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Nur ar-Ramadan

Southern Spain Tastes Islamic in Ramadan

By Al-Amin Andalusi, IOL Correspondent


Ramadan has a special Islamic taste in southern Spain where the scent of good old days of Islam is still fresh in the last bastions of Muslim Andalusia. Even Spaniards in that area enjoy different characteristics from the rest of the Spanish population.

The Baizin neighborhood in Granada, during Ramadan, is very similar to old neighborhoods in Damascus, Syria or Casablanca, Morocco. When one walks through its streets, Ramadan pastries, religious cassettes and books, along with high numbers of veiled women can not be termed “out of place.”

In the Spanish area closer to Morocco known as the Green Island by the Mediterranean, near Gibraltar, many restaurants owned by Moroccans tend to serve fasting Muslims.

They prepare Ramadan specials because that the Island contains the largest harbor in southern Spain and hundreds of traveling Muslims use it daily. Many of them are forced to break their fast or to get ready for next day’s dawn-to-dusk fast by eating sahur there.

Local Spaniards there are used to the habits of traveling Moroccans more than anyone else. They can tell Ramadan has come by the smell of certain meals coming out of restaurants or houses inhabited by immigrant Muslims.

One of the Moroccan residents of the Green Island, Ahmed Aznak, told Wednesday, October 20, that Ramadan almost felt the same on the island as in Morocco.

“I feel no difference. It’s simple though. If I feel bored, I can just board a boat and break my fast in Tangier in no more than two hours. It’s just 14 kilometers.”City of Dreams

The pearl of southern Spain, Marbella, or “City of Dreams” as its visitors call it, is considered one of the cities where Muslim immigrants enjoy the best atmosphere of harmony and tranquility during this holy month.

Its streets are never free, summer or winter, from Arab visitors. It also has a big, very elegant mosque. During Ramadan, mawa’id Ar-Rahman (charitable iftar banquets in the street) are also abundant.

Hameed, a Moroccan resident of Marbella since the mid 1980s, says: “In the past, there was too much food during Ramadan carried to mosques by charitable people. We used to eat little, the rest was usually thrown away as the next day more fresh food was brought in. I used to resent this. Ramadan is not a month of food, it’s rather for fasting to feel what the poor suffer. Thank God such bad habits are decreasing now.”North Less Fortunate


Such Ramadan spirit becomes less visible in northern Spain. In big cities like Madrid or Barcelona, only mosques and small prayer rooms give the sense of this holy month.

In Barcelona city, northeast province of Catalonia, a conference was held last week, attended by some 200 imams of the regions’ mosques.

The conferees declared their intention to hold an open day annually in Catalonia to allow non-Muslim residents to visit mosques of the Muslim community, seeking better harmony and understanding.

Head of the Islamic Cultural Center in Catalonia, Ahmed bin Allal, said, “More than 200 representatives of Muslim communities in the province declared their commitment to open mosques and prayer rooms that amount to 180 to the rest of Catalonia residents one day a year.”

The conferees have not set a certain day for the event, but it is widely agreed it would be `Eid Al-Fitr (the day that follows the end of Ramadan).Big Mosque

Such a procedure does not, however, conceal the hardships Catalonia Muslims face due to the lack of a big mosque where their increasing numbers can meet, especially in Ramadan.

Islamic societies in Catalonia took the chance of Ramadan this year to repeat their demand to the Spanish authorities to facilitate their task of building a big mosque. Their repeated calls have fallen on deaf ears during the past years.

Muslims of Catalonia want nothing from the local government but to facilitate administrative procedures. As for financing, they say they can handle everything on their own.

Ramadan comes this year following the March train bombings in Madrid that killed some 202 people and wounded some 150 others.

Muslims have been negatively affected by the terrorist acts as some right-wing currents insist threats against Spain come from the south, a reference to immigrants coming from the Arab, Muslim Maghreb.

Daily political wrangling between left and right wings in Spain also witness repetitions of words like “Islam,” “terror,” “immigrants,” emphasizing the three pose a threat to the country.