We won’t detail every Iftar (breakfast) we eat during Ramadan, but here is just a little taste of the nightly feasting! These are the first two Iftar invitations we received—on the first night of Ramadan from Mama Ryqqia and Kareema, and on the second night of Ramadan from our friend Meryem.
Mama Ryqqia and Kareema prepared a really simple Iftar with all the essentials: chebakia, harira, dates, eggs, tea, and bread.
Harira is my second favorite Moroccan food, next to rfissa! It’s a tomato based soup usually made with olive oil, flour, lentils, chickpeas, onions, parsley, little noodles, and maybe some type of meat. The ingredients vary, but it is always heavily spiced with bzar (black pepper), zaffron (saffron), khrqum (tumeric), kamun (cumin), skinjbir (ginger), sudaniya (cayenne), and whatever ras el hanut blend the cook has on the counter. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
Chebakia is a Moroccan cookie that is wayyyy too sweet for me. It’s made with sesame and drenched in honey. I’ve grown accustomed to taking one or one-and-a-half during Iftar, but I remain a savory food person. I definitely have no sweet teeth. Still, I can kinda see the appeal of these little treats.
When the Adan sounded, we all dove in immediately. Despite that thirst is the greatest challenge of these hot summer fasting days, we learned that we’re not supposed to drink water first. It’s not good for the stomach. So we indulged in everything else before gulping down cups of cold water.
On the day of our second Iftar, Jeff, who lives in a nearby village, happened to be visiting! So he went with us to Meryem’s family’s house. Our friend Meryem is the French teacher at our Dar Chebab; she’s in her last year studying business/economics at the University Hassan I. She and her family are really awesome. Our second Iftar was a BLAST!
This Iftar was so ridiculous, none of us Americans could handle it. We three kept freaking out on Meryem and her mom (who, luckily, was very happy about it all). WOW! Spicy pizza bites! Spicy veggie sandwich pockets! Chicken spring rolls! Samosas! Potato salad! Grilled onions and saucy meat for sandwiches! Milk with rosewater! Lime-ade! Like five types of fresh homemade bread! It was so extravagant and so amazing. Plus the regulars: dates, chebakia, harira, tea, and all of that.
Even better than the Iftar (if such a thing is possible!) was just hanging out with friends. Meryem later invited her next door neighbor Fatimaezzahra over as well. They spent a lot of the time being incredulous that we decided to live in Morocco, of all places in the world. It was especially hilarious when it was revealed that Jeff is from New York City. (“Whyyyyyyyy!” the girls nearly wept at him, “You’re from New York and now you live in [Jeff’s small village, pop. 18,000ish]?????? Why would you do this to yourself????? It’s like you were a millionaire and you gave away all of your money!!!”) It also turns out that Meryem’s mom is from Jeff’s village. Everyone in our city thinks that village is really mskeen…
The conversation made me think about certain perceptions. We think of living here as an adventure. But many of the young people from this city think of it as a place where they are trapped. They can’t wait to get out and see “the world.” They want to leave so badly. It is exactly the way Robert and I think of Kent, Washington—the town we went to high school in. A medium-small city that feels way too small, right against a bigger city (Seattle for us, Casablanca for them).
I’m excited to hang out with these new friends more as the months and years go on. And perhaps someday, inshallah, they will visit us in America too. If all the Visa stuff is sorted out… (more on the privileges of an American passport later, alas.)
After Iftar, Meryem drove us back because I had to teach an 11:00pm After Iftar Advanced English Class at the Dar Chebab. (It was, predictably, much livelier than my Pre-Iftar classes…) For a moment, it felt just like being in high school or college again. Zooming down the street at night with friends, shouting about silly and obscene things. Talking about things like car names (Meryem’s car is named Christina) and cats and and way-back-when stories. Swearing a lot. Laughing a lot. Feeling really young.
Hoping to have a lot more nights like these. 🙂 Ramadan Mubarak!