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Ramadan, the moon, and Iftoor

July 27, 2013

For those in tune to the religious beliefs of the rest of the world, you already know that it’s the Holiest month of Ramadan right now. The north of Madagascar is home to most of the island’s Muslim population, and while there are both Sunni and Shiite Muslims here, there is a Malagasy flair to the way they dress, pray, and eat.

I was lucky enough to spend most of Ramadan in Tajikistan a couple years ago with my wonderful coworkers there, who made sure to invite myself and the other interns to Iftoors, or fast breaking meals at the end of each day. These invitations gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside being invited to share in such special meals at such a special time. The same warm invitations have been given to me in Madagascar, and I get to witness again the fascinating way that culture and religion meld to create unique traditions.

In Tajikistan osht, candies, grapes, watermelon, apricots, and tea were what made up most Iftoor meals. While on a home stay with a family in a small village, our Iftoor meal was fresh milk, kurtob (fresh yogurt mixed with cucumbers, tomatoes, and herbs), pickled onions, tea, and a huge wheel of flatbread. The Iftoor we interns prepared for our friends before our departure had an American flair- omelets were featured prevalently at our break-fast.

Here in Madagascar we mikuftoor. The matriarch of my family unit is Muslim, and has been inviting to their Iftoors recently. Though Madagascar is a rice eating culture, osht is not a dish found at the end of fasts here. Instead cassava root, taro, fried flat bread, and bananas, and herbal tea is featured. Sweet and filling though the meal maybe, sitting on a mat with my neighbors and sharing such a special time of the year with them is sweeter still.

Another special treat this time of the year is the moon- its light is bright enough to confuse the roosters and its light rivals the dawn on my early morning runs. The gentle light is a wonderful way to start the day after the morning call the prayer sounds to start of the day, and the start of fasting. As I walk back to my yard from Iftoor the moon and stars peek out, and the sounds of Ramadan songs ring out on the radio. Were I to close my eyes I could be anywhere in the world, under any sky, and in these quiet moments I like to savor the purer side of religion, the side that unites and gives people traditions, times of year to gather around and celebrate together, however that may be.

Saayeid Ramadan to all!

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