September 22, 2008 - Ramadan 22, 1429.
The Mesaharati – المسحراتي
Ramallah, 3:09 am, exactly one hour before Fajr prayer time. Outside, amidst the Quran reading for Qiyam prayers, I hear a drum – DumDumDum-DumDum. DumDumDum-DumDum.
The Mesaharati – that very old tradition, of a man passing through the streets, with a drum waking up people to get the late-night meal, the suhoor, before the fasting day begins.
I thought the Mesaharati no longer existed!!
I jump on the roof through my kitchen window, as I hear the drumming and chanting getting louder.
Instead of the old man in a funny outfit we grew to imagine, it was 2 guys my age with a drum, looking like a 2-man marching band. Very cheerful chaps, really, and besides the very traditional chant of "Wake up, sleeper! Praise the One God!" they also come up with their own chants, including "catch the good month before it goes away!" and "you're going to be hungry!"
I chase them down the street in my pajamas, chat a minute with them – they still have a long round to go! – and take a photo.
Iftar at the Aqsa mosque
I was buying some things by the Old town in Jerusalem before sunset. When I heard the call for prayer I went to do Maghrib in the Aqsa.
There's something about Al-Aqsa – because Muslim countries citizens seldom can go to Jerusalem, and because people from the West Bank are not allowed into Jerusalem without the occasional and rare permit, people who go to the Al-Aqsa are the Jerusalemites, mainly Old City residents, giving the mosque the feel, despite its grand religious and historical significance, of a neighbourhood mosque.
As I head into the mosque I am stopped by the Israeli soldiers who get their fun out of harassing people like myself, and I am forced to unwrap the posters I bought for their viewing pleasure. I eventually get into the Haram-al-Sharif – late – but catch the prayer. Pfiou!
As soon as the imam ends the prayer there's a loud stampede, people RUNNING out of the mosque and heading to western side of the mosque.
Turns out – there's a daily iftar taking place by the Aqsa, every day. By the time I finish there are rows of people – three, four hundred people - sitting and eating the meals donated by the mosque-goers.
I join in, get two juicy dates. I leave past the people sitting on the floor and exit the compound, past the Israeli soldiers sipping warm sahlab.