A Moroccan Weekend

Singing Cactus

Saturday morning, we all went out together to do some errands around the new apartment that was being built. First, we stopped at a place to arrange for a door to be delivered. We waited in the car. There was a horse in front of a building who continuously bobbed his head up and down. Another horse ate some grass nearby. I also watched a man dressed traditionally mark the street with some chalk, perhaps designating a parking spot. After some time, we continued on to the apartment complex and went inside a new building, crammed into a small elevator and went up a few floors.

The kitchen and one of the bathrooms had installed furniture, while the other rooms were dusty and still waiting to be completed. In a while, Abdellah came up with some guys and an iron door that would go between the balcony and the inside of the apartment. Simane and Amir ran around inside and out. We also went to another apartment that was almost finished and I marveled at the bright lights in the living room and blue lights in the shape of a musical cleft in one of the bedrooms. They also had automatic shades that would close with the push of a switch, which the kids loved.

View from new apartment

We waited in the doorway of the building, while Abdellah talked on to contractors and the like. Simane and I had a little “dance off.” I would do one ballet move and she would improvise her own series of steps. We competed for some time and even invited her mom to watch her dance. She has wonderful grace and balance, though Amal said she wasn’t presently studying dance, as it was difficult to find a school that wasn’t too expensive or too far away.

At some point, we stopped at the French Institute and helped Simane pick out some simple children’s books in French to borrow. She loves to read, although Amal told me that a great many people in Morocco are illiterate. Simane doesn’t read Arabic yet, at age 5, but French is widely used, at least to some extent, even in the Darija language. For example, I heard “d’accord” (agreed) and some numbers in French.

Later in the afternoon, we returned to the apartment for tea. Amal cut up some oranges and sprinkled them with cinnamon, which tasted divine! Abdellah poured the tea in the usual Moroccan manner – very high above the narrow tea glasses!

Orange with cinnamon

Moroccan style tea

In the evening, we all packed into the car again and drove to the Jemaa el-Fnaa square so I could meet up with Ahmad and purchase his book: Most Common Expressions You Will Need While You Are in Morocco. I was waiting by the Koutoubia mineret, first worried, because I couldn’t connect to any WiFi and let Ahmad know where I was. I was getting kind of panicky, looking through a sea of Moroccan faces, but then told myself, if it was meant to be, we’d find each other. And then I saw him! So we met up, I got my book, and we walked around a bit, talking about a variety of topics again. Then I called Abdellah to come pick me up. He arrived on foot and he and Ahmad chatted a while in Berber, since they were both from the same area of Morocco. Ahmad’s handshake was warm and his smile friendly, as we said our goodbyes.

Sunday morning, Abdellah went out fairly early to let the electrician into the new apartment to do some lighting. Amal brought out a puzzle for the kids and then suddenly, was called away to bring something to the electrician. The children and I muscled along on our own, with the help of a movie – Angry Birds (in English) – and the puzzle. Simane brought out some things to eat, when she got hungry, and Amir ate along with her. The kids actually behaved quite well, even though it was around 4pm when Amal finally returned and apologized in turn to all three of us.

She said we would be meeting Abdellah and go out to eat and then see some sites. I was happy at hearing we would be eating, and we headed out to meet up with Abdellah. Then we drove back to the apartment to get in one car together, then needed to wait for a while for Abdellah to use the bathroom. I asked Amal where she liked to eat. She mentioned the place we went to the first day, and that sounded good to me, since I was ready for some fast food. We finally got in the car and got as far as the corner before realizing something was forgotten and had to go back. Abdellah asked me where I wanted to eat and gave some options. I said, “Let’s just go to the closest place since I’m quite hungry.” I admit, I was definitely hangry at that point! So my pizza that I ordered went down really nicely and I felt much more human afterwards!

Simane and her face pizza

We got back into the car and headed for the Menara Gardens, an extensive public park. It was a delight to walk around, especially by a large square reflecting pool. Nearby were a number of young men clapping and singing along to a drum beat. It was very joyous and rhythmic, rather like flamenco. The guys were super in to it and went on for at least another half an hour, as we wondered off into the olive trees. We saw a variety of vegetation, including a plant that like aloe, was supposed to be good for skin problems. Since I have some psoriasis on one knee, I liberated a small bit and tried it back at the apartment later. It seemed to help! The beautiful late afternoon sun subsided into a pleasant glow as we exited the park and headed towards Abdellah’s aunt’s house.

Popular sketch in Downtown Marrakech

My Moroccan friends

The neighborhood seemed an older one, and the street level apartment door was big and made of iron. Upstairs, Abdellah’s aunt and children – two teenage girls and a school-aged son greeted us. We sat in the salon, with the infamous wraparound sofa and big TV screen. Abdellah’s uncle was also at home and spoke a little English. He works for a Spanish company and travels. As before, the children went into another room for a while. But then, they came out, and some karaoke began! Turned out the son knew the words to “Oppnam Gangnam Style” and Abdellah and I sang along as well, while everyone else cheered and whooped it up. Then Simane sang along to “Let It Go” and Abdellah and I chimed in once again. It was tons of fun!

We were offered mint tea and a variety of pastries, including one that tasted like elephant ears – yum. Later, we were also served Moroccan soup – a soup with lentils, chicken, and such. It was super hot at first, but delicious! As we were leaving, Abdellah’s aunt said I should come for Ramadan and we would have a lot of fun! I was sorely tempted, as they were very welcoming!

Moroccan lentil soup

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