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September 2, 2008 Ramadan

One of Islam’s 5 pillars is Ramadan, the month of fasting. From the pre-dawn call to prayer (at 3:30am-ish) until the sunset call to prayer (7pm-ish), there can be no eating, drinking, smoking, sexual activity, or gossiping. At the end of the month comes the 3id al-saghir, meaning the Small Festival/Feast. (The Big Festival is the one commemorating Abraham’s sacrifice of his son, and takes place 40 days after the Small Festival.) It’s also called the 3id al-Fitr.

Once upon a time, that meant that there was a month of deprivation followed by a ginormous feast. But somewhere along the way, the Breaking of the Fast meal (eaten right after sunset) became a ritualized Big Meal, and “Dinner” began to be eaten at midnight, and “Breakfast” at 3am. So folks are still getting three meals a day, they’ve just become nocturnal.

Also, the meals are elaborate and filled with snacks and goodies. I’ve been told that Moroccans spend more money on food during the month of Ramadan than any other month of the year. I’ve also been told that people gain more weight during Ramadan than any other time of year. (Americans certainly have their own month of gorging – ours goes from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, and there’s no hour of the day when eating is forbidden!)

I’ve received a few invitations to people’s houses for Breaking of the Fast, plus Ama issued me a blanket invitation to come to her house if ever I don’t have someone else’s home to eat in. (I made the mistake of admitting that the one night I stayed home, I ate only popcorn, bread, and a couple peaches all night. I admitted that that wasn’t my best decision, but it just reinforced for Ama that she needs to feed me up.)

I’ve avoided going anywhere for midnight dinner, though, since I really don’t want to walk through the dark streets of Berberville at 1am. (We actually have streetlamps – 10 of them, along the two main streets – but all they do is blind me when I’m trying to pick a path anywhere else in town. After the streetlamps shut off, around 3am, it’s actually easier to see, just by starlight and moonlight.)

This means that I need to make myself midnight dinner…but it feels truly weird to prepare an actual meal in the middle of the night. I’m all about the midnight snack – cereal, ice cream, popcorn – but making, like, stir-fried veggies or pasta primavera at midnight just feels bizarre. I guess it’s that eating in the middle of the night has a long and glorious tradition, but cooking in the middle of the night…less so. But I guess I’ll get over it. I have several more weeks of fasting to go, after all… I said I’d fast all month, inshallah, and I meant it. :)

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