Dried Moroccan fruits and dates in particular are not only key staples in Moroccan cuisine, they have a rich cultural and historical significance that goes back many thousands of years.
As early as 6,000 BC there is evidence to suggest that the date palm was cultivated and harvested in North Africa and the Middle East not only for its sweet and delicious fruit. As well as the nutritional benefits of the date palm, rope, lumber and other household items could be crafted from this important staple.
Within a religious context, the date palm carries significance in the holy Qur’aan and is particularly important in the religious month of Ramadan in the Muslim world. In this month of fasting, dates are often the first food to be eaten as the evenings fast is broken.
In the ancient square of Jemaa al-Fnaa you will discover an outstanding array of dates and dried fruits. As you explore the labyrinths which are the souk districts, there can be no better to keep yourself energised than by snacking on this sacred delicacy.
On my walk from the Riad Dar Habiba to the red city’s central square I pass this date salesmen almost every day. I buy a small bag of dates a few times a week for only a few Dirham’s and it provides a great opportunity for me to practice my Darija Arabic!
During your stay in Morocco, sampling some of these delicious fruits for yourself is something you cannot afford to miss!
As the holy fasting month of Ramadan draws to a close in the world of Islam, the red city of Marrakech comes alive as vibrant religious festivities for Eid go underway.
Eid celebrations are split into two parts, ‘Eid al-Fitr’ (festival of the breaking of the fast) which is followed by ‘Eid as-Adha’ (festival of sacrifice). There are some differences that mark the two unique occasions, Eid al-Fitr is also sometimes called ‘the sugar feast’ as traditionally women often come together to prepare a collection of sweet, delicious delicacies of which the family can enjoy as a whole.
Eis as-Adha on the other hand is a four day long festival which some households choose to celebrate with the slaughtering of a sheep or a cow. The spirit of charity and love runs sincerely through both of these religious occasions as family gatherings take place in homes and on the streets of the red city. Food is evenly distributed between family, friends and those less fortunate and many attend special prayer rituals throughout the Mosque’s of Marrakech.
During this enchanting time of the year, do not be surprised if the electric atmosphere of Marrakech comes directly to your door! The local boys of Rue Derb Jdid, next to the Riad Dar Habiba spend the afternoons of Eid making music together and passers by stop to absorb the scene as the sound of drums and singing fills the night air.
As the Islamic calender is lunar, the exact time of the celebrations change every year. However many Marrakshi would advise that you try and plan your trip to coincide with this ancient festival. Especially towards the evenings as families and friends pour onto the streets, the atmosphere from the new-town of Guiliez through to the heart of the Marrakech Medina makes this time a truly remarkable event to be a part of.
Commonly clutched in the weathered hands of the older population of Morocco, the Tasbih (pictured) is the highly significant beaded prayer string of the Muslim population. According to the Prophet, these enable all that follow the Islamic religion to pray, give thanks to Allah and acquire a heavenly place in the after life equally, regardless of wealth or status.
Consisting of 99 equally sized beads plus one extra larger bead (‘tassel’) that connects the loop together, followers of the religion, while in prayer, pass the beads through their fingers repeating the mantra Subhan’Allah (Glory be to Allah), Alhamduillah (Praise be to Allah) and Allahuakbar (Allah is the Greatest) 33 times and a further Allahuakbar on the final 100th slightly larger connecting bead which concludes the prayer.
Found all around the Marrakshi medina’s shops and riads from the boutique souks to the makeshift salesmen selling their wonderfully diverse possessions on the side of the road, the Tasbih is typically made of inexpensive wood or different stones allows all Muslims access to this right of passage. Some however are lavishly carved from ivory, pearls and tortoiseshell with associated spiraling costs, but more seen in the wealthier Gulf countries.
Physically present less so these days however, the Tasbih is being replaced by the 3 digits on each right handed finger of the increasingly westernised Moroccan youth, which are used instead to keep count of these 100 holy utterances. The respect and understanding of the ritual however, as with the majority of Islamic practices, is still highly regarded and truly cherished by all that follow the religion.
Passionately informed from the worldly managers of the riads of Marrakech-riad, The Tasbih pictured, although not having the correct number of beads, spells out the word Allah in classical Arabic, which always seems to bring a moment of tranquility and energy for those who encounter this name.
Steeped in culture, tradition and generous personalities, Marrakech offers visitors a deep learning and wonderfully welcoming experience shared by the beautifully tranquil and relaxing riads of this great city.