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September 7, 2008 Ramadan Day 6

First things first: The fasting is getting easier. :)

Now that that’s out of the way…

Tonight, I had l-fdrt at 3mti Moqaddim’s house.

Let me unpack that sentence for you.

L-fdrt is the fast-breaking meal, eaten at sunset. It’s also referred to as t-harirt, which is the Berberized version of harira, aka the soup traditionally eaten at l-fdrt. Sometimes, people call this meal maghreb. I’m still trying to work out why. Maghreb means west, and is also the Arabic/Berber name for Morocco (because it’s the westernmost country of North Africa). So it could be referring to the fact that it’s a national celebration, or because the sun sets in the west, and the meal is eaten shortly after sunset…? Or maybe they’re saying something that just sounds like maghreb and I’m hearing it wrong. I’ll get back to you on that one…

3mti means uncle, and more specifically “the brother of my father”. Yes, Tamazight has different words for the different kinds of uncles. You conjugate everything else, why not conjugate family members. ;)

Moqaddim is a position roughly corresponding to mayor. My uncle – my 3mti – is the moqaddim for Berberville, and therefore nobody calls him by his given name, but just refers to him by his title: Moqaddim.

Since I have two 3mtis (and one 3tti, aka a sister of my host dad), referring to him as 3mti Moqaddim distinguishes him from my other 3mti, his older brother.

Anyway, I ate at his house tonight. I have a standing invitation at Ama’s house to come there for l-fdrt whenever I want; she issued it after she found out that the one Ramadan night I’ve spent *not* eating with Moroccans, I ate very little. But I’ve been trying to widen the number of families I’m on terms of bread and salt with, so when my cousin invited me this afternoon to come to their house for tharirt, I was happy to accept.

My auntie, 3mti’s wife, issued a similar standing invitation when I was there. Since she’s also my next-door neighbor, eating at her house doesn’t involve a five-minute walk through dark Berberville, but walking about ten steps down a well-lit street. (Her family and I both live on the main street of Berberville. That’s why our houses had to be painted red, as I wrote about a couple weeks ago.)

I have to admit, I feel all warm and fuzzy, knowing that there are two different households that are happy to feed me every night this month. :)

Anyway, I had a nice conversation with 3mti and his wife and kids, and learned a few new vocab words from them, too. An apron is a tabrriya. The brown crumbly stuff that looks like a pile of dirt but is delicious and eaten with a spoon is called zmita and includes about a dozen different things, including nutmeg (guza), ginger (skinjbir), sesame seeds (gnglan), oil (zzit), butter (zbda), flour (ourH), ground almonds (luz) and peanuts (kawkaw), and a few other words that I missed. “Fatbread”, aka bread baked with vegetables and oil cooked inside – kinda like a vegan calzone – is called msmn or bshaHmah. I’d thought that the thinner bread, sort of like Indian naan, was msmn, but auntie says no. That has a different name, which now escapes me. In my notes I have tfrnut and bTbut, but neither is the word auntie used. I also ate two kinds of dates (tigni), two kinds of olives (zitoon), juice (aSSir), honeyed crumbly cookies that sort of remind me of baklava (shbkkia), and of course harira, the traditional Ramadan soup. Auntie’s harira is chock-full of chickpeas. I never thought I liked chickpeas until I had them in harira. Also, this auntie runs a café/restaurant, which means that she’s a fabulous cook. (I’m still loyal to Ama’s cooking, but Auntie’s is darned good.)

Another vocab word from tonight was assa. I learned in training that it means “today”, but they were using it with my toddler cousin – an adorable little munchkin with ringlet curls, dimples, and a perpetually runny nose – whenever she was about to pick up something they didn’t want her to. So apparently it means “Put it down” or “Leave it alone” or “Stop” or “Be careful” or “Don’t touch that” or some combination thereof. I know other words/phrases that mean all of those things (srs-t, adj-t, qim/bd, xarak/shuf, and adur ttast-t, respectively), but none of them sound like assa.

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