Sunday, December 6, 2009

From Cloves-and-Ginger to Wiza and Haleeb

I bought my ticket to Marrakesh when I was in Ouarazazate. I wanted to be sure to have a spot, since I was traveling erev Eid al-Kabir, or "the Big Holiday." O dear. But when I got to the bus station at noon (my bus was scheduled for 12:30), only to be told that my bus had been canceled due to the great number of people traveling for the upcoming Eid. This made no sense to me, but then again, lots of things in Morocco don't make any sense, so I got my ticket exchanged and extracted promises from the vendor that there would, in fact, be a bus which would, in fact, to Essaouira the next morning at 8:30.

So I got on my bus the next day at 8:30. I have spent a good deal of time in the new CTM bus station in Marrakesh and the guys there know me. They remembered me from when I first traveled solo to the Hillulah way back. Actually, they more more than know me. They take an (only slightly creepy) interest. And I would say that we're friends. Sure. Friends. In any case, they were excited that I was finally on my way to Essaouira after my delay of game. So I got on the bus and sat in my (assigned) seat next to a skinny, smokey Arab man who was probably 50. He had a mustache, and his aviators closely matched mine (I had bought new ones since I "traded" the last ones. These were the Chinese classic Ray Bens). We were fast friends within the first five minutes. About an hour into the ride, the bus driver pulls over to the side of the road and announces that the bus is no good. So we turned around and went back. My Rey Bens twin looked at me down the bridge of his glasses, sighed, and rolled his eyes. The guys at the station were glad to see me.

I finally boarded ANOTHER bus and got to Essaouira around 3pm. Which was fine. I still had plenty of time before Shabbat/Eid A woman - probably in her late 40s, early 50s - from some European country (I can't remember) asked me if she could follow me to my hostel. She was feeling ill and just wanted someone to sort of hold her hand, and she saw that I spoke Arabic, so she thought I would be a good crutch. Which I was. I got us to the hostel. Which was a lovely low-budget dorm-style place run by an extremely friendly middle-aged Moroccan stoner and an super-skinny headband-sporting, Australian-Moroccan both of whom were exceptionally taken aback by my Arabic. But the women I was with wanted her own room -- and after complaining to me for a few minutes, she left. I couldn't mentally dawdle on her anymore though...Shabbat/Eid was coming, and nothing would be open in a few hours. So I went shopping. Everyone was bustling around, mostly sharpening knives. It was nice to be ignored.

My friend Amelie from Toubkal - the British girl traveling to Ghana by her lonesome - ended up at my hostel! I was thrilled to see her, obviously, and we spent the rest of our time in Essaouira together, mostly sitting and reading our books on the beach or the roof of our hostel (I finished Blood River by Tim Butcher about the Congo, and I recommend it), talking theology, and exchanging language knowledge. I can now finally count to twenty in French and ask directions. But what was really nice for me - and for her - was that one of the administrators from AmidEast, lets call him Rafiq - LIVES in Essaouira and wanted to hang out and show me around. So we walked all around with him, he showed us all of the "sights" of Essaouira, from the pier with its many boats that overlooks the island that Jimmi Hendrix used to frequent, to the long line of cannons at the bastion overlooking the sea (one had a ram chained to it...), to the Arab silver market where he introduced us to a friend of his who will, of course, give us the Magrebi price if we should find something pleasing to our eyes. So we hung out Friday afternoon, and then again Saturday night when Rafiq took us to his friend's (and mine, actually...Abd el-Hassan is another AmidEast guy) father's restaurant where we, of course, had tea and chatted. A lovely time was had by all.

Christmas is really a very apt analogy, as my dear mother pointed out. The sheep that every (EVERY) family slaughters (in the backyard, bathtub, or on the balcony) is basically the equivalent of the American Christmas tree. I saw sheep -- all rams, to commemorate the binding of Ishmael (the reading of the Bible where Isaac is the one that is slaughtered is a Judeo corruption) -- in the backs of trucks, tied down to the tops of buses, in the saddle buckets of mules (adorable and hilarious at the same time) and seated between two men on a motorcycle. And when its all over and the sheep are dead and barbecued

So I discovered another wonderful type of tea. Wiza (fresh vervaine) and frothed milk. It is delicious. I had a total of 3 in my time in Essaouira. One for each day I was there. I am already having fantasies of wiza and milk tea parties at Penn. This stuff is - and pardon neologism - BALLER.

In much more recent news (yesterday and the day before), I lost my wallet between paying for my cab and the door to my house (yeah, I don't know how one does such a thing either) AND I lost my phone between the cab and the door to my house (I REALLY don't get that one, because I had been texting a moment before...). So recent news: I feel like the worst kind of idiot. One who knows she's an idiot and there's nothing she can do about it. I think most of its due to the paper I'm writing for my "Islam and the West" class which seems to have consumed my life. And my brain. And my wallet. And my phone. On the bright? side, I didn't lose too much money, probably about 160 dirham ($20 or so), I'll get a new phone today (for free!), and Lisa's financing me until my mom can DHL me my cards. In lieu of my mood of loss and despair, a poppy pump-me-up: Gavid Degraw's I'm in Love with a Girl.

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