The Ramadan Special

We just got back from dinner that we’ve been smelling for the past couple hours! And wow, did they deliver! The grandmother came and collected us from our bedroom around 7, and brought us over to the main room for dinner! We sat down in these couches next two a little girl named Inez, who, we soon discovered, is very much the centre of attention in this large extended family.

On this little table in front of us was the most delicious collection of food I’ve probably ever seen. There were all these pastries that looked like mini pakoras filled with assorted meat and spices, little spring roll looking things filled with vegetables, this amazing flatbread covered in roasted onions and other vegetables, pieces of chocolate and other kinds of cake, all surrounding the Tajine, which is the main course, usually filled with meat or fish. This time it was fish, and it smelled incredible. All the kids in the family, which is four preteen girls and the little two year old Inez, sat around the table with us staring at the food, counting down the seconds for Call to Prayer to play throughout the city signaling the end of that day’s fasting.

I realized at kids sort of have it made during Ramadan because they can eat and drink during the day, but then get the special Ramadan feast every night. I guess we’re pretty lucky too.

At dinner we met Abdelmajid, the grandfather and head of the family. He speaks French, and is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met! He and I spoke a lot, and he is so so nice! He explained why the TV was in playing a bad local soap opera all throughout the meal, and told us a bit about the family. TV is a huge part of Moroccan culture, and soap operas play day and night on every TV in the house. They don’t all have running hot water, but they do have TV’s!

The meal was incredible. It started with dates, and a glass if milk to break the fast. Everything tasted better than it looked, including this milk that they poured right before the meal that turned out to be sweetened and delicious. Whoever told us that Moroccans make everything sweet didn’t lie – they really do. We ate everything, and every time my hand was empty, Abdelmajid would put something new in it, so I was constantly eating something. Eventually I devised a plan to eat everything slowly, so that he wouldn’t be able to hand me as much. We were both stuffed by the end of it. Or rather, what we thought was the end of it. All of the sudden these thick crepe things were brought out to the table. Abdelmajid covered them with this sweet Moroccan syrup, rolled them up, and handed them to us. The only option was the eat them, and I was happy that I did because they were delicious! Near the end of the meal some of the men stopped eating, grabbed their little mats, and took a moment in the corner of the room to pray. It was sort of crazy to see a man praying on his mat right next to a Moroccan soap opera and kids running around and gigging all at once.

The meal ended with small cups of “cafe noire”. For me, black coffee usually refers to coffee with nothing in it, but apparently that’s not how they do it here in Morocco! They asked me how much sugar I wanted in my coffee, and when I said none, there was quite the reaction. Once they started serving themselves I watched as they put these giant sticks of sugar, probably a little less than twice the size of a sugar cube, in their little cups of coffee. The cups were tiny, and they just kept putting more and more sugar! I can’t imagine what that would taste like! Well, actually I can, I just don’t want to.

After dinner we had a few minutes to digest while Abdelmajid went to mosque for prayer. When he came back, and took us out for a walk to show us some “points de rapports” to help is know our way in the city. The city was totally alive, and maneuvering around the tiny winding streets was almost harder now, and I wasn’t even pulling a suit case! It was great to have a self-proclaimed guide with us this time! Abdelmajid pointed out some landmarks to help us find out way home, like this special decorated door, and a Minitel sign. He helped us through the medina, stopping to say hello to about half the people we passed, because everyone knows everyone in the Medina.

We passed a mosque and men were all around it in somewhat straight lines praying. We eventually left the Medina and walked out onto the street, where 20130716-110451.jpghe gave us a little bit of a tour of the main streets of Rabat. We walked up this side, and Abdelmajid showed us the national bank, where he works. The streets were buzzing, and we passed all sorts of cafes and restaurants, all filled exclusively with men staring out at the streets and smoking. Once we left the Medina there were very few women on the streets, until we came across this park where bunches of teenagers sat in circles under the trees giggling and playing what looked like complicated hand clapping games.

We walked by this giant mosque, where I guess most people like to go if they can, and next to it is the walled house where the king lives. Down from there towards the Medina runs Rue Hassan, named after the king. It’s sort of this grand Boulevard that hosts all the important buildings of the capital, like the moroccan “white house”, the front of the beautifully decorated National Bank, the national post office, and few other buildings that I didn’t ask about. Abdelmajid and I spoke French the whole time, and I translated for Mom when necessary. It seems like Moroccans like to think of themselves as higher than other Africans, and I sense a little bit of intolerance there, but that assumption is also quite unfounded on my part.

I tried to take pictures when I could, but since it was night time and we were trailing behind a fast-paced local, I got way less than I would have liked! I figure this is our first night for two weeks, so there will be many other opportunities.

I just got out of the shower, and that was quite the experience… Let’s call it “charming”. The shower is basically this tiny room that is filled up by a toilet, but then on the side of the wall there’s a moveable shower head. I think using this properly is quite an art, one that I have yet to master. But we’re clean, and full, and happy, and exhausted. There’s endless noise from shouting to motor bikes to this impossibly loud cat outside, but somehow none of it is going to be keeping us up!

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