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Ramadan’s Magic Hour: Ndogou in Senegal

The light fades from golden to gray as sundown approaches, a signal to those fasting for Ramadan that it’s almost time to break the day’s fast.

In Senegal, each day of the monthlong holiday ultimately leads to a pinnacle moment of community, generosity and devouring of local drinks and foods at sundown — a meal known locally as “Ndogou,” the word that describes breaking the Ramadan fast in Senegal’s Wolof language.

Just before sundown, the streets grow relatively quiet except for small groups dotted along the roads of certain neighborhoods. These groups hurriedly boil massive pots of local tea, known as Kinkeliba and local coffee, Cafe Touba. Around the pots, volunteers slather tuna, mayonnaise and chocolate (not all together) on baguettes.

As the moment to break the fast strikes, everyone scatters from the pots and bowls and into the streets around them to hand out food and drink for free. They stick their hands through taxi windows to share with drivers who could not make it home for the meal. They climb onto buses with trays of food for commuters who haven’t eaten all day. They even insist that young children and non-Muslims walking by partake in the meal.

“It’s the month to share. What we have, we will share with everyone,” says Oumy Laye as she helps prepare sandwiches. “It’s togetherness,” adds a fisherman, Malick Seck. “Everything we do, we do together.”