I’ve finally made it to the Wifi cafe, Bert’s, in Agdal – about a 15 minute bus ride from the Medina. It’s a very nice big modern european-style cafe where single women can sit with their laptops, have a coffee, even smoke a cigarette (unheard of during Ramadan) without any hassle.
Sorry for the long delay without a post! I actually did post something but… ah well, those Moroccan Jhinns (genies). Here is something I wrote days ago… now finally posted…
Things I’ve learned so far in Morocco…
Time is relative. Not relative according to the person or the occasion or even the country, but relative to the moment, the place, and the device. Somehow I think I’ve acquired a time genie – a very mischievous one. The time difference between Rabat and California is 7 hours. Simple enough. I suspected something was wierd when I realized that the Royal Air Maroc plane from New York only posted the anticipated time at arrival in Casablanca – not the current local time there. We didn’t actually land at that time and at no point did the crew announce the local time when we landed. We arrive in Casablanca early though no one was there to meet me as promised in spite of the fact that immigration and getting my luggage took some time. After waiting until almost everyone in the terminal had left, I changed some money, bought a phone card and called Saad who was surprised I was calling so early, even though by my watch it was at least 30 minutes past my scheduled arrival time.
When he arrived I noted that the clock in the terminal was 45 minutes earlier than my watch (why not an exact hour?), so I readjusted my watch thinking I must have miscalculated the time change. A little later on the ride to Rabat from Casablanca in discussing the early arrival, Saad asked the time I had and noted that my watch was off by 25 minutes. So I changed my watch again, and of course began to assume that my watch was not working. This morning I asked the other volunteer (Sandy) staying in the same house as me the time and indeed, my watch is 10 minutes off. So I pulled out my spare watch (always be prepared).
Now, there is a clock in the kitchen and it’s confirmed with the time on Sandy’s cell phone, so I am assuming that this has got to be be fairly accurate, but then why is my spare watch 6 hours and 17 minutes different? Why not just 7 hours? I’ve now readjusted my first watch and my spare watch and they seem to both be running fine. Though I still am really not sure what time it is – maybe I’m just supposed to get over it.
I will get fat. The traditional month of fasting began a few days ago. The traditional pattern of eating is to begin with a small meal at 4am (which I declined to join this morning in exchange for a few hours of sleep). Then nothing, not even water, until f’tour at sunset – about 7pm – at which time you break fast with dates, milk and honey, sweets, soup, hard boiled eggs and sweet mint tea. (here is a photo of my first home meal, f’tour, in Rabat.) Around 11pm another meal is is shared consisting of rice with potatos, bread, salad, spiced turkey “nuggets” and flat bread and more sweets (I was awakened out of my first 2 hours of sleep in over 30 hours, so I can’t guarantee that this is exactly what we had, but it’s the best recollection I can muster.)
Because I am not Muslim I get to eat during the day, so I am also being feed bread with jam, tea and another kind of sweet crumbly thing I don’t yet know the name of in the morning when I get up. Then I am fed lunch (yogurt and fruit) around 2ish. It’s impolite to say no and even though I told my host Said that I could skip lunch, the message didn’t get to Wafae who doesn’t speak english nor much french. So – I am stuffed and just short of diabetic shock.
Tomorrow I am going to ask join in the Ramadan fast, though I think I’ll still have some water. And I’m still going to skip the 4am meal. And I’ll buy some djellabas, not for the style, but because I am sure that in a few weeks most of my clothes will no longer fit.
Shoes, no shoes, shoes, no shoes… Said and Wafae’s home, about 200 years old in the old Medina, is very traditional and very modest. There is a small door on the street that enters into a shared hall. To the right is the front door of the flat. It opens into a large open center square area 2 stories high covered with a thin fiberglass sheet with a large opening on the side – sometimes birds fly in. This interior patio, decorated in Moroccan tiles, is ringed by 7 rooms which are long and narrow. Clockwise, there is the living/dining room with long banquettes, where we watch TV and bring in a low round table to eat. Perpendicular on the next wall is another sitting room (about 9×20) ringed by a beautiful banquet. Perpendicular to that on the next wall (opposite the Living room) is a bedroom and next to that a tiny guest bedroom (mine). On the next wall are the bathrooms and a small kitchen in the middle. There is no “walkway” from room to room – you must cross the center square.
When you are in the center square, kitchen or bathrooms, you wear your shoes. When you enter a sitting room or bedroom (carpeted), you remove your shoes. What this means is that you are taking off and putting on your shoes about 100 times a day. I figure this is why the Moroccans wear baboushes (slippers) and sandals – they are considerably easier to get in and out of. So far, I am about 30/70 with getting this whole thing right, but at least no one has reprimanded me yet for wearing my shoes on the carpet or laughed a me for greeting guests (of which there are many) in my bare feet.
God and words. Allah is central to life… and language. You mention Allah when you meet someone, before you eat, after you eat, if you speak of events in the future, and I’m sure in a million other instances I’m not yet aware of.
Getting around. Said has been very very thorough in trying to orient me to the City. Just my second day here and I actually think I can make it back to the house on my own (Allah willing), though I may take me a few tries.
I have never been anywhere that is more hospitable and the people kinder or more generous. I am so far truly blessed.