Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Pain in My Foot and Stomach

I'm skipping Paris -- for now. I'll do a quick catch-up later. Maybe. Anyway...I’m sick (because of something I ate last night). And I’m tired (because I couldn’t sleep because of something I ate last night). And I still have the taste of cigarettes in my mouth from when I got up at 4 in the morning parched as a penguin and tried to drink water out of a bottle I had bought last week that had been sitting on the dining room table all weekend, or so I thought. I very quickly discovered, however, that Khadija had helped herself to it -- and it tasted like stinky, sickly smoke. I almost threw up. I proceeded to brush my teeth especially thoroughly to no avail, and now, six hours later, I’m still sort of pissy at Khadija. SO -- I will endeavor to forget my woes in this blog post…here we go anyhow:

This weekend I went to Casablanca and Marrakesh. Actually, more accurately, I went to Marrakesh, with a two-hour stop-over to see the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca. But I’m glad we did -- it’s really something to see. It’s the third biggest mosque in the world (after two in Saudi Arabia in Mecca and Medina respectively), and it was built in the 80s. The upkeep costs are enormous because some good percentage of it (like ¼ or so) rests on the ocean, and the corrosion from the sea-salt is constant. But the place is gorgeous. They call it the high-tech mosque even though everything inside was made by hand, since it has speakers built into the stucco-work, electrically heated floors for worshippers, and a retractable roof like Seattle’s Safeco field which takes exactly 3 minutes to open. Most of the prayer facility is not used every day, but it overflows during Ramadan. The bathhouses (both Roman and Turkish for both men and women), however, are never used. They built them and the decided that instead of making them functional, they would pour the money for them into another project…I think it had to do with literacy or Quranic scholarship or some thing more…well…productive.

In any case, then we marched back onto the bus to sit until lunch, lunch at a “Minibrahim” (a chain of the best places to stop along the coastal highway, and I particularly like the name, it reminds me of one of my cousins). When we got to Marrakesh, we went to the Jardin Marjorelle, a beautiful, brightly colored garden left over from the Occupation (I believe) that I had already been to, but enjoyed nonetheless. It began my observation that Marrakesh was very different this time ‘round from when I had been there during Eid (post-Ramadan holiday) last time. There were more people around, more tourists buying things, more Moroccans selling things, more tourists paying for overpriced hot chocolate at the Marjorelle café, more Moroccans playing Genoa music for you in traditional dress hoping you’ll drop a couple dirhams in their bowl.

We got to our budget hotel in the Ville Novelle and I started making inquiries for the synagogue (thank you Mom!). It was 5 blocks away. It was almost as propitious as that time I found the synagogue next door to my hotel in Agadir. We got to the synagogue which, of course, was packed with Israeli tourists, and sat down. After shul I asked for The Guy I had been told sort of “ran” things for the Jewish community (or what remains of a Jewihs community) in Marrakesh. I asked for Itzak. First I got an Israeli tourist who didn’t know limin (right) from leesir (left), but then I found him -- the man who was taking all of the Israeli tourists home to eat a kosher feast prepared by his wife -- and invited us and my two friends to join him. So we did. We walked about 3 and ½ blocks (in the direction of our hotel, nonetheless!) to his house with 50 Israelis who were fascinated by us. All of them wanted to ask us all of the same questions all at once. It was strangely gratifying. We had a six-course meal which included fish, pastillas and lamb (I didn't eat all of it, I've learned...). Yizak's family sat with us - his wife, daughters and granddaughter - and we spoke in a mixture of Hebrew/Arabic, and I learned a few things: There are no longer Jews in Ouarzazate, there are no other places in Marrakesh to eat that were kosher, and the next day there would be a MASSIVE schina (I saw it on the platta) for everyone, and we were invited.

I managed to get a friend of mine psyched into walking with me all the way from the Ville Novelle (New City) to the Jama’a al-Fna, the main, happening square in the old part of Marrakesh. On the way, however, actually just as I stepped onto Rue Mohammad V, the main drag of the Ville Novelle, I cut my foot. Deeply. It was bleeding. My friend and I found a pharmacy, and the pharmacist, without saying a word (I think he assumed we didn’t speak Arabic or French), sat me down, used cotton balls to pour what alcohol, which he called Al-Haram (it means “The forbidden” -- it was a joke), into the gash, then taped gauze to it, and covered it with a sort of meshy gauze that he tied around my ankle. I was very grateful. And I managed the hour down and the hour back with just this bandage. I met the rest of AmidEast and we walked around, saw the Ba’ya Palace, the Saadian Tombs, the Khuttubia mosque, the oldest, no-longer-in-use synagogue in the Mellah (I was told by a few of the men there that there was one around the corner that was still in use, in fact, it was frequented by Itzak, but didn’t get a change to go see it. It was also 1 in the afternoon and I doubted very much that he’d be there). I spent the afternoon wandering through the old souqs (markets) with my friends who were buying up the town (don’t worry, I did my own shopping on Saturday night) and then walked back for a shaleshudis of sorts on the roof of the hotel. We didn't make it back to Yizak's, but maybe I'll get to go back next time I'm in Marrakesh.

I came back home, ate some old salad that was in the fridge, and proceeded to become painfully ill. I didn’t go to school today, but I hope to tomorrow, as we have Wednesday off (!) because it’s Moroccan Independence Day.

Song of the moment, as inspired by Jack: Mouthwash by Kate Nash.

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