوركم مبروك


karim said…
Bon Ramadan vous aussi Madame et merci pour cet article sur Ramadan au Maroc, et toutes ces recettes. De Paris où je me trouve, je vous slaut. Quand j'ai le temps d'aller visiter les sites que j'aime et le votre en fait partie, je vous dis bravo pour votre grand site.
Tous mes respects,
Soumiya22 said…
Happy Ramadan. Je vous appelle la doyenne de la cuisine marocaine! Je serai passé manger chez vous avec beaucoup de plaisir et gourmandise. Merci pour ce beau site sur la cuisine marocaine et ramadan.
deros said…
Ramadan Kareem!
Thanks for your blog, easy to read and understand. Will try some from your recipe to make my Ramadan dishes more full and raditional.
May Allah bless you and your family.
Fabulous food! Right up my alley. I'm drooling like crazy now... ;-P

Bon Ramadan!

Grosses bises,

Unknown said…
My curiosity to know more about Ramadan brought me here. Thanks for sharing :)
Unknown said…
Ramadan is almost here! Those yummy foods will surely be a delight on Ramadan.
I'd like to express my warmest and most heartfelt Ramadan greetings to all Muslims all over the world.

Ramadan Mubarak!
naima said…
Salam khti mamatkamal lah ibark fik fi had ramdan lmobarak wi la9nina inchallah bilma7aba o swab o sa7a. ana kay3jabni le blog dyalk raw3a lah ykhalik.
Naima de Rabat
Anonymous said…
I don't think this is a good site for Ramadan Information. It's written by someone ashamed of their religious heritage. Shia sunni issue is not the reason for different days but you seem to have a specific anti muslim pro european Liberal narrative to play with. You seem uneducated but that's fine, you could have talked about ramadan from the perspective of morrocan experience or your experience instead you wanted to paint the picture of "bad muslims" and "moderate" (code word for Muslims without the ability of critical thinking who absorb and bow to any European ideology be it philosophical liberalism or progressivism).
I'm sorry but you don't get to decide who a moderate is and who an extreme is, considering you're probably a France loving necolonist

In islam its not a problem that ramadan can start on two separate days based on differing opinions. Differences of opinions in sunni islam are considered a blessing as long as those opinions are genuine and true to the religion and tradition and not just some attempt at white washing.

You seem to talk alot of "extremists" and "islamists". Reeks of self righteous better then them attitude from you. Ironically Muslims despite differences should be your brothers and sisters but I guess when you want to please money spending you'd sell anyone or thing.

Your whole article reeeks os inferiority complex and subconscious self hatred