Shopping in the last week of Ramadan

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Fruit and vegetable souk, Fez, Morocco

During Ramadan, after a morning of closed shop doors and empty souks, shoppers turn out in force for a few short hours each afternoon.

They must make their purchases in good time to be home when the cannon fires and it’s time to break the fast. It’s not all fruits, veggies and meats, though. For the past several weeks, enormous quantities of packaged smoothies and other sweetened drinks have also been available from the kiosks that dot the souks.

Tetra-Pak mountains front skinny refrigerators packed with chilled beverages, and compete with pedestrians in the narrow streets. Rows of the boxes climb the walls behind piles of peppers and carrots. Their contents don’t have the wow factor of the famous Moroccan yogurt and juice drinks I’ve enjoyed here, but some, like the avocado milkshakes, are quite tasty.

In the New City, the instant soups at Marjane supermarket were rearranged last week to showcase harira. Clearly, not everyone enjoys a solid month of homemade soup to break the fast, so these have come in handy—I confess to buying a couple of soup packets myself, to ward off panic when the medina souks are closed. They’re ok, but definitely improve when pumped up with extra vermicelli and a meatball or two.

With just a week of Ramadan to go, stocks of dates are somewhat depleted, at least the fancy sort, in boxes. Sales are on now, to move those that remain on supermarket shelves. Quite a difference scene from the shoulder-high stacks of imported dates on this spot just few frenzied weeks ago.

Restaurants have been closed during the day since the beginning of August, and those that open at all, offer limited evening service. Tables at normally busy cafés are pushed together, service suspended. I look forward to having familiar coffee bars, neighborhood restaurants and food stalls back in business at mid-day, welcoming customers for luncheon and tea breaks.

After the Tetra-Pak heaps are gone and the freezers in the souk turned on again, it will be a treat to stop by a kiosk for a Magnum (double caramel, please). It’s still summer, after all!

The slower pace of medina life will continue until August 30 and the celebration of Eid Al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan.

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