To be honest, this week has sprinted away on me and now it’s Friday.
Friday is a quiet day in the Islamic world, a bit like Sunday in Western culture; it’s a big day of prayers which is traditionally finished with cous cous shared with family and neighbours. Most shops are closed and the streets are quiet.
Over the past few weeks with Ramadan underway, Friday’s have been different. The mosques are still closed in Morocco under new lockdown laws, which means people are praying at home. The usual afternoon clanging of pots heard from neighbouring flats has paused during Ramadan, and the race to prepare a huge Friday afternoon cous cous is absent. I have to say, I miss the smell of cous cous wafting out of each dwelling late on Friday afternoon as I chug up to my flat in the ancient lift.
Today marks the final Friday in the month of Ramadan, with Eid ul Fitr (the festival which marks the end of the month long fast) set to take place in Morocco on Sunday. Unlike the Gregorian calendar observed by the West, the Islamic calendar is lunar and based on the moon, and the final day of Ramadan marks the first day of the 10th Islamic month, Shawwal.
The final day of Ramadan, Eid ul Fitr (meaning Festival of the breaking of the fast), is not dissimilar to Christmas Day. Families travel for miles and gather together to break the month long fast. Babies are handed around, cheeks are pinched, grandparents, aunts and uncles meet nieces and nephews and grandchildren, presents are given, and a huge feast is prepared. It is a beautiful time, and one that is set to be quite different this year.
Due to our current lockdown, which was extended on Wednesday for a further three weeks, travel is not possible and large gatherings are forbidden. This will ease on June the 10th, two weeks after the end of this holy month and almost three months to the day since the borders to Morocco closed and the lockdown was enforced.
When I spoke to a friend during the week, he remarked that this year had been a ‘quieter’ Ramadan, with just he and his wife and their baby boy celebrating the daily l’ftour together (the daily breaking of the fast, marked by the dusk prayer). No family, neighbours and friends dropping in and no evening promenade along the streets under twinkling lights and the Ramadan moon.
In many ways, he added, it has been a much ‘easier’ month of fasting, with the pressure taken off each household to feed many mouths and entertain grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. It’s been a simple affair, which has taken Ramadan back to it’s original form. A simple fast with those around you.
As with most things, we had seen the world begin to move at such a rapid pace as the speed of the Twenty First Century took its grip. Religious festivals and special days had become completely commercialised and an opportunity for money to be made. I go almost mad at Christmas when I suddenly realise that I should send a note to everyone I love with a present to match. Where do we draw the line? Godchildren, nephews, neighbours, friends, family…
Has this unforeseen global situation put an end to all of this?
The most important thing for many people is family and friends, and the way in which we celebrate them has changed completely, definitely for the short term and maybe longer.
Last week, we welcomed a new little man into our family – Charlie James, a second son for my sister Edwina and her husband, Tim. The child is huge and healthy and, as always when a sister is carrying a baby, I was relieved and excited to hear of his safe arrival.
One thing that will never change, is the happiness that a newborn child brings to a family.
Charlie has entered into a new world, and when he goes off to school and then grows up to be a man, he will hear from his parents and teachers about the world as it was, and how it changed quite dramatically during the year that he was born.
If we take away the awfulness that is the sadness families will have inevitably felt losing someone they love at the hands of this strange virus, many of the changes that we’ve seen as a result of the global lockdown, are positive and for the greater good.
As we edge towards opening up again slowly, we will be more cautious and considered in our approach to most situations. And, the simple things that we may have once taken for granted – such as meal with friends or a first meeting with a grandchild, will be all the more special.
Yesterday, following a meeting with the weavers where I inspected the first batch for madeintangier.com.au I walked home with a friend who has been nothing but helpful during the early days of my new business. He is always at the end of the phone willing to answer questions about numbers, and he translates my ridiculous queries into Moroccan Arabic. Once I’d taken receipt of the first order, huge and exciting, he offered to carry a bundle of Jibli napkins up the hill for me.
As we approached my street, a group of boys stepped across the road carrying their grandmother atop a plastic cafe chair. My friend raced ahead with sixty Jibli table napkins (new range, blue and white striped and finished with 36 white pom-poms) slung over his shoulder as he pulled their car door open and helped grandma inside.
A flurry of ‘thank you my brother, peace be upon you, and upon you, and upon you, thanks to my God’ followed, before they parted ways.
As I took over the sixty blue and white striped table napkins finished with a total of 36 pom-poms, after farewelling my friend, I hopped into the lift in my building with a smile spread across my face.
No matter how much things have changed and as we adapt to a new way of living and I celebrate a new nephew; one thing baby Charlie and all of us will always appreciate, is kindness. It is abundant these days, and no amount of locking down and slowing down will take away the two things I so value.
Good humour and kindness.
Pictured: a table full of fresh flowers from the market with ‘that’ blue and white striped Jibli napkin finished with 36 pom-poms.