What’s life like in North Africa?

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Fatima’s day starts early and ends late. She explains what she normally gets up to.

Each day starts with dawn prayers. Then, the hot water goes on and breakfast needs to be made. To set my children up well for school I like them to have a good meal. We all sit together and have bread, olives and Laughing Cow cheese triangles. We’ll drink café au lait or mint tea. After I’ve taken the kids to school, I pop to the shops to get food for lunch, and Mohammed heads to the small general store he runs with his brothers. I have the house to myself for the rest of morning. I get things started for lunch, our main meal of the day. Often we have a tagine. That’s easiest, as I can leave it cooking whilst I do the chores. Our floors are all tiled and every day they need sweeping and mopping – depending on the season they’re either dusty or muddy.

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Busy schedules

Lunch is a rolling feast. School here is a bit crazy, and each child has a different schedule, so my son can be home for 12 noon and my daughter not back until 1.30pm. I spend a lot of time ferrying them backwards and forwards, and making sure that the food is hot when they and Mohammed want it. Mohammed goes to the mosque for prayers before lunch, and depending who he meets there he might be late coming home. After lunch, the children go back to school, Mohammed goes to work, and I get a chance for some ‘me time’. I might have a rest, or watch one of my favourite soap operas.

The children come home between 3 and 5pm depending on their classes. Together we’ll then visit a friend, or have a friend over for ‘high tea’. This is the time that women and kids hang out together, relax and enjoy some cakes, pancakes and mint tea. I make sure that we’re home before dark. Only certain types of women go out after dark here.

Daily prayers

Both women and men pray five times a day. Men will often go to the mosque to pray but women will incorporate prayer into their daily lives. If they’re at the gym during prayer time they will quickly wash, throw on a communal robe provided for that purpose, complete their prayers, and pass the robe on to the next person.

Maintaining purity

Purity is very important. Many men and women will not touch anyone of the opposite sex apart from their spouse.

Covering up

Many women cover up in public, including their hair. Inside their own homes they can dress a lot more casually. When there’s a knock on the door, women will ask who it is. If it’s anyone other than another woman or their husband they will cover up before opening the door.

Mohammed closes the shop at 5pm and goes to the mosque again, before heading to the local coffee shop. Most of the men in the community will be there until 9pm, unless there’s an important football match to keep them longer. The evenings are TV time. I love a good Bollywood movie. The children watch too, or do their homework. When Mohammed comes home we’ll have a light meal together. Our children sleep in our main lounge, so we just tend to throw a blanket over them when they’ve dozed off. And then, around midnight, we head to bed too.

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