The Lovin’ Spoonful hit from the 60s could’ve been referring to Fez in August, with its sunny, hot and dry days. In the afternoon, a desert wind billows sand through open windows and rooftop halkas, and temperatures have climbed above 40 degrees Celcius (104 Fahrenheit) several days running. Today the mercury hit 44C (111F).
A Ramadan summer presents special challenges. Fasting means no drinking between sunup and sunset, and I’ve not spotted a single Moroccan hitting his or water bottle. If I wore a hat, I’d doff it to the women and men who keep their cool through summertime Ramadan, so that I can enjoy the results.
Donkeys, the medina’s delivery wagons, don’t complain of the heat, and neither do their drivers. This chap had just unloaded a heavy load of tiles, cement, and lime and still, he smiled for the camera. He’s also wearing a long-sleeved jacket and looks cool as a cucumber.
Warka, a filo-like pastry, is in high demand for the fancy dishes of Ramadan. After kneading the dough until it’s paper-thin, the maker throws a sheet of it over a hot iron “egg” to cook for just seconds. She repeats this process hundreds, if not thousands, of times each day, working quickly to meet demand during reduced business hours. The white tiles look deceptively cool. Those warka griddles are really hot, for flash cooking.
Bakers may be just about the toughest folks in town. They work feverishly, stoking and feeding wood-fired ovens throughout the hottest part of the day. Traditional homes do not have ovens. Housewives use their neighborhood bakery to cook main dishes as well as bread and traipse loaded casseroles and trays of worked dough through the streets for cooking to order.
In the heat of the day, vendors in the souks douse each other with spritzes of cooling water, and kids take aim from behind the vegetable bins. If I decide to join them, I now know where to pick up a spray bottle in stylish blue.