Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The real Hunger Games

These last couple of weeks, my wife has been over visiting in Europe. During her time, she wanted to travel and check out some more 'culture' in countries such as Istanbul, Morocco and Portugal. So I jumped online and and booked a couple of tickets to Casablanca in Morocco. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were quite cheap and I didn't think anything of it at the time...

We arrived in Casablanca two days ago and discovered that it is Ramadan. This is a period of the Islamic calendar when Muslims worldwide observe a month of fasting. During the hours between sunrise and sunset, Muslims do not eat, drink (not even water), smoke or engage in sexual relations.  In some interpretations, other behaviours that can be perceived as sinful are also given up. This includes swearing, arguing and even procrastination!

As a result of Ramadan, almost all cafés, restaurants and shops are closed all morning and only open in the afternoon. The streets feel deserted. Our hotel just happens to be in the older, more traditional area of the city so there are no supermarkets and shops. This has made getting food to eat extremely difficult. 

On our first day here, we struggled. Walking around in the blazing sun just made us thirsty and when we did find a small stall, we didn't want to offend anyone by eating and drinking in the open so we would wait until we found a more discrete location. After sunset, we found the closest restaurant and ate a three course meal! 

Today, we decided to see if we could fast ourselves and go without food. If the Muslim people can do it for a month, surely we could do it for a day. And even if I couldn't do it, it's okay because people with diabetes are exempt from Ramadan. I have a get out of jail free card. 

We had a plan... Firstly, sleep in for as long as possible to give us a good head start on the day light hours. Secondly, we allowed ourselves to drink water. There is no way I could walk around in the sun and not hydrate! Last of all, we had to keep ourselves occupied so that we wouldn't be thinking about food.

We decided to walk to the beach which was around 10km from our hotel. At first, this was a great idea but as we got closer, there were more shops for tourists and more fast food chains like McDonalds selling Ramadan children's meals.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't want a cheeseburger. But when I thought about it, I didn't want one because I was hungry. I wanted one because it was there and I knew I would like the taste. This happened a number of times as we passed cafés and restaurants at beach resorts. It made me realise just how much we eat purely because it is available to us and not because we actually need it. 

I went most of the day without any problems. At around 4:30pm, 19hrs since we ate dinner, I got hungry. I was starting to feel a little light headed if I stood up too quickly so bought a couple of pastries from a shop. By the time we got out? The hunger was gone so we soldiered on and took the pastries back to the hotel. At 6:30pm, 21hrs since dinner, I got very hungry and caved. The pastries were right there in front of me, just asking for it. 

On reflection, I realise that I eat a lot of pointless stuff out of boredom rather than necessity. Tomorrow we will have another go at Ramadan. Maybe a pre-sunrise meal will get us through the day instead of only eating once every 24hrs. Today we saw a lot of other tourists eating and realise that we can too, but 'When in Rome', as they say.

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