Sunday, January 21, 2007

Party Like It's 1428 (A.H.)!

It's the first day of Muharram, New Year’s Day in Islam. At least in Morocco. It was marked yesterday in pretty much everywhere else in the Muslim world so I may be a day late in wishing a Happy New Year to those who require another tool to watch the passage of time; for that I accept no responsibility and blame my adopted country. The New Year cannot be called until the new moon has been seen and in spite of the fact that there are tons of technologies which will allow one to accurately predict the rising of the moon, it requires the usage of human eyes. At least in Morocco. Last year, cloudy weather prevented that inconstant moon from being spotted and this year as well, the moon was sighted on the last possible day to conform to the prescribed number of days in the Islamic month.

Confused? Don't be. It's hardly worth it because I have a day off from work and in my world, that's all that really matters. If the ringing in of the New Year is incumbent on a pack of wild female hyenas viewing the total eclipse of Pluto as they run counter clockwise around a palm tree then so be it. I have a holiday.

And what was New Year's Eve like in this, the capital city of Morocco? Well, at the stroke of midnight, I was not awoken by an explosion of fireworks cascading over the Bouregreg river but rather by a sonorous sinusy snore from Mr. Cat in Rabat. Did drunken merrymakers wake me up at all hours of the night as they caroused in glee or serpentined their way home in a euphoric state of inebriation? No they did not. And what does Rabat look like, in this first flush of 1428 (A.H.)? Are the streets strewn with empty bottles of Veuve Clicquot, discarded paper party hats, noise makers and streamers? Sadly they are not.

In my grab-bag of adjectives, I am tempted to pull out the word "comatose" to describe the city’s demeanour on this auspicious morning but that wouldn't be accurate: a car just passed by outside my window. Perhaps I’ll try "sedate". And I could live with sedate if by sedate it meant "woefully hungover". But it does not. Sedate means just that.

Now I appreciate that the passing of a year means different things to different cultures, and that each has its own customs to ring out the old & ring in the new. I get that – I am not as ethnocentric as I might lead you to believe. But the fact that religion and culture are so inextricably entwined in Muslim societies doesn’t help matters much. Muharram is counted from the year of the Hegira – hence the suffix A.H. (anno Hegirae) used in dates – when Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina, and is generally observed with prayers and readings. For Shias, Muharram is a month of mourning because it marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. Well, why not?

So, foolishly, I keep trying to find the joy here – the roll-up-your-trouser-cuffs-and-jump-in-a-fountain-and-dance-like-a-fool sort of joy – that I see elsewhere in the world. A joy that is not predicated on slicing the throat of a ruminant and bringing out the kids to watch as it thrashes about in the death throes of the dying. So perhaps I’ll just stop trying.

But there is hope: if you allow a brief indulgence in etymologies, we learn that the name of the month (Muharram ul haram in its entirety) is derived from the word “haram” (forbidden) and as such, it is illegal to fight during the holy month. No armed conflict for a month? No suicide bombers? No bickering? No sticks & stones?

That’s joy enough.


I am mindful that next month will usher in the Year of the Pig according to the Chinese calendar. We’ll have to see how the Muslim world fares under the auspices of this most generous and honourable but decidedly haram creature.


Anonymous Liosliath said...

It's 2957 for us. (New Year = Yennayer, Jan. 12 for Berbers)

4:43 p.m.  
Blogger taamarbuuta said...

Happy New Year!

Although Meknes was similarly boring, I went to Azrou today, and people were playing football, hanging out outdoors, eating barbecue, and having what appeared to be a kickass time. Perhaps because they are Berbers (and like Liosliath said, maybe they've already had their festivities)

9:09 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

Party on, dudes!

2:06 p.m.  
Anonymous Liosliath said...

It was warm enough to hang around outdoors in Azrou? Wow.

1:58 a.m.  

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