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2 posts from December 2010


So it's the holiday season in the USA right now and there have been quite a few holidays here in Morocco that I have had the chance to celebrate since my arrival. I'll preface my account of holidays in Morocco by pointing out that there are both National Holidays and then Muslim holidays that are also celebrated here. For my sake, I will only cover the holidays I have experienced so far, and I will recap on the remaining holidays in a later post, but will list all of the holidays for everyone's benefit.

Ramadan - Aug 11th-Sept 9th, 2010
To start with, I arrived in Morocco during Ramadan, the Muslim holiday celebrated during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and is meant to teach patience and humility. During this month, Muslims fast during day (dawn until dusk) and break each fast in the evening, after the Maghrib(sunset) prayer, or the 4th call to prayer. This fast is usually broken with Iftar, which consists of special sweets and cookies, harira (delicious Moroccan soup) and dates. Throughout Ramadan Muslims pray, read the Koran, Many families gather together for Iftar. The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr, also known as the lesser Eid.

Lesser EId/Eid Sghir - Sept 10th, 2010/Shawwaal 1
The three day holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan takes place on the first three days of the Islamic month, Shawwaal. People greet each other with 'Eid Mubrak" (Blessed Eid) and eat a small, sweet breakfast to signify that they are not fasting. There is also an eid prayer performed and gathering of family for meals, and children often receive small gifts.

Green March/Eid Al Masssira Al Khadra - Nov 6th
This holiday celebrates the Green March, a strategic mass demonstration in Tarfaya on Nov 6th, Nov 1975 that was organized by the Moroccan government to force Spain to relinquish their claim to the disputed Western Sahara. The Western Sahara continues to be a point of contest today, but that is a story for another time. The color green is meant to symbolize Islam. Numerous flags and banners of the Moroccan flags are hung and children often make related crafts in school.

The Greater Eid/Eid Kbir - Nov 16th, 2010/Dhu al-Hjjah 10
Celebration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God and God's grace in giving him a lamb to sacrifice in his son's place. To commemorate the act, lambs are traditionally slaughtered and eaten by families who gather on this day. The lamb is separated in to three shares, one for the family, one for relatives, friends, and neighbors, and the final third for the poor. The is also a specific prayer for this Eid. I wasn't with my home stay family for this holiday, as I was traveling in Turkey, which is another story for another time.

Independence Day/Eid Al Istiqulal - Nov 18th
Celebrates Morocco gaining it's independence from France in 1956.

Fatih Muharram - Dec 7th, 2010/Muharram 1
First day of the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Muharram. Public workers receive the day off, as do students. Family usually gathers together for a large meal.

Ashura - Dec 16th, 2010/Muharram 10
Ashura marks the death of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). While this holiday is primarily observed by Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims (Morocco has a Sunni majority) also observe this holiday, but their observations can be fairly different. On Ashura in Morocco, firecrackers are traditionally lit and some people have bonfires, children traditionally receive small gifts.

New Year's Day - Jan 1st
Proclamation of Independence - Jan 11th
Mawlid ("Birth of Prophet Muhammad") - Feb 26th (Sunni), 2010/Rabi' al-Awwal 12
Labor Day - May 1st
Enthronement - Jul 30th
Oued Ed-Dahab Day - Aug 14th
Revolution of the King and the People - Aug 20th
Youth Day - Aug 21st


The Life I'm Living

So I very recently (aka 15mins ago) realized that I have blogged about a lot of the events I've experienced in Morocco, but I have failed to say anything about my daily routine. And while many of us wish there would be something new and exciting going on everyday, but there is usually a lot average repetition that falls between adventures. Although, that is not to say that every day isn't an adventure in its own way. As much as I like the thrill of somewhere or something new, I will always appreciate simple days and the simple pleasures they bring. (Like hearing an old favorite song and having all the lyrics come rushing back.) So, for your reading pleasure, I present, a day in my life, Moroccan version.

Well, what would studying abroad be without classes? Just abroad. Arabic is at 8:30am M/W/F, so that means that I'm up sometime between 7-7:30am if Abdulhaq is picking up myself and my roommate and taking us, along w/ his home stay student, from our home stays in Temara to our school in Rabat (which is about a 30 min drive as long as we don't hit traffic). On days when he works, I get up by 7am and catch a bus to school, which takes about an hour. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I don't have class until 10:30am, depending on the day I get a ride at 8am to school or catch a bus later on. If I go early on I go for coffee in one of the cafes near the school and work on homework or blog. But back to my morning at home. I run through my morning routine, if I take a shower I'm usually kindly scolded for having wet hair (Moroccans believe you will get a cold if you have wet hair all day, they generally shower in the evenings) or not having enough warm clothes on, or anything that might mean I won't remain warm and dry all day. After getting dressed etc, I say "sabbah khr" (good morning) to everyone and go into the kitchen for breakfast. There is always our regular homemade flat bread (khobz in Arabic) rounds sitting out w/ jam, margarine and cheese, then there is usually a variety of other bready things that might pop up milwi or beghrir (1000 hole pancakes that are eaten w/ a honey/butter mixture poured on top) to name a couple. Of course, there is always sweet green tea sitting in a teapot set out w/ lots of glasses. Since there are so many people who live at my home stay (9 adults, 5 kids, myself and my roomie, plus whoever is staying over) the food is set out for breakfast and we all sit down when we can. I'm usually in a hurry in the morning, so I immediately pour some tea so it can cool down while I eat my bread w/ cheese, then gulp down my still almost too hot tea before running out the door.

After classes, there is usually a group of the students that goes for coffee or lunch depending on the time. I usually go to the gym I joined, sometimes w/ a couple of the other girls, and workout for an hour before grabbing a bite to eat. Our most frequented place to grab a bite is California, and I think they've learned most of our orders. After lunch it's either back to class, hang out at a cafe, or back home. Back home for me is usually another hour long bus ride. The buses are actually pretty adventurous, you never know what condition the bus will be in or how many people will be on the bus you want to take.

Once I'm home, I great everyone that is in the living room and kitchen w/ a "salam, la bas, etc" (Morocco greetings can be quite lengthy, but it is usually dependent on how long it's been since you've seen each other, more on that later) and a kiss on each cheek (always for women, only for male family members or close friends, and a handshake for any other males). I am then told to go into the kitchen and "kol" (eat). Upon my arrival in the kitchen Hafida (who is always in the kitchen cooking) heats up whatever the family had for lunch since they usually eat before I get home. After lunch/dinner I've developed a habit of eating 2-3 tangerines, they're delicious. After some homework/whatever, the family has tea in the big living room along w/ some more bread around 7. Occasionally we have harira (delicious Moroccan soup) or some other kind of light meal around 8-9pm. At either of these meals I chill w/ the fam for a bit (which is usually snuggle up w/ the ladies of the household since its been cold lately), which is my most relaxing, peaceful part of my day, chat a little, watch Moroccan soap operas or do some homework before going to my room for the night.

As boring as I might have made that seem, it really doesn't begin to describe the actual events of my days here. Instead, it is merely the regular occurrences upon which my days are framed.