Morocco or Bust – Part Deux

We made our way out of the fabulously designed airport and into the parking lot, where the air was warm but not stifling. We found the car and Amal, Abdellah’s wife, insisted I sit in front. As we drove to the exit, through lovely bushes full of roses (Abdellah said Marrakech loves its roses), the children stood up between the seats, eager to engage with me in their bits of English and ask their dad questions in Moroccan Arabic. I was surprised they were not admonished and told to sit down, much less had special car seats, as per the States! It reminded me rather of my time as a child, where I would poke my head between the front seats of the family VW Bug, and one time, even put a crack in the windshield, when a sudden stop sent me flying! And then I encountered Moroccan traffic! Such a chaos of cars pulling in ahead, stopping suddenly, making sudden turns, and almost no traffic lights. And not just cars, but motorcycles, mopeds, and such. It amazed me that horns were not blaring and there was not a single accident in all that mess! Apparently there was some method to the madness – drivers assumed the worst could happen and were prepared for it.

We parked alongside a busy street; a man with a yellow vest appeared suddenly and guided us into a spot and money was exchanged upon our departure, when he also guided us out of the spot. We then walked up to a casual restaurant and sat at tables on the sidewalk. A pitcher of water with two glasses were set on the table – I wondered for whom, as there were five of us. Pizza for the kids, a sharama for me, and two plates of beef stroganoff with a mixed salad of potatoes, beets, etc. for Abdellah and Amal were ordered. Oh, yes, let’s add some French fries! I asked Amal, while Abdellah was taking their son, Anir, to the bathroom, whether it was safe for me to drink the water. She understood, saying she often got worried going to a new place about getting sick from the water, and ordered a bottle of water, which replaced the pitcher. Our food came, and I decided to add some of the hot sauces provided, though thinking, “this might be a mistake!” But luckily, they were not too hot, nor did I suffer later in the bathroom!

After lunch, Abdellah drove us home, to a complex gated by one of those raised and lowered “arms” and Amal, the children and I went inside, while Abdellah returned to work. Once inside, Amal whisked into the bedroom and came out as quickly, with her head scarf off. Smiling, she told me to think of their home as mine and asked me what I would like to do now: go sightseeing or take a nap? She showed me a small video on their big screen TV mounted on the wall about the local sights. I told her I needed to let a few people know I had arrived and then would likely be interested in a nap. So, after I had sent off several texts, I called to her – she and the children had gone into the kids’ room and told her I would indeed take a little nap. She got me a blanket and asked if I wanted some sleeping music. That sounded nice, so I said yes and sweet music started playing on the TV. It soothed me into a gentle rest. It was comforting hearing them playing quietly in the next room and then it was completely quiet, as they fell asleep as well.

Some time later I awoke refreshed and soon Amal came out and said she had to go pick up something and did I want to come with them or stay in the apartment. I still felt unready to venture out, so I decided to remain at home. I texted some more people and just relaxed. I also heard a call to pray from the local minaret, and noted it was different from ones I had heard before in Pakistan. Here is a snippet followed by the doorbell:

Call to Prayer

I had given Simane and Anir small crocheted animals, a frog puppet and a sloth, when I arrived and they enjoyed playing with them, even after they came back from their errand. Amal started making an oat cake and some smaller English-muffin-like bread for tea. I stood in the kitchen watching her mix ingredients and got some instructions on how to make Moroccan tea. You had to rinse out the pot with hot water before adding the tea and then adding the mint and two or three cubes of sugar. Then you would pour out the tea into the small glasses and then back into the pot to mix the sugar. Finally, when you pour it, you hold the pot high above the glasses to aerate and get a little foam at the top. It was four or five pm when tea was served, and I was so delighted with the light nutty taste of the cake and cornbread flavor of the small bread, which was eaten with soft triangles of spread cheese and honey. But the best part was the tea – so sweet and minty! Soooo satisfying!

In the evening, we went out to a temporary marketplace in Downtown Marrakech where one could buy wooden objects (like the trays you see in the above picture), clothes, jewelry, leather bags. Amal especially loved handcrafted wood, and bought me and the children each a wooden letter or symbol (mine was a heart) attached to a keychain as well as a small box – I chose a triangular one, as I’d never seen anything like that before.

After a while, we met up with Abdellah, who had just finished work, and headed back home. Amal got to work immediately making a tagine. It was perhaps 10 pm when we ate it together out of the special pot, which renders all the ingredients tender, juicy, and tasty, using ripped pieces of flat bread. Cucumbers, potatoes and peas on the outside, with a garnish of lemon pickle – wow! – revealed soft chicken in the middle. It was very delicious to me and I ate more than my fill!

My first tagine

Abdellah and I talked on for a while after the kids and Amal had gone to bed, about times and people we knew but also about teaching English. Finally, we called it a night. I tucked into one corner of the U-shaped couch and slept deep well into morning, my usual problems with jet-lag nonexistent!

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