In Morocco, many people tend to fast ahead of Ramadan in order to
prepare themselves physically, mentally and spiritually for the month.
Once Ramadan starts, the pace of life changes, with daily business activities slowing down, leading to quiet, almost deserted streets during the day - to be followed by a bustle of people shopping before Iftar and festivities after Iftar. By midnight the streets are often more crowded than at any other time of the day.
Moroccans usually fill their houses with flowers in Ramadan, and burn incense in the evening in anticipation of visits by relatives and friends. Housewives spend longer hours preparing for the highly anticipated Ramadan culinary specialties for Iftar. These include the hearty harira soup, one of the typical Moroccan starters for Iftar, which consists of lentil and tomatoes, along with hard-boiled eggs, dates, milkshakes and fresh juice. Depending on a family’s income, Iftar often reaches feast-like proportions, with extended family members and friends invited to enjoy the special meal.
Children are not required to fast in Ramadan till they are close to puberty at around 10 or 12. The first time a child fasts is a cause for celebration for most Moroccan families. Girls, in particular, are given a special festive ceremony at Iftar, following their first day of fasting. They are seated at the table dressed in their best traditional clothes, given a special drink based on a freshly beaten egg to break their fast and have their hands dyed with henna.
A distinctive feature of a Moroccan Iftar is green tea flavoured with fresh mint. This has become a celebrated ritual, with the head of a family taking pride in preparing the brew in the most exquisite manner to show of respect to his guests. Since tea was introduced to Morocco a couple of centuries ago, it has grown in popularity to become the national drink of preference, with a wide variety of brews mixed with herbs and spices. In Ramadan, green tea with mint is a favourite due to its digestive qualities.
Ramadan is also characterised by large Iftar dinners organised by charity organisations and subsidised by the government in support of the less fortunate members of society.
Sweets occupy a prominent place in Ramadan in Morocco, whether at Iftar or in social gatherings after Iftar, with seasonal specialties including sesame-based cookies shebekia, sellou, and a wide variety of other pastries.