Sunday, March 9, 2014


Moroccan bread in a traditional bread basket (tbug)

This is the first in a series of posts on Moroccan customs and traditions as they have affected this writer, an American living in Tangiers. This compilation does not claim to be exhaustive, definitive or accurate for all Moroccans. My informant is my Moroccan American husband, who grew up in the 50’s in a traditional family in Kenitra. That said, all of these customs are still being practiced. Following them is meant to keep you out of harm’s way and bring you Baraka, good luck. I welcome your comments on the similarities with American customs. Whatever your practices, I hope that they bring you great Baraka.

Saving Bread

In my husband’s family, no bread was ever thrown out and children were expected to finish the bread they tore off the round loaves on the table. To waste bread was “Haram” or sinful. My husband’s mother also taught him to pick up any piece of bread he saw discarded on the street, kiss it and put it in a safe place. In my neighborhood in Tangiers, we save all the stale bread on a window sill. Periodically, an elderly man collects it and sells it as animal fodder. In markets, you can see big bags of this bread being sold.

Slaughtering a Sheep

In Tangiers, it is customary to slaughter a sheep after each floor of a house (la dalle) is built. In any case, that’s what the construction workers told us. Our two story house with a basement equals three sheep. We didn’t have to provide the barbecue, we just gave the meat to the construction workers. While we waited for the top floor to be built, we kept the last sheep as a natural lawn mower. Hercules, the sheep grew enormously fat on the lawn, which consisted mainly of wild spinach or mallow (bakula). (The gardener had made a mistake with the grass he planted, a long story for another post.) In any case, by the time the holidays (Eid) were approaching, my husband’s nephew decided that Hercules would go to his family in Casablanca, not the workmen in Tangiers. However, Hercules would not fit in his Volkswagen. So, the workmen ended up eating the sheep after all. Unfortunately, Hercules was an old sheep by then and the meat was very tough. It broke my husband’s bridge and that was the end of the natural lawn mowers.

Moroccan Bakoula, or common mallow
Saying Grace before a Meal:

Before each meal, my husband’s father said: “Bismillah” (Praise be to God.) That was the signal to dig into the food. This was an eagerly awaited signal for the children in my husband’s large family. At the end of the meal, his father said: “Alhamdullilah” (Thanks be to God.) Also, at the end of every meal, his father turned to his mother and said: “Latek Sa’ha”-(May God reward you with good health) and he would specifically praise the dish she had prepared. This custom worked for my husband’s parents, who stayed happily married for 75 years. At home in Tangiers, my husband does the same. So far, so good.

Feeding Everyone on Fridays

In Kenitra, my husband’s mother would provide couscous to anyone who knocked at the door around lunchtime on Fridays. (On Friday, the Holy Day, couscous is usually served after midday prayers at the Mosque.) In Tangiers, we always provide a copious couscous to any and all visitors to the house on Fridays. When you are building a house, you feed a lot of workmen. After couscous, it is customary to served tea in a glass. (The glass is so you can see if the tea is properly brewed. Otherwise, you throw it back in the pot for a bit. You always throw the first glass back in the pot.)

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