Muslims from several African countries including Cameroon, Tanzania, Djibouti, Kenya, Morocco, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Chad, Ivory Coast, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana , Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo and Uganda began their annual observance of the holy month of Ramadan on or about April 3. this date. They abstain from eating, drinking and smoking from dawn to dusk.
Among Muslims, Ramadan revives the sense of community and strengthens bonds and friendships when people gather in mosques or observe Ramadan rituals.
The customs and traditions of African countries vary and various dishes and appetizers are prepared. Each African country has its own unique customs, which are part of the culture of the people and create their own characteristics.
In general, African Muslims exchange congratulations on the arrival of the holy month. Muslim-majority towns are decorated with colorful fabrics and the occasion is celebrated in a festive atmosphere.
The reception of Ramadan in Africa starts from the middle of the month of Shaaban, (before the month of Ramadan). Muslims are beginning to prepare for the month of Ramadan by decorating mosques, streets and shops with lamps and lights, as well as beginning family visits in preparation for the holy month.
For example, in Cameroon, children celebrate the month of fasting in the middle of it, not at the beginning, by wearing traditional clothes, walking around houses collecting sweets and money, and then cheering the announcement of Laylat al-Qadr (Estimated Night), as well as the launch of fireworks to celebrate Ramadan in front of Sultan Square.
Beating drums to celebrate Ramadan is one of the favorite traditions of African countries. Drums are also used to wake up fasting Muslims and sing Islamic songs that urge everyone to fast.
In some African countries, Muslims and non-Muslims come together for iftar. Some churches welcome Muslims at the time of iftar (a meal is taken just after the Maghreb prayer at sunset to break the fast).
As in Arab countries, dates are a staple dish on the Ramadan table. Sambousa, Hatees, Tharid, cabbage cooked with tomatoes and onions, lamb meat, rice cooked in coconut which is usually served with fish or chicken are also some of the favorite Ramadan dishes.
African Muslims break their fast with family members and friends at sunset. Among African countries, Morocco is the one that offers colorful Ramadan cuisine.
Morocco’s cities are quieter during the days of Ramadan as locals choose to spend the fasting days relaxed at home, but they come alive at night.
Morocco has its own unique Ramadan cuisine. In Morocco, only two meals are main, namely the Lftour (i.e. iftar) and the Suhoor (a meal eaten early in the morning before the Fajr prayer). During Lftour in Suhoor, many different foods and drinks are served. For Suhoor, some people prefer to have a light meal but Lftour is a rich meal where many kinds of breads, pastries, dates and cold drinks are served.
Moroccan specialties such as Harira soup, dates, figs and milk are served daily and are considered the cornerstone of a traditional iftar.
Tea is one of the foods usually served at family gatherings with Sellu (Zmita) or Shebakia, one of the most artistic manifestations of Moroccan cuisine. Mlawi, Msaman, Batbout, Harsha and Baghrir are all different types of bread served at Ramadan tables.
Moroccan Muslims also like to serve chicken, lamb, beef or fish tagines, others prefer Moroccan barbecues with shermoula and salads. Freshly squeezed orange juice is popular, however, for heavier smoothie type juices, other fruits such as strawberries, peaches, apples, mangoes and papayas are usually added. Milk juices with dates, almonds or bananas are also very common.
Moroccan women spend considerable hours in the heat of the kitchen furnishing the Lftour table with whatever pleases the eye.
Moroccan families stay up late during Ramadan and after the Taraweeh prayers, a series of prayers performed collectively just after the obligatory Isha prayer.
Traditionally, there is one person whose job it is to wake people up at Suhoor time to make sure no one skips this essential meal. Locally called in the Amazigh language Adouab, the man whose main job is to guard the gate of Ighrem (small village) is also responsible for waking people up at Suhoor time during Ramadan. Bou Damdoum in Amazigh or D’kak in Moroccan Arabic, (the drummer), uses his drums or N’ffar (a longhorn that makes a hum) in some Moroccan cities, along with rhyming lyrics to ensure that everyone in the neighborhood enjoys their delicious Suhoor meal.
Ramadan is a religious occasion for Muslims to increase their faith and draw closer to God.
Fasting is prescribed in the second surah of the Quran: “O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it has been prescribed for generations before you. Perhaps you will fear God” (Surah 2, verse 183).