Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ramadan Food

I know that "Ramadan food" might sound like an oxymoron, but there is a lot of eating involved in celebrating Ramadan. First, there are a lot of people who aren't supposed to fast during the day, such as children, the sick, the elderly, women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating, non-Muslims, people who are traveling long distances or doing serious manual labor, and so on.

People, like my host family, who observe Ramadan will get up before dawn to have breakfast, and then fast until seven in the evening, when they'll break the fast by eating dates and having tea and snacks while they prepare dinner. During the day they're supposed to be doing a total fast, meaning that they'll give up not just eating and drinking, but looking at, thinking about, and doing and saying sinful things. As my host mother during Pre-Service Training noted, Ramadan is much harder than the Catholic tradition of Lent. (I wasn't really sure how to go about explaining that I don't do Lent either, so I just agreed with her.)

Ramadan started while I was in Dakar, but it's a pretty big city and aside from a few things (cab drivers charging more and being less agreeable, witnessing a late afternoon fistfight in a roundabout, lots of Ramadan-related advertisements for dates and coffee and things) it was easy to forget that Ramadan was happening.

There were more people out praying then usual, especially on Friday, which is traditionally the day that everyone wears nicer clothes, and the men and the older women go to the mosque for afternoon prayers. On the first Friday of Ramadan we were walking over to the French Cultural Center at prayer time, and the streets were echoing with the megaphones broadcasting the call to prayer and impressively crowded with people praying or heading to the mosque to pray. I'm not sure why so many people were praying in the streets - maybe there isn't enough space in the mosques? Maybe people run out of time and it's more convenient?

Photo Credit:

In any case, today I'm going to go over to the Kédougou market to buy snacks, a bunch of dates as a seriche gift for my host family, and some gresil. I'm not sure what gresil is but everyone tells me that if you sprinkle it around the outside of your hut it repels snakes. (Side note: Last month I saw a couple snakes in my hut. They didn't hang around and they weren't black mambas or anything, but I'm going to get the gresil anyway.)

Tomorrow (after I go to the post office and hopefully finally finally the guy who has the keys to the cabinet where they keep all the packages will be there and I will be able to pick up my birthday mail) I'll be heading back to Salémata. 


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