Take On Africa – Latest update from Erfoud, on the edge of the desert in Morocco
I arrived in Morocco during Ramadan, which as a touring cyclist I thought could be somewhat tricky. During the hours from sunrise to sunset, which are also the hours I’d be on the road, no-one eats or drinks and it would be very rude to be seen eating or drinking while those around me are abstaining. It’s not just that no-one eats or drinks in the daytime during Ramadan, but everyone’s daily routine changes entirely to accommodate this – with many shops and restaurants only opening up once the sun goes down.
The solution to this for me turned out to be very simple – when in Morocco during Ramadan, do as the Moroccans do. So I turned in the bike for ten days, fasted during the day and then, with the friend’s and families I met and stayed with, feasted during the night. Indeed, it is behind closed doors within the confines of the family home after dark that real life happens and I feel privileged to have been treated as one of the family and can only hope that one day I can repay the kindness, generosity and hospitality I received during this time and in fact have continued to receive long after the celebrations of Eid al-Fitr in every town I have passed.
As a touring cyclist, the topic of food is continually on the mind – I’m burning so many calories when cycling, that I can dream up any combination and quantity of foods to eat throughout the day and into the evening. During Ramadan, the topic of food is continually on everybody’s mind. Having fasted for a few days however, what I think is harder than not eating during the day is not drinking anything. No I’m not just talking about a beer or a glass of wine, but not even a sip of water. Up in the Middle Atlas where I was, it was relatively cool, but I cannot imagine how those living on the edges of the desert where I’m now resting up could manage.
To some extent, those that continually live in this region have become accustomed to the heat and are certainly able to endure it far easier than a fair-haired girl from temperate England. When cycling from Er-Rachidia to Erfoud on the edge of the desert I had company from a Moroccan student and fellow cycling enthusiast, who had nothing better to do that day that join me for a ride. Over the 40km that we cycled together, I consumed about two litres of water. He wouldn’t touch a drop. And then he turned round and cycled home, still without water. He said it was good training for his body ready for when he competes in races in the mountains. I just don’t know how he did it.
This year was unusually hot in the south and it turns out that many people did ‘cheat’ and end up drinking and eating a little something during the hottest hours. Quite frankly, who can blame them.
Me, if I’m thirsty, I’m going to drink water. I’m suffering enough with the heat as it is, without compounding the problem.