Ode to the hadga

Ramadan is already a quarter over.  In Morocco, Ramadan is known as a time for, among other things, putting extra care into food preparation.  This post is an ode to the women who work in the kitchen all year around and go the extra mile in Ramadan, the hadga’s.  What is a hadga?  She’s a hardworking, thrifty, creative, resourceful woman whose work stands testament to her character.  The triumvirate she rules by is cleanliness, thrift and nourishment.  Here are a few ways to recognize a hadga…maybe you know one…maybe you are one…

  • She knows that dishwashing liquid is not enough to get the eggy smell (zfouria) off dishes, always has her combo of bleach, fairy and tide near the sink.
  • She’s been known to scrub old dingy tiles with hydrochloric acid (ma el qat3) to bring out the shine.
  • Otherwise, she never mops tiles with plain water because that leaves that same weird eggy smell as with the dishes.  Always has Mr Propre or Sanicroix in the bucket.  She knows the only real way to mop a floor is stooped over a jiffaf, a sort of towel that she works side-to-side from one end of the house to the other.  The house is mopped daily.
  • Even though she works outside the home, she makes tomorrow’s lunch tonight so that her family can come home to a nice hot tajine.
  • She personally inspects every single vegetable she buys based on specific hadga criterion of size, firmness, smell, sheen, hue…She’s been known to snap a carrot in two the check the core is not woody.  Knows that tomatoes have to overripe for tajine or red sauce, but on the firm side for salad.  Wilted green beans or spongy cucumbers hold no place in her shopping bag.
  • Her family doesn’t know what store bought bread tastes like because she bakes it fresh every morning.
  • Turns 10 or 20 dirhams into a feast when you come visit.  Laughs dismissively when you praise her for it.
  • She comes over to see you, notices you have dishes in the sink (and that you are likely too overwhelmed with your lively young’uns to get to them).  She says “let’s take care of these” and cheerfully does so.  Then she asks if you have flour and oil and proceeds to make you a batch of msemn, staying cool, calm and collected throughout.  She leaves the kitchen sparkling and full of nourishment.  Makes it look effortless.
  • She never serves stringy, chewy chicken because she bought today’s chicken yesterday and gave it a thorough salt scrub followed by an overnight lemon bath.  Her chicken tajine is always as tender as can be.
  • Turns one orange into a decanter full of juice by boiling it with the peel, adding sugar, water and a teaspoon of citric acid.  She always has it in the fridge a standby.
  • Her home is never in a state of C.H.A.O.S (can’t have anyone over syndrome).
  • She shows up at the hammam with all natural, homemade beauty treatments.  Body scrub made from ground chickpeas, body mask made from henna and herbs, argan oil with her own additions of essential oils.  She even lets you try some after you’ve asked enough nosy questions about all of it.
  • Prepares for Ramadan the month before, filling the freezer with briwat (stuffed pastries), chopped celery and herbs ready for harira soup, soaked and hulled chickpeas too.  Chebbakia and sellou sweets of course in large covered buckets.

I’m sorry to say that I’m most likely not a hadga. It doesn’t come naturally to me, I haven’t seen and lived enough of it to be it. It takes a lot of exposure to, and infusion from other hadgas, grandmothers, aunts…It takes a village and all that.  But I’ve personally witnessed every single one of these instances (and the list is only a thin-slice, by no means exhaustive.  Just when I think I’ve seen it all, I’m exposed to something else that leaves me in awe).  Chances are if you live in Morocco or have spent time here, you know what I’m talking about here.  What else can you add to the list?



12 thoughts on “Ode to the hadga

  1. I think what amazes me most about these remarkable women is that no matter how endless their stream of work and tasks, they remain selfless and uncomplaining. So many lessons to learn from them!

  2. One thing I know and have come to accept is that Allah made some of us hadgas and some of us not…….and I think that now I have realized that, I have become a hadga in my own right! Can’t do it all! Thanks so much for this fantastic blog! May Allah help us all to bring out our inner hadgas!

  3. I think there are male hagdas who work well and hard but maybe in a different sphere.
    I wish I was a better homemaker but can cook –a little !
    Ramadan mubarek!

  4. Gosh,sounds just like my mother in law,and so many older generation of Moroccan ladies that I have come across in Morocco.I really do think that they are a dying breed though,change is happening all over the world.
    I am English and live in England with my Moroccan husband and our children,and I have been making Harira and lots of other Moroccan goodies for years,but not may I tell you, with the effortless and dignified calm of these wonderful ladies!

  5. Marie says:

    “She comes over to see you, notices you have dishes in the sink (and that you are likely too overwhelmed with your lively young’uns to get to them). She says “let’s take care of these” and cheerfully does so. Then she asks if you have flour and oil and proceeds to make you a batch of msemn, staying cool, calm and collected throughout. She leaves the kitchen sparkling and full of nourishment. Makes it look effortless.”

    lol!!! So true

  6. sak says:

    i live in Canada and we have lots of Hadjas here – Moroccan too; some are not even that old!! i became a fast washer of dishes thanks to one: invited to my house for dinner, she quickly got up after eating and started washing up the pile in the sink. I, newly married, stood awestruck and in total admiration, and at the end said: pray for me that i can do this like you do it. And she did. (-:
    I love how capable, efficient, and confident they are. I think girls need more of this positive introduction to managing a home and serving others. I know i regret not getting one. inshaAllah labess.

  7. I LOVE this post! I am myself Moroccan but don’t see myself as a hadga. I’ll just blame it on my being born and raised in Europe 😉 But reading this, I just went through every point and hoping that would be me some day (Although I did recognize myself with the bleach and the Ramadan preparations!). Anything is possible though.. Thank you for this post!

    • First of all, thanks for the love! But seriously Nadia, I just checked out your cakes website, and you are definitely a hadga. Maybe it would be more fair if we divided hadgas into two categories, cooking hadgas and cleaning hadgas. That would maybe allow more of us to qualify as at least one or the other 🙂

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