The internet cafe that I normally use is about a 2 minute walk from my house. It’s a tiny convenience shop, about 10 x 15 ft with a teeny loft and miniscule spiral staircase (not even close to legal in the US) and about 6 computers. You can buy soda, candy, hot sauce, water, make a phone call or print a file (for an exhorbitant 5 dh a page – the one thing that’s more expensive than the US).
The woman who runs it is extremely nice and we always exchange pleasantries. As I was leaving last night after writing my blog, she asked about my weekend and I told her I had visited the hamman. The typical response when I mention this is “ah, le hamman, c’est bon.” The store owners response was no exception, however I also received a nice invitation to join her one day at the local hammam, inshallah.
That might sound a bit odd… how many times has a store owner invited you to take a bath with them? (various SF subcultures not withstanding). However, here it’s not only evidence of a culture of welcome generosity, but also an indication of the culture of community that exists here. You might even call it tribal in a certain sense.
You see many examples of this, from the obvious sharing of bowls and platters of food (it’s very rare to have individual servings) to the sharing of cabs. At the table also, only a few glasses of water are set and everyone shares the same glass (I still haven’t become used to that one). Personal space is non-existant. You also often find many family members living together, though here in Rabat thay may have as much to do with the cost and scarcity of real estate as with culture. Our house has a sink in the common are where we all wash our hands and brush out teeth. I could go on.
There is something reassuring in this culture of sharing, the safety of the tribe.