Ramadan is a test and an internal struggle against our bad habits. It means to abstain completely from foods, drinks, intimate intercourse and smoking ,before the break of the dawn till sunset during the entire month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. Ramadan in Algeria, of course, is sacred and a precious month. It is precious by the moments shared with the family for Iftar (break fasting)around a table that is too much garnished with varied food such as; chorba (soup),bourak (stuffed bricks), zlabiya (pan cake that is fried and plunged into honey) and kelb-ellouz (cake made from semolina, almonds and honey) the best accompaniments of a good green tea with mint…Above all , Ramadan is the “master chef” of mothers, who compete with the preparation of the heartiest dishes and the most ancestral recipes.
The auspicious month of Ramadan is greatly welcomed here in Algeria where past customs have been practiced for generations. This month symbolizes enjoyment and happiness and a great opportunity for repentance and worship.
Algerians differ in the way they prepare for and celebrate the Holy month of Ramadan. Most people, however, make it an occasion of family unity, service to society and supporting one another.
Religious practice, like fasting during the day and praying during the night, is common weeks before Ramadan. For women, however, the preparations are not strictly religious; setting up the house to receive guests during the month – a tradition for decades – is a must.
Before Ramadan, women take the responsibility of cleaning the house. Some women go to the extreme of totally making over the whole house; refurbishing and painting.
Algerian women usually buy new cooking utensils, which will be used in cooking the heavy meals and big banquets, and purchase new dishes.
“I am used to preparing for the holy month of Ramadan by first cleaning the house, then taking care of household matters and buying all new for the kitchen, especially dishes,” says Sajiyya, a housewife in her late thirties.
But it is not only her home that Sajiyya takes care of.
“My family also helps me in washing the carpets and the mats of the district mosque. We volunteer.”
Such preparations for Ramadan – taking care of mosques – are considered first and foremost spiritual; however, cleaning mosques is also the responsibility of the state during Ramadan.
The Algerian people wait for Ramadan with a great deal of anticipation. Ramadan is set apart from all the other months to the extent that over there it is given the “honourable title of ‘Sidna Ramadan‘”. Sidna meaning our owner or master.
As regards meals consumed by the Algerians during the month of Ramadan, Chorba (soup), bourek (a kind of samosa) and salad are the basic requirements, along with a ‘jew-ez’ which is a stew type of dish, and ‘laham lahalou’ which translates into ‘sweet meat’ and consists of prunes, sultanas, apricots cooked in a syrup along with meat, although a lot of people nowadays dispense with the meat altogether. Then there is the ‘kalb el louz’ (heart of the almond) which is an almond based sponge like cake steeped in syrup, and ‘zalabia’ (Jalebi) which is flour based batter deep fried in rings and dripping in syrup.
In Algeria, Coriander, mint and sparsely are the main product of the Algerian cuisine and essential ingredients for bourak and chorba which is considered the main entrance to a Ramadan meal. Thus, young children take the opportunity of selling it during this holy month.
Breaking fast, cooking at home, choice of food and other traditions…
Following the prophet’s tradition of breaking the fast, in Algeria it is done with milk and dates, then once Maghreb (sunset) prayer is over, the array of delectable food is served, where the family gathers and eats together.
After Tarawih (evening) prayer, families gather and enjoy green mint tea along with traditional delicacies, usually very rich in honey and nuts such as baklawa, ktayefs.
Other desserts that are usually had at this time include mhancha, zalabya, makroud, kalbellouz, halwet tourk, halkoum, just to name a few.
In Ramadan, Algeria becomes thousand and one night in the evening. Almost every evening after the Iftar, cultural and public events during Ramadan are organized, thus, breaking the monotony of the rest of the year. All the Algerian provinces vibrate the evenings of Ramadan through concerts, theater, cafes and malls until dawn.
During the last days of Ramadan, people in Algeria get prepared for the festive day of Eid Al Fitr, which is one of the annual festivals celebrated by Muslims. This joyous day is intended to serve as a sign of gratitude by the Muslims on the accomplishment of Ramadan and as an immediate reward by Allah for those who spent the month of Ramadan in fasting and performing other forms of ritual worship, Muslimvillage reported.
During the last week, Algerians buy new clothes, accessories for themselves, their families as well as their religion’s brothers who are poor and less fortunate. Besides, they prepare sweets to please children.