Ramadan Traditions in Tunis

The second week of the hoStreet Scenely Muslim month of Ramadan continues this week here in Tunis and it has been wonderful participating in and observing the traditions of the month. From the delicious dishes that families serve for iftaar, the meal that breaks the long day of fasting, to the late night celebrations in cafes and restaurants across the city, it is a special time to be in Tunis.

Families gather every evening to break their day of fasting irrespective of whether some members or even the entire family is not observing the ritual of fasting. The tradition of assembling around a table topped with a variety of carefully prepared dishes remains unchanged. Of these dishes, including dates, soup, couscous, and a special Tunisian tagine, my favorite is the brik, which is a deep-fried dough pocket that is filled with a mix of eggs, potatoes, and tuna. Understandably, it is an incredibly filling pastry!

After breaking their meal together, most Tunisian families gather to watch one or several of the at least eight Tunisian sitcoms (musalsalat) that primarily air here during the month of Ramadan. Outside the month of Ramadan, the Tunisian television channels air sitcoms imported from Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey, so this month is a special time to watch sitcoms produced in Tunisia and performed in the Tunisian dialect. One of the most popular sitcoms, titled Awlad Muffida or “The Sons of Muffida,” focuses on the challenges facing a working class family. It stars some of the most popular young Tunisian actors and includes a variety of romantic storylines, which might explain its tremendous popularity here. While families are enjoying their dinners and watching the sitcoms, the streets of Tunis are probably the quietest you will ever find them, soon after, however, Tunisians begin joining their friends and families in cafes and restaurants all across the city.

It is amazing finding yourself in a traffic jam at 11:00 pm, but that seems to be the beginning of the evening for most people. Cafes and restaurants extend seating into the streets and alleys to accommodate the many people visiting with friends and family over dessert and tea while playing cards or enjoying street concerts into the early hours of the morning.

Until next time,
Hoda El-Ghazaly, Arabic Track 2017

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