23 July 2014

Morocco: Dates, Harira Top Moroccan Tables in Ramadan

Photo: Mohammed Nur/IRIN
Ramadan was the month when the first verses of the Koran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The sighting of the new moon at the end of Ramadan heralds the celebration of Eid ul-Fitr, which breaks the fasting (file photo).

Casablanca — As Ramadan draws to a close in Morocco, consumers are stocking up on holy month essentials.

Derb Mina in the middle of Casablanca is one of the markets specialised in selling dates, a vital commodity in breaking the fast.

"It is a market that specialises in offering the finest and the most expensive dates, local dates coming from the oases of the towns of Ouarzazate and Zagora, which are both known to produce the finest dates that are in high demand, especially in Ramadan," one trader told Magharebia.

Magharebia met up with shopper Lalla Aicha, in her fifties. "I come here every weekend to shop and meet my needs in terms of dates. There are dates that satisfy all tastes. Prices also are very reasonable and affordable to all social segments," she said.

By the same token, another customer we met at the market said: "Dates are an important item and must be present at the breakfast table. We break the fast by eating dates and drinking water, as did our ancestors and our parents."

Not far from Derb Mina and amid the popular markets of Derb Sultan in Casablanca, a variety of chebakia were offered. Known as halwa in Morocco, it's prepared with a mixture of flour and almonds, honey and sesame seeds.

Allal Soltani, a chebakia seller, displayed his product in an orderly manner. He showed great vitality in answering questions from shoppers in an effort to convince them of the quality of his products.

"Ramadan for us vendors of chebakia is very important because it is an opportunity for recovery through offering a product that can only be sold in Ramadan," he said. "The offer as you can see is large and chebakia is shown in all its forms and colours, including with almonds priced at 80 dirhams. There are also the regular ones with cocoa and sesame seeds, which do not exceed 30 dirhams. We offer good and affordable products."

His friend Hamid El Ouerka sells all the ingredients for harira in a shop next-door. He said many Moroccans prefer to have the soup on their tables for breaking the fast.

"Demand in the first week of Ramadan was great and an opportunity for us to further profit compared with the rest of the months of the year during which displayed products know modest growth if not recession in some months," El Ouerka said.

The historical place of Bab Marrakech in Casablanca every Ramadan turns into an open market to display foods and Moroccan delights that adorn the tables of fasters. Women offer Moroccan breads like msamen and baghrir, while others present Ramadanesque sweets.

After breaking the fast, Moroccans head to mosques for tarawih prayers. Hassan II Mosque sees a large turnout by citizens to pray behind Al-Qazabri. He recites the Qur'an in a manner that makes newcomers increase by the day.

In the area of Hay al-Hassani, Casablancans race after breaking the fast to the Olfa mosque for tarawih prayers behind Mohamed Alaarawi, a young reciter with a beautiful voice.

"Praise be to God, there is large turnout for citizens to pray tarawih behind me," the imam told Magharebia. "Alleys and routes surrounding the mosque are packed to capacity. Men, women, and children are coming to perform the tarawih prayers in reverence, and thank the lord who made me an incentive to the advent of these people to the mosque. I hope Allah accepts our fasting and our prayer, O lord of the worlds."

After tarawih and due to the summer heat, Casablanca residents go to the corniche and cafes, while children go out to play. Things continue in a festive atmosphere until late at night, when citizens return home to eat suhour in preparation for another day of fasting.

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