It’s a typical, warm, sunny day around lunchtime. The streets are empty and even the banging of the men working on the mosque is gone. There aren’t any children kicking around a flaccid soccer ball in the street. The office store is closed so I can’t print out the paper that I need. There is only an eerie stillness where the normal hustle and bustle of town normally is.
This is a daily phenomenon in my town and in Morocco in general. People close up shop to pray and go have lunch with their families and loved ones. Nothing is open, not even the small hanuts that are available until nearly midnight every day. After people finish up lunch, they usually go to take a nap or do small tasks around the house. Things won’t open up again for a couple of hours.
This struck me as odd for the first couple of weeks. Don’t people want to just take their 30-minute prescribed lunch break and get back to work? Daily life basically taking a stop for a few hours a day goes against everything I have been taught. In American culture, we go to work for eight hours and only think about work for those eight hours. After that, we leave it completely behind (or at least try to) and move into our personal lives for the rest of the day. Napping is for the weak, you can sleep when you’re dead.
Then I got accustomed to the Moroccan concept of work. Rather than tying their job title and achievements to their identities, the average rural Moroccan views work more as a functional necessity. Work here is just income for doing things they want to do, namely caring for their families. Similarly, the line between personal and professional lives gets blurred. Instead of thinking of them as two separate boxes, there is inevitable overlap between the two. It is widely understood that personal/family matters take precedence over trying to schedule those matters around work. As such, stopping the workday to go spend a few hours with family is a no-brainer.
As I often allude to in my stories on this blog, lots of people use this afternoon slump to take a nap. Not only is midday napping a cultural phenomenon, it is also a religious one. In an article sent to me by RPCV Connie McClellan, Professor Ahmed S. BaHammam notes that sleep is an important topic in the Quran and the Hadith.1 Not only did the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) give copious guidance on best sleeping practices for Muslims, he also specifically encouraged napping. While this isn’t a “visible” or primary reason for the afternoon slump, it certainly informs it.
Take a short nap, for Devils do not take naps
- Sahih Aljamie. Alalbani 1647
This afternoon time period looks much different based on the season. Right now, during the winter when it is cool during the day, it only lasts for a couple of hours. Most people just go home for a bit to pray and eat then head back outside to continue the rest of their day. During the summer when it is consistently over 100 °F, being inside during peak heat is a welcome respite. The stillness of the town lasts for much longer, usually until it is cool enough in the afternoon to (somewhat) comfortably be outside.
A general rule-of-thumb time for when things start moving again is the Asr call to prayer, currently at around 5 o’clock in the afternoon. After that, I can go see friends in town, go shopping, and get that paper printed.
Bahammam, Ahmed S. “Sleep from an Islamic perspective.” Annals of thoracic medicine vol. 6,4 (2011): 187-92. doi:10.4103/1817-1737.84771 ↩︎