Four or five ripe tomatoes, one large white sweet onion, a couple of potatoes. Not a recipe, but the ingredients and contents of each clear plastic bag suspended from every passing moped and ancient bicycle. It’s the holy season of Ramadan, in Marrakech, June 2016. The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, a full month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad, according to Islamic belief.
I am aware of this, but particularly because during the early hours we are snapped awake, bolt upright in our comfortable luxurious Riad in the centre of the Medina, as Call to Prayer begins its stereophonic blast of wailing, rhythmic prayer. It’s all encompassing, heightened by the heat, the sweet waft of the night-scented plants on the patio outside the window, and the location.
Those aforementioned ingredients, idly noticed as I sit alone, sweating under the gentle spray of a water-mist in a café, recovering from the Souk-haggling, the street madness, and the Tanneries (don’t do it!). Stan has disappeared in search of some drawing material, and I am served water by a courteous man, no doubt dry with thirst himself – no water shall be taken during fasting hours – that one thing as essential as SPF to us in this dry 43° heat. It puts my Sober October effort of last year well and truly in the shade.
Far from a few simple ingredients, those suspended bags hold the promise of a setting yellow sun, an evening with family, the return of good humour and Jemaa el fna square buzzing with laughter and life. The little bag that holds a hint of the end of 16 hours of fasting, but first the mosque for prayers, then the party starts…