Centuries-old traditions prevail as Moroccans celebrate Eid al-Fitr

Dressed in new clothes, children are often offered money during family gatherings.
Sunday 17/06/2018
Pastry shop at Derb Sultan district in Casablanca. (Saad Guerraoui)
Festive days. Pastry shop at Derb Sultan district in Casablanca. (Saad Guerraoui)

CASABLANCA - Moroccans marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan with prayers, feasting and family time.

After having breakfast, self-employed real estate agent Yahya Ahripo walked with his two children to the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca to perform Eid al-Fitr prayers.

“It is a privileged day in our calendar when we value family ties and traditions,” said Yahya, dressed in a handmade djellaba while his children wore ankle-length Arab robes.

Yahya returned home to indulge in home-made pastries along with mint tea with his family. He visited other family members in accordance with a centuries-old tradition and later headed to a local cafe to meet with friends before lunch.

Yahya’s timetable is a typical Eid day for most Moroccan men. Women tend to stay home to prepare special dishes for the occasion and receive visitors.

Dressed in new clothes, children are often offered money during family gatherings.

Preparations for Eid al-Fitr reached a climax the last four days of Ramadan. Moroccans scrambled to buy traditional outfits and clothes for their children and others travelled to spend it with relatives.

In Derb Sultan district in Casablanca, street vendors peddled traditional clothes, slippers and hats.

“We have to change our merchandise to cater for people’s needs in this special occasion,” said street vendor Mohammed, whose neatly displayed colourful slippers drew shoppers’ attention.

A stone’s throw from the Royal Palace, the shops in the historic Habous neighbourhood were packed with customers looking for traditional outfits for the Eid.

“It is our busiest time of the year. Moroccans are still loyal to keeping up with Eid traditions by wearing djellabas and slippers on this big occasion,” said shop owner Haj Ahmed.

Children’s clothing shops were busy as parents rushed to buy the best clothes they could afford.

Bakeries were packed with customers buying pastries to adorn their table and share them with their families during the Eid.

In the ancient medina, traditional ovens were crammed with pastry trays. Sweat poured over the oven worker’s forehead from the simmering heat of the wood-fired oven while he ensured the crispiness of the pastry, knowing that over-baking might spoil his customers’ Eid.

Zakat al-Fitr is an important religious part of the Eid. It is an obligatory act of solidarity with poor who receive an amount of wheat (as food) or equivalent money prior to Eid prayers.

While most Moroccans preserved the festive traditions, some took advantage of the holiday to travel to tourist cities, especially Marrakech, which offer attractive holiday deals, boosting local tourism. Others went to spend the Eid with their families. Demand for coaches dramatically increased in the last three days of Ramadan, pushing up ticket prices.

Eid al-Fitr is seen as a day of solidarity with and empathy for those with no relatives. Volunteers spend it in orphanages, homes for the elderly and hospitals to brighten the day for those in need of affection and a warm festive atmosphere.