Saturday, September 15, 2007

Air-raid sirens and all-night parties

Well, we’re definitely not in Kansas any more. Ramadan has just started and Marrakech is transformed. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, which appears to be 4.30am to 7.30pm, and do you want to know how I know exactly when the fast starts and stops? The siren. It would seem that among the blessings of our home’s location, we can count our remarkable proximity to the siren that goes off during (or right before or after) the call to prayer at what seems to me to be a rather ungodly hour of the morning and then a more civilised hour in the evening. It sounds like an air raid siren and it is very, very, VERY loud. Perhaps I will feel less kindly to being woken up so early in the morning as Ramadan progresses, but right now it gives me a tremendous sense of excitement and am I am very aware of living in a foreign country.

I don’t particularly want to go into an exegesis on my (mixed) opinion of Islam (although the fact that I live in a Muslim country can at least indicate that I feel no particular antipathy towards the religion, even if I wouldn’t choose to move to Iran) – apart from anything else I know that at least two of my readers are in a professional position to give a far more informed sketch of the relationship between Islam and society – but sometimes Islam’s sheer exoticism is both alluring and exciting. I don’t mean theologically, but the trappings of the religion can be so beautiful and dramatic, with stunning architecture in mosques and medersas, music that can take your breath away sometimes, such as the Friday afternoon call to prayer from the Koutoubia mosque whiche lies close to our house and a sense of national piety which, while it is a little difficult for me to accept sometimes (I am agnostic), rather puts modern Catholicism (my own culture) in the shade.

Lent seems a little… limp in comparison to the complete fast (no food, drink or cigarettes) that goes on here, from which only children, the elderly and ill, pilots and presumably medical staff are excused, although in fairness to Catholics, the minute the sun sets they don’t all hit the streets and party until the morning, which is apparently what happens here. We were wondering about how people fuel themselves for the day, and innocently asked Moulaid if people get up briefly at 4.30am to have a huge breakfast and then go back to sleep and she laughed and told us no, when the morning siren goes off, people go home and go to bed – they will have been partying for many many hours by then, and will not emerge until very late in the morning, which explains the ghostly desertion of the streets yesterday morning.

Well, Ramadan or not, it is my lunchtime, so I leave you to go for a rummage in the fridge.

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