Thursday, September 18, 2008
Azrou, (rhymes with a-chew (sneeze) with a zr) a city of 25,000+ people at the foothills of the Atlas mtns in a national park area. There’s the medina, the old city where the tightly packed shops are, and the newer area with lots of house and apt construction where we are staying, at the Auberge du dernier lion de l’atlas. It’s a 4-storey dorm-style hotel with shared baths; a cafeteria style dining room in basement, sitting room and conference room on ground, 1st & 2nd floor bedrooms (ours is a 4-person w/no closets); the top floor has the multiple toilet stall & shower stall area, and then a huge outdoor terrace area where there’s always a breeze, and always several people’s laundry hanging. The pictures are from there, as we’ve been asked not to take pictures around town during Ramadan, esp of the few people who are out and about during the day. For one month, Sept, all Muslims over the age of puberty practice fasting and abstinence. Well, not quite a fast… they’re not allowed to eat or drink anything, even water, during daylight. After the call to prayer about 6 pm, sunset, they have a break-fast or tea, bread, fruit, seasonal vegetables or soup. Between 11 and midnight, they have their dinner – a large meal which includes spicy meat or fish, hot vegetables, couscous, tea, pastry. (They nap between these meals) They have a small snack about 4:30 a.m. before morning prayers (5:30 or so) followed by the day of fasting. Our hotel serves us at the normal times – 8 am breakfast, 12:30 lunch, 6:45 dinner, even though the staff observes Ramadan themselves. At the end of Sept they return to normal working/eating hours. Right now, during Ramadan, the cafes and restaurants are closed during the day, so you can’t stroll around and get a good cup of coffee/pastry at a boulangerie. Most of the shops don’t open til afternoon, or even evening, so shopping’s a challenge. French is understood everywhere, which is helpful as our Darija (Moroccan Arabic) is very limited.
Every day has been clear and sunny, hot in the sun and in our stuffy conference room, but cool in the evening, with breezes most of the time. Very dry. We’re being introduced to Moroccan food, though the real thing will happen this weekend, as we leave for our study sites, to live with host families and study language, on Sat. We will find out Friday where we’re headed.