Sweet traditions of the family 'ftour'

 Sweet traditions of the family ftour
The popular Harira tomato soup is the signature dish of their cuisine and a must-have for any Moroccan.

Sharjah - They have special rituals at Iftar time, gathering around the table to hug each other and pray before the Adhan call.


Afkar Ali Ahmed


Amira Agarib

Published: Sat 3 Jun 2017, 9:15 PM

Last updated: Sat 3 Jun 2017, 11:19 PM

Ramadan for this Moroccan family resident in Sharjah is not just about food and drink, it's a much awaited period during which seek to forgiveness for transgressions, purify the soul, refocus on spiritual practices, and help the poor and needy.
They have special rituals at Iftar time, gathering around the table to hug each other and pray before the Adhan call. As part of the family tradition, they also make sure that all members of the extended family, friends and relatives get together at least four times during the holy month. "We make a big feast every other day and invite all our friends - even those from other nationalities - and relatives over," said 58-year-old Mohia Mahjouba.
Her family consists of three daughters and a son. Of her daughters, Ibtisam and Sara live in Sharjah, and Mohia is the one who came all the way from Morocco to spend the holy month in the company of her children here. The daughters have lived in the UAE for a while, but practice all their original Moroccan traditions and cook ethnic delicacies in order to feel like they are back home. 
For instance, "we don't call it ?'Iftar' but 'ftour' in Morocco. During Ramadan, we consume a light meal, and the dishes are all easy on the stomach, nourishing yet filling, along with a variety of breads and toppings and plenty of sweets," says Mohia. This particular Iftar we sampled at their home consisted of Harira soup; sweet chebakia cookies; small semolina griddle breads; filo pastry triangles stuffed with fresh cheese (briouats bil jben), chilled cucumber and orange juice with oregano, m'hanncha (the popular 'snake cake' dessert), Moroccan tea biscuits and stuffed dates. Quite a mouth watering spread.
"All these dishes are served daily and are considered the cornerstone of a traditional ftour for us," 'Khala' (aunty) Mohia said. When the cannon is fired to announce the ending of the fast, they take three sips of water, followed by dates and then the main dishes are eaten.
The popular Harira tomato soup is the signature dish of their cuisine and a must-have for any Moroccan, but the method of preparation may vary. Some make it spicy with black pepper, others use cinnamon, caraway, ginger, or cumin in addition to the common ingredients of tomatoes, legumes (mostly chickpeas or lentils), and some lamb or beef on the bone to flavour the broth. 
The dates and dried figs are ?always served with a bowl of harira along with chebakia, flower-shaped cookies soaked in honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds. "Sweets are an important part of the social aspect of Ramadan and the ftour meal, and each family makes sure to have plenty around to offer those who stop by to visit," Khala Mohia explains.
After the soup comes a variety of breads such as msemen and rghayif (layered flatbreads cooked in a skillet like Indian parathas); puffed, pita bread-like rounds called batbout, sometimes made with cornmeal. There are bowls of olives and others of hard-boiled eggs, which are peeled and then dipped in ground cumin or black pepper. Thanks to the geographical location of Morocco, fish also features plentifully on their menus, usually sardines from the Atlantic coast.
After the Iftar, water is served, along with coffee, juice, milk and smoothies, which can be paired with other fresh herbs such as marjoram, sage, wormwood, and lemon verbena in the tea. This marks the end of the meal. 
Sarah, assigned by her mother to make the sweets and desserts every day, said that she liked her task, and especially loves making the Moroccan tea biscuits known as fekkas. Her other favourites are the m'hanncha cake and stuffed dates, often with a homemade almond paste, ensuring these are always on the table. 
After Iftar and before the Taraweeh prayers, Moroccans socialise with friends and families at home or in cafés. The evening ends with a late dinner, a meal, which includes a lamb or chicken tagine and a selection of salads. The morning suhoor before sunrise,consists of yoghurt or milk, croissants and plenty of water in preparation for the next day.
Khala Mohia noted that Moroccans have a special celebration for Lilat Al Qadr, which falls on the 27the day of Ramadan. On this night, the extended family gets together and children offer gifts to their parents and grandparents. These are usually traditional Moroccan clothes (Kaftan, Jlaba, Charbil, and Balgha) or money. "Every night of Ramadan, families also burn the bakhour (incense) to keep the house nicely fragrant. The fragrances can last for few days, especially if the bakhour is of high quality," she signs off.

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