Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ramadan au Maroc

I'd originally been planning on going back to Morocco in September, once it was cooler and NOT in the middle of Ramadan, but because of a random string of events, I ended up having to go to last week, only a few days after returning from the US.

I was a bit panicky before I left, thinking about the hot weather and worried where I would find food & water during the day. You see, my earlier days of traveling in France for work have left me quite paranoid about finding food/drinks at lunch.  Many of my customers are located in the middle of nowhere, and in the early days of visiting them, I had no clue where the closest restaurant/supermarket/boulangerie was located.  So I would spend my lunch break driving from village to village in a radius of 20km around my customer, only to find ghost towns.  Or grocery stores that were closed from 12-3pm.  Or bakeries that only sold baguettes & croissants and nothing else. And then I'd be left starving until my hotel restaurant opened up at 7:30pm.  Now of course after years of traveling, I have my repères, but the old habit of always keeping a bottle of water and some snacks in the car has stuck with me.

But I don't have that for Morocco, and even more so because I have a driver, so it's not like I can go toodling around on my own looking for food.  And my customer is about 20min from the nearest village (and 1.5hrs from the nearest big city), so I decided to pack some dried fruit & protein bars & water just in case.  It's a good thing I did too, because when I got there, they were like "Umm...we got you some water, but we can't really get you anything for lunch this week..."   So it's safe to say that this trip did not have the culinary experiences of trips past.

Although my driver did offer to buy me some figues de barbarie (cactus fruit), after I asked what all of those men were selling at the side of the road.
It ended up being a bit awkward actually because they bought me about eight of them, and then the seller cut them up with his nasty knife that he kept wiping on his pants.
So I sat there, watching him carve up fruit after fruit and then dump the into a plastic bag that came from who knows where. 
And then they offered it to me, and they were like "Eat, eat".  I was like "No, I don't want to eat in front of you, it wouldn't be fair - I'll eat them later at the hotel".  But they insisted, so I gingerly grabbed one and it was actually not too bad, minus the super crunchy seeds in the middle.  And then they insisted I eat a second one, so I did, all the while saying a silent prayer that I wouldn't end up with la tourista that evening.

It was hot though. I'm talking 115°F hot. I can't even imagine not being able to drink anything in that kind of weather for 15h+.  My driver and I had about 3hrs of driving to do together per day, so we spent a lot of time chatting.  He explained that this Ramadan was one of the most difficult ones because it fell in July/August when the temps were hottest and the days were longest. Most people only experience a Ramadan like this year's twice in their life, because the dates move by ten days every year and it takes 30 years for it to cycle through one 12 month calendar year.

I asked him how he got through without drinking anything from 4am to 7:30pm, and he said the body just gets used to it after a week or so.  (To be honest though, there were a few times I was worried he was going to pass out while driving...but luckily they had given him a car with AC this time, so at least that helped). 

That night, I went down for dinner at the hotel, only to see that the breakfast table was set up. Croissants, baguettes, jam, yogurt, juice - the whole works.  I was a little confused - I mean, I know they break the fast with sweet stuff, but I was thinking it was more so honey-filled pastries, etc.  But they had a full-on breakfast.  I guess it makes sense since for the body, it technically is breakfast time, but after a day of eating protein bars, I was looking forward to some real food.  I asked the waiter if it was possible to order some fish, and he replied "Non madame, the kitchen doesn't open until 10pm".  So bread & butter it was for me.

I asked my driver about it the next day, and he said that many people will have breakfast once the sun goes down and then "lunch" a few hours later.  He personally had a tajine every night at midnight.  And I was like "Wait a minute...if you are eating tajine at midnight and then leaving your house every morning at 3am to come get me, when do you sleep??"

I would say that would explain why he is always weaving around on the road and why he spends half the time in the lane of oncoming traffic, but I think that's just how he drives.  But I'm telling ya, watching an exhausted, dehydrated man text on his phone while passing in a no-passing zone and going around a curve....Well let's just say you either stare like a deer in headlights at the oncoming traffic or you close your eyes and pray you make it to your destination safely.  And then you try to smile when he pokes you in the arm and says "Je t' fait peur hein Samantha ?? Hahaha."

It's times like that where I think 1) I am happy my family cannot see me now cuz they would freak out and 2) I sure am a loonnng way from life in small-town Minnesota.

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Blogger Sarah said...

His driving sounds absolutely terrifying. Glad you made it back in one piece!

August 8, 2013 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

In Morocco now for Ramadan and it has been tough.

As for the driving, that is really TYPICAL every day Moroccan driving, Ramadan or not. You so described my husband driving when we are here in Morocco. :-(

August 8, 2013 at 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never lived through anything as scary as being driven around Cairo, which sounds very similar to your Moroccan experience (except that it wasn't Ramadan so my driver probably wasn't exhausted and dehydrated! It was July, so extremely hot, however.). It's absolutely astonishing to me that there aren't constant serious accidents and deaths the way they drive there! It made driving in rush hour traffic back home in Canada seem incredibly tame, though.

August 8, 2013 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger Sara Louise said...

You are definitely a LONG way from Minnesota!

August 9, 2013 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger oliviadog said...

Hi there, loved this post. I didn't remember that you are from MN. So am I, from Mankato. Where are you from?

August 10, 2013 at 11:45 AM  

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