Ramadan: a month of fasting from food, drink, and smoking from dawn until dusk. Incredibly difficult in its own right, Ramadan, or Wer Korr in Wolof, is made all the more so when living in Senegal because of the oppressive heat! In my family almost everyone fasts except for the young children and a few older cousins because it’s exam time.
Beginning at 5-ish in the morning those fasting eat their last food for the day and drink their last water. After the sun rises there is no eating or drinking until it sets again. It is supposed to be a month of reflection and prayer, in order to get closer to God.
While there is much to say about Ramadan, I’m just going to talk a little about the food my family eats for breaking the fast. And a little note about my brief period in Morocco during Ramadan!
Ndogou: breaking the fast
In the last little time before breaking the fast everyone springs to action. My mom and aunt having been cooking slowly all day, but now it’s almost time to eat! Young boys are sent to buy bags of ice. My cousin makes the bissap juice. Loaves of bread are cut into smaller lengths and set aside for sandwiches. Tea comes off the fire and we pass around a little cup of dates.
First we start with a date and a little bit of hot kenkiliba tea, to settle the stomach. Kenkiliba is a Bambara word for a large bush that grows in the rural areas of Senegal and other parts of West Africa. People buy large bundles of the branches and leaves and then boil it into a reddish-brown tea. It has a wonderful taste that’s hard to describe, but kinda fruity and earthy. My family adds a bunch of sugar and recently basil leaves – so GOOD!
Bundles of kenkiliba branches, sold at markets and by the roadside
Next we eat a breakfast-style sandwich with a larger cup of tea. The fillings change day by day – bean sauce or spaghetti or fish balls in onion sauce. After this small meal we sit and let it digest, while slowly drinking lots and lots of cold water. After a while they pass around cups of bissap juice, lightly flavored with mint.
Later in the evening, around 10 or 11 pm, we eat a bigger meal, basically what we’d normally eat for lunch. So cheb u jenn or mafe or yassa – rice with sauce. People spend a lot of the day napping so staying up so late isn’t too bad.
Then, at 5-ish in the morning everyone awakens to eat the last food before the sun rises and pack in as much water as possible. I haven’t actually gotten up this early so I don’t know what they eat! But then it’s back to sleep until a more normal hour.
When we were in Morocco we ate lots of a soup called harira – a spiced tomato-y soup with chickpeas, noodles, and some vegetables. It is so delicious and the first thing that Moroccan Muslims eat to break the fast. Walking around Fez or Chefchaouen right after sunset we saw many small groups of people sitting outside shops or at restaurants slurping bowls of steaming harira.
Thanks for reading guys!
FYI the first 3 pictures are not mine, the thing about eating during Ramadan is that it’s all after dark, which makes taking pictures difficult! Here are links for the kenkiliba and bissap photos.