I have experienced many curious events since I arrived in Morocco: cats EVERYWHERE (including the airport and dining halls), fresh sheep heads and brains swarming with flies at a hectic market place filled with a plethora of pungent smells, and grand taxi rides (which are anything but grand) where I have been squished into an old five person Mercedes with six other Moroccans – all who are of different shapes, sizes and hygenic states. But separated from these chaotic events that are integrally a part of the year around flavor of Morocco, there is a presence of peace and discipline that gives Morocco a tranquille atmosphere this time of year – Ramadan. Maybe the slower pace has to do with the fact that Ramadan lasts a whole month, but a majority of it is because people are spending their days fasting, or the literal meaning in Arabic is “to self-restrain” from food, water, and other indulgences like smoking, chewing gum, and partaking in sexual activity when the sun is up.
After arriving and getting into the rhythm of the schedule and making sure none of the food or water mixed badly with my system, I decided to start my fasting. I, so intelligently, decided to start to fast on a day where I would be taking a tour of the neighboring town, Azrou, and a walking tour in the heat of the old city Meknes. All of these stops were between roasting taxi rides on the hottest day since I had arrived, where the temperature was about 105 degrees fahrenheit. The hardest part about fasting is not drinking water all day, a luxury I realized I took for granted. Also because the weather is so hot, food is not the first thing on your mind, but water…ahhh, it is always on your mind! And just to my luck, the Moroccan girl who was giving me the tour who decided not to fast, insisted that I hold her drink during the 4 hour tour because I was a foreigner and would not get mean comments from the other Moroccan muslims who were fasting. Wow. Great. I have to carry this 1.5 liter jug of water in 105 degree heat, NOT drink it, and I look like the rude foreigner. Awesome. So much for starving myself to try and be culturally sensitive.
But finally, F’tor (literally means “breakfast”) came around 7:00 pm, and I chugged 3 liters of water after forcing down some dates (the food that is traditionally eaten first to break the fast.) After making it through my first day of fasting, I honestly figured it could not get any harder. I had stupidly exposed myself to the firey ring of hell for my first day fasting, so I expected the slower pace of school would make the circumstances easier. WRONG. Turns out when you do not eat breakfast until 7:00 at night, then your whole schedule gets flipped so you eat lunch at midnight, and dinner around 4 in the morning. Damn. This made my 8:00 am Arabic class a battle everyday.
The fight to fast was short lived. I ended up getting sick after a week of fasting and spent the rest of Ramadan passed out in my bed with the flu. I guess I really lacked the proper immune system to make it all the way through Ramadan! These Moroccans are champs, truly. Fasting for a month takes a great deal of discipline, and the spiritual commitment and emphasis on practice is a magnificent phenomenon to witness. Eid-ul Fitr, or, Happy ending to the fast!