In Senegal, close to 90% of the population are Muslims, the vast majority of whom are currently fasting in a spirit of tolerance and sharing.
By Bineta Diagne
There is much excitement in Dakar the night before Ramadam. Families prepare conscientiously for this time of self-restraint by stocking up with basic provisions for the month; milk, sugar, coffee, tea, cheese and dates are all bought in large quantities. For certain households Ramadan provides an occasion to shop at the supermarket as oppose to the market.
“During Ramadan I make 5000 CFA available each day for meals in the evening and the morning,” says a father who heads a family of seven and who bemoans the fact that Ramadan has become a “spending spree”.
“I can spend up to 300,000 CFA during the month just on food,” bemoans Babacar Sadikh, who runs a fitness centre.
The economic impact of Ramadan is evident. In the markets the night before Ramadan, the price of beef, lamb and fish have all risen. It is a paradox that consumption actually rises and people buy better quality food during Ramadan.
“To make up for meals they have missed, people eat sugary food and allow themselves to eat things they wouldn’t normally buy,” observes Ndiaya Diop, a resident of Parcelles Assaines. “People eat sausages (made with beef), not to talk about the croissants.”
At the start of Ramadan families exchange the Sukerou Koor (the sugar of Ramadan in Wolof). In general, the father of the family offers a package of food as a present to his parents and parents-in-law.
“Originally,” says Fatou Diop, 71, “it is was a donation to support people in difficulty, but in practice it’s become a tradition. Today I give sugar, dates, milk powder and fabric to people who are dear to me like my neighbours and former domestic workers.
In Senegal, Ramadan is perceived as a time of sharing. Every year the government launches an initiative whereby meals are prepared for the poor to break their fast, known as ndogou in Wolof. Certain businesses reduce the working hours to enable workers to break fast with their families in the late afternoon. While other businesses are opting to create a special budget to be able to provide meals for their employees at the workplace. For example the newspaper Sud Quotidien spends between 13,000 and 15,000 CFA per day to prepare meals for their staff, whose working hours are very varied.
However, not all Muslims fast – infants, pregnant women and the elderly are all exempt – but they do get to enjoy the benefits of the spirit of giving.
The second of a two part series about Ramadhan in Africa. The first installment from Kenya was published on Monday 1st August.