Egypt vs. Morocco series, part 2: Ramadan futuur and iftar

July 19, 2011

Egypt, Morocco, Photos

Middle-East-Ramadan-lanterns
Middle-East-Ramadan-lanterns

Ramadan lanterns by B. Simpson

This entry is in my journal, written while I lived in Morocco and dated Oct.10th.2009

*Background info – Sukeina’s family is high-class, originally from Fes, but stayed in a residence in Ifrane close to campus during Ramadan, just so they could be together in such special time. This “data” might be important as to customs and traditions do vary across the country*

And it was time for iftar (breaking of the fast)! Because Muslims fast all day, restraining from all food, water, juice, cigarettes, sex, etc., they must have a lighter meal before actual dinner. This is what’s called futuur. I noticed that most “items” are extremely sweet: Apple milk (w/ much sugar in it); shubakia (pretzel-like, dipped in honey-like syrup and dotted with sesame seeds); dates; etc. There were many more, but I don’t remember the names. Additionally, some non-sweets are served: Eggs and the essential harira (tomato-based soup with garbanzos and sometimes rice). It was very shocking to me to see how different futuur was in Morocco, as all I remember eating at futuur in Egypt was dates and dinner was devoured about 5 minutes after. My experience in Morocco, though, was that you eat many sweets, in addition to some other salty items such as soup and hard-boiled eggs, before actual dinner takes place 2-3 hours later. I thought this was very interesting, as I wasn’t expecting such a stark difference on this Ramadan tradition.

Some of my observations during futuur in Morocco

* The family had two maids who prepared basically everything, except for a few pastries I saw the mother make. Then, we all sat on the table, while the 2 maids had futuur in the kitchen, not with us. In Egypt however, I always had iftar (“breaking of the fast”) outdoors, in big long tables that stretched for meters and meters, so my experience was quite different. I loved it. I think I was so lucky to get to experience Ramadan in such different ways

Middle-East-Iftar-Ramadan-in-Cairo

Iftar in Cairo, Egypt by Otto J. Simon

* Once we sat down and started eating, everything was a “joke.” That is, about me. The father would NOT stop making fun of me. Mostly I didn’t even understand, as my roommate was laughing too hard to be able to speak or remember everything word-by-word (by the time she stopped laughing). In many countries, this would be considered rude, but I took it for what it was: It’s not meant to make me feel bad, but welcomed (weird, I know). People have made fun of my antics for the longest time, so I’m used to it anyway. By the end of the meal, the father even told me he would have to charge me for the meal because I ate so much (and I’ll get into that on my next point). However, after each joke they would “remind” me that it is part of Moroccans to joke while eating (?). Egyptians had a great sense of humor too, but I don’t ever remember them making jokes like that at all during a meal! Not that it was bad or anything, I secretly enjoyed all the “attention” or so to speak, it was simply…wonderfully different =)

* All the mother would really tell me during the meal was kuli (eat). That’s all she would say. She would hold the “item” in front of me until I would grab it from her hand. I was almost stuffed to death. LOL. I was SO full by the end of it I thought I would explode. I mean, literally. I’ve NEVER been so full in my entire life. Oh my Lord. I need to know how I can tell a Moroccan family that I’m full without offending!

* Although futuur was like 90% sweets, you still get “dessert” after you are done. You’ll eat your eggs, harira, and Ramadan sweets altogether; still, afterward, you’ll get another “course” that consists of mainly nuts (almonds and pistachios) and nut “dishes” (such as silu, one of my favorites! It is roasted flour and nuts mixed with sweet herbs, butter and sugar). Add to that yet another course of drinks: Mint tea or coffee (with tooons of sugar). I wonder what the diabetes rate in this population is?!

Moroccan futuur

Moroccan futuur by mak, Flikr

Observations during dinner

* About 2-3 hours after futuur, legit dinner was served. I say legit because I can’t think of any other word for it. It was huge. Like previously stated, in Egypt you simply have dates for futuur, then dinner is basically “pushed” together and in 5 mins. you”ll be eating all your meats and big meal and whatnot. But this Moroccan banquet just didn’t compare. It was out of proportions. As a food lover, I thought this was awesome. however, it also made me think: “Hmm, do Moroccans actually have such a sumptuous iftar or are they doing this simply because I am a guest?” Ahhh, I guess the mystery will remain unsolved! Unless you got some insider info I don’t have *psst, psst–comment!*

* Everything was communal. The main dish was on a huge bowl, put in the center of the table for everyone to eat from. Plates were not really given to us, except for tiny ones used mostly to put bones or the like. Also, utensils were barely used. Even meat was cut with your bare hands/fingers (!). It reminded me of a dinner I had with an Indian family while I lived in Egypt, tale which I shall share with you on my personal website soon *wink*

* Dinner consisted of several courses. Meat came first, broiled or grilled. It was not that seasoned–a small bowl of a very strong cumin/salt mix was offered instead (the meat is then dipped in it). Otherwise, the meat was more on the bland side (personal opinion). After being stuffed with meat (lol), the infamous Moroccan tagine followed. It was even moooooore meat! But this one, of course, was eaten with utensils or bread; it varies. However, mostly bread was used, while one big knife was left on the plate for everyone to use. This changed the 2nd time I had dinner with them: The tagine consisted of small balls of kefta (ground beef), rather than shanks of lamb or a full chicken, so only bread and tiny spoons were provided.

* After the meat round…even MORE dessert! But this time, served in “3 courses.” First, small plates of roasted almonds/pistachios or some salu (it depends), followed by a “second course” consisting of tea and coffee (just like after futuur). Then, it all ended with a HUGE (I mean HUGE!) plate of fruits from which, once again, everyone ate from “communally.”

* Aaaand OF course, the joking NEVER stopped…! That’s what I get for speaking Egyptian Arabic, when Egypt happens to be the mecca (aka “Eastern Hollywood”) of comedy films and just comedy in general to Moroccan households (and the rest of the Arab world for that matter). Go figure!

So those were some highlights from my Moroccan iftars! Wonderful people, just like Egyptians (and woot, that even rhymed). Stay tuned for more stories!

Have you visited Egypt and Morocco? What differences did you notice?

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