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{RAMADAN READY SERIES #7} Ramadan in Algeria

The air is changing, Ramadan is near!

بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

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Today is our 7th installment of a series of posts {Ramadan Ready}. There ‘a lot of things going on here these days, with only  days until we welcome Ramadan. 

If you've just joined for the installment of our Ramadan Ready series, you know we've talked about everything from what is Ramadan to how to prepare for Ramadan. I shared with you my Ramadan cleaning, menu planning, and shopping tips. So today we'll continue with the actual cooking part.

Ramadan  is an opportunity to think about what this month to millions of people is not only the month of piety and reflection on the many blessings we have received from our Lord.  It is a time to appreciate our blessing that may be with unimaginable Sisters and Brothers living elsewhere. Allah has granted some or maybe even many of material bounties, strong healthy bodies, sound minds, expansive comfortable homes, halal work, riba-free ownership, ability to worship our deen in peace without fear of attack, intrusion, ridicule or brigandage. We should never take these blessings for granted. For as they were given, they can be taken away.

We prepped, cleaned and decorated not only our homes but hearts in preparation for this holy month. Ramadan one of the five pillars of Islam (other than the profession faith, prayer, almsgiving, pilgrimage) Fasting is observed by the majority of the faithful in Islam. Ramadan is an institution deeply rooted in customs and culture of the country. Each Muslim has their own tradition of what they do during this month, including being generous, giving charity, religious study, attending extra prayers, abstaining from eating/drinking during the day but also martial relations, and any other acts that may be called luxe.

Ramadan in a Muslim country seems to have a special feeling. 
Algeria is no exception. Algerians have their own customs and traditions regarding what is done during the day and also during the breaking of the fast and later. And in fact, Ramadan in Algeria is a magical time of the year. The scent of Ramadan seems to permeate the air few days before it begins.  Maybe it's because Ramadan focuses our appreciation for our blessings like food and other material blessings, allowing us to experience at a personal level the reality of deprivation. Or maybe it's knowing most of the people around you are fasting .... or maybe the combination of jasmine, bourek and zlabia , I'm not sure.     

Much more than the month of remembrance, the Ramadan is that of cultural identity. On the TV screen, people eagerly await the call to prayer, announcing for all to break the fast. The TV begins broadcasts religious and verses from the Qu'ran and the call to prayer echoed in the city by a gun. Just after breaking the fast, these are songs or hymns, then a cascade of commercials running on almost all food products. Ramadan is the case of the official channel (TV A3 in which the audience broke all records in the month of Ramadan). Even families who never watch this channel break their boycott for the month of Ramadan. After comes a flood of ads (yogurt, soup, soft drinks, chocolate, butter, margarine, oil, cream, baking products, and canned vegetables) which only make the eyes more hungry.

During Ramadan, time seems to slow down in Algeria. People seem to be more calm and conscious of themselves. The busiest of streets become quite sleepy, people sleep, talk less and also seem to be much more cheerful. The collective athans seem to bellow in unison all throughout the town, alerting worshipers all come to heed Allah's call. People are much more thankful and forgiving. 

In the morning, the streets are empty and the neighbourhoods quiet. It's time for the reading of the Quran, doing charitable works, make dkhir and even appreciate the silence.  Tthere is no impetus for waking up early for many (unless they work). Not a soul is out and about early in the morning or that half an hour before the athan. 

Shops open later and closer earlie. Some do reopen after iftar Those who do the shopping are often in rush having to make their way through crowds and long lines. As afternoon rolls by, you can expect some to have blank stares, spacing out especially during the first week.  Chapped lips, dizziness, crankiness, bad breath and dry mouth are signs of the body forming ketones.  So try to be compassionate.  Fasting is different for everyone. For some it's qute easier while others extremely difficult. We love and forgive them anyway. 

Late in the afternoon as it nears maghrib you see men rushing from to come home in time to pick up a baguette, box of Qalb el louz or that last minute bottle of lemon cherbet. Children play fasting or running around screaming "Fater fater" meaning  'you ate, you ate!'

Housewives are busy spending long hours before Ramadan, planning what to cook, cleaning their homes in preparation for welcoming Ramadan, us Muslims most honoured guest. Women often spend half the day in the kitchen preparing the special Iftar, breaking of the fast meal. For many larger families, feeding the whole lot isn't a small task. But she can turn her hard work into an act of worship if she dedicates her work for the sake of pleasing her Lord. Some go all out, creating lavish tables adorned with the most delicate dishes, while others prefer more simple meals. But that key moment of the day when the athan sounds and you take that first sip of water or bite of that date, the soul is replenished and enchAllah we have pleased our Lord.

The Ramadan month is a time of great piety who, despite all the incentives to work and focus on our daily lives, many can or not want to to cope with the pace of work schedules so many are shortened to allow households to partake in reading of Allah's book and prepare the table for  break fasting.

Children running frantically when they hear the boom of the athan through the loudspeaker alerting everyone it's time to break the fast. the moment the family sits around the table after the call to prayer of Maghrib, the indolence of the day fades away to fervently religious for some and eating for others.

The magical irony of Ramadan is that while it's the time of the year to give food and drink (among other things) many consume more food during Ramadan than in any other months. In The demand for staples such as milk, sugar, flour and eggs increase. Unfortunately, prices do as well.  The shoppes cater to this frenzy as well.  But honestly, it is hard to resist the deliciousness that Algeria has to offer.

The streets come alive at night during Ramadan following the breaking of the fast at sunset so you will probably find the streets quite empty for an hour or so following this time, but not long afterwards they will come alive. Peoplare are rushing off to the Tarawee prayers, doing their shopping or visiting family and friends. Soireé tables are filled to the brim with fruit, nuts, Halva Turc, Qalb el louz, Besboussa, Zlabia and mint tea. 

The table at the the month of Ramadan brings together practitioners and non-practitioners alike for the really a reasons of worship and nostalgia. Ramadan recalls the past, as in the Qur'anic verse requiring fasting for all...

Muslims: O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was for those before you. May you be pious! The Cow 183.
Is Ramadanesque on this table that can be interpreted as a cultural sign? Or better yet: what are the elements common to dishes of Ramadan in Algeria?

Vague reconstruction all the delights of this table for all you out to visually imagine is ... Some elements are prized and omnipresent part of the Ramadan table. everyone breaks the fast with a cool glass of water, or one or more of these: Prophetic date water, date milk, cow milk, camel milk, l'ben and of course dates. These will never fail to appear on the table (to perpetuate the Prophetic tradition). Whether the family is wealthy or poor, having an elobrate or simple iftar Chourba (soup) is always present on the table. The best is the oldest, that is to say oldest known soup is Chourba m'katfa  from the area of Alger, Chourba Beïda, Chourba Frik or Djari in the east and Harira in the western regions. Homemade country bread cooked on a tabouna (that has been eaten since 3000 years ago in Algeria and the Maghreb) accomanpies the soup, along with a few bourek cigars that are made a paper-thin pastry called diouel. Decorated green salads and Hmiss refresh the palate before eating the main dish like Tadjine Zeitoun M'thouem, Dolma or Chtitha L'ham. Fruit or yoghurt usually finishes off the meal before worships head off to the Tarwee prayers. But upon their return, the tables are once again decorated with sweets of all delights like Qalb el louz, Besboussa, Khoubz el Bey, Zlabia, Khoubz Tounis, Qatayef, MaqroutTamina  Samsa, flan, M'halbi and French fruit tarts.

While traditions are important, let's translate the heightened focus in Ramadan more on Allah and, and our appreciation for HIS blessings into heightened levels of servitude to HIM and service to our fellow Sisters and Brothers and all the creations of Allah in general. If we can do that as an entire Ummah, with ample conviction, EnchAllah HE will continue to shower HIS blessings upon us. So I wish everyone a blessed Ramadan!

If you missed any part of this Ramadan Ready Series, you can easily look at what we've covered by clicking the lunks below.

{RAMADAN READY SERIES #2} What does Ramadan look like?

{RAMADAN SERIES #3} How to Prepare for Ramadan

{RAMADAN READY series #4} Ramadan Cleaning

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