Religious ceremonies in Morocco – Part 1

Morocco is predominantly Muslim and has five main religious ceremonies that Moroccans treasure and celebrate in different ways in a joyful atmosphere reigned by religion and traditions.

The first religious ceremony is the longest as it lasts one whole month: Ramadan. The month of Ramadan holds in its folders many sacred events and beliefs as well as practices. It is considered to be the holiest month in Islam because of the many sacred events that happen during this time. The main characteristic of this month is that Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. In Morocco, work hours change and people work from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Therefore, if you are visiting Morocco during Ramadan and would like to do some shopping, it is advised to do it after 10a.m. and before 4p.m. or in the evening after 8p.m. As for restaurants, most of them are closed all day and open only after sunset. As a non-Muslim foreigner, it is advised you do not eat in public while in Morocco during Ramadan as this may be seen as rude. If you are in a big city like Rabat or Casablanca, fast-food eateries like Mac Donald’s are always open and it is acceptable to go and eat there.

At sunset, Moroccans break their fast with milk, dates, a soup called Harira, and plenty of sweet cookies such as Chbakia only found during Ramadan. Sunset coincides with the fourth daily prayer for Muslims. As a result, men go to the mosques to pray. Do not be surprised to see more men going to the mosque than women. In Islam, women do not need to go to the mosque to pray. In general, more people go to the mosque during Ramadan as this month is believed to be the month of redemption when all sins are forgiven. In Morocco, shops stay closed until the sunset prayer is over. At around 10:30p.m., Moroccan families have dinner. This will not be the last meal for most families and might be followed by another meal eaten right before dawn called S’hour.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The 27th night of the month is a sacred one; little girls wear traditional gowns and make up just like little brides and go with their parents on the street. It is a very beautiful spectacle and some families organize small ceremonies at home. This year, 2006, Ramadan will take be taking place from around 26 September to 24 October.

The second religious holiday is Fatih Moharram, which is the first day of the first month Moharram of the Islamic calendar. There are two days holidays for the celebration of the New Hijri year. The actual Hijri year is 1427. Families prepare traditional food for the occasion such as lam3assal, a very delicious meal made sweetmeats and almonds. You can tell your Moroccan friends “Eid Mubarak”, which means happy holidays. You can also use the expression for other holidays as well.

Watch out for Part 2 of ‘Religious ceremonies in Morocco’ next week!