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Tomorrow is juma' and I want to buy a new taqiyyah (prayer cap) and a pair of yellow babouche (soft leather slippers) to wear to the mosque. Look at the beautiful selection of taqiyyahs for sale on that eucalyptus tree! In Morocco, these beautifully crafted prayer caps are knitted only by men. The yellow leather babouches are also made by men. Moroccan leather is of an excellent quality. Inside our homes and outside, we all wear heelless slippers. The yellow kind is the most popular and many are sold on market day.
Al-Hamdulillah, everything is for sale in the market today! Can you see my father's majdoul dates and my aunt's Berber carpet? The large earthenware pots are hand-made gidrahs, traditionally made for cooking couscous. Local spices and herbal medicines are also sold. The green powder you can see is fjenna'which when mixed with water is used to paint semi-permanent designs on women's hands, palms and feet. It also dyes the hair a reddish colour. Berber villagers sell fresh eggs, chickens, fresh vegetables and all kinds of cereals and seeds. The market is full of wonderful sights and sounds!
With the hundreds of pack animals that arrive on market day, blacksmiths are always very busy fitting horseshoes. For some villagers this is the only opportunity to buy "new shoes" for their animals!
The pine forests of the High Atlas Mountains produce a superb honey that we use as a medicine. My friend Nuh weaves beehive baskets. Today he is very happy because he has sold many. My father is also very pleased. He has sold all his dates so I now have a beautiful new taqiyyah and a new pair of babouche, AlHamdulillah.
Al-Hamdulillah, it is the Holy Month of Ramadhan! Ramadan Karim, as we say in Arabic! All Muslims have waited eleven long months to welcome the most special of months. As Allah says in the Holy Qur'an: "The month of Ramadhan in which the Qur'an was revealed".
Ramadhan this year is in winter. Each day at sunset we walk at a brisk pace to our mosque where we meet for breaking the fast. As the muezzin calls Muslims to prayer, we break our fast with dates and zamzam water which my uncle brought all the way from Holy Makkah last hajj. After al-maghreb prayer, we walk home and enjoy a light' iftar of hard-boiled eggs with cumin seed powder, freshly-squeezed orange juice and lots of hot whole wheat flat bread eaten with hearty harirah soup made of chick peas, lentils, celery, tomatoes and meat broth.
Taraweeh prayers are recited after every salat al-'eisha during Ramadhan. During the last ten days, however, the muezzin places a large brass lantern atop the minaret. The light, visible to all in the valley, is a reminder of the importance of this blessed month the importance of these last days of Ramadhan when we are all seeking the bounteous blessings of lailatal-qadr, the night which the Qur'an says is "better than a thousand months".
Al-Hamdulillah, in the evening our mosque fills with worshippers who stay until morning prayers; our mosque rings with the beautiful recitation of Allah's Word. We have a very beautiful tajweed (style of recitation) that is unique to Morocco. As children we learn this when we study and memorize the Qur'an. Fathers, uncles, cousins and nephews, grandfathers and grandsons all sit in haiaqaat or "circles" and recite Allah's Book and then pray.May Allah the Almighty accept our intention, our fasting, our good deeds, and all our 'ibadah and dua's!
This Ramadhan, a stork's nest adorns our minaret. Storks migrate from Europe each year to winter with us in Morocco. The muezzin says there are two eggs in the nest. Insha Allah, they will hatch before or during "Eid al-Fitr!"
I have studied the Holy Qur'an with other village children here in our mosque. Mosques in Morocco are quite plain on the inside. Walls are white-washed and the floor and columns are covered with beautifully hand-woven reed matting. Woolen carpets are rarely used in traditional Moroccan mosques. Special ustadhs, or master weavers, produce these mats in villages in the lowlands where the reeds grow. Do you see the unique Arabic inscription painted on the wall? This is a very famous example of Maghrebi calligraphy written by the khattat al-Qandusi more than 150 years ago. A village calligrapher copied the words "Allah" and "Muhammad" in black paint.
I love our mosque. It is bait Allah as well as being bait alhikmah, a "House of Wisdom". We study Islamic sciences: tafseer, fiqh, hadeeth, seerah and mantiq in the traditional way. Our teacher sits on the wooden kursi which faces the qiblah wall. This kursi is hundreds of years old, as old as the mosque's minbar.
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