Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Such a day you will not believe!

Yesterday was the King’s Birthday; a holiday in a country that officially has more holidays than any other. We send wishes for a good life and happiness to His Highness Mohammad VI. May you continue to rule in peace and for the prosperity, happiness, and freedom of your people.

Yesterday at my “office” in the new city (the Majestic) sitting under the blessedly cool a/c which only extended as far as the actual air flow, in temperatures over 41C, I ask Q, “Isn’t’ the café au lait good?”

To wit the young woman with the finely tuned palate replied, “It’s not offensive.”

The temperature today is 43C. I had planned to go the gym and salon at Moving and then straight on to the Mega Mall and work in the a/c; but M.C. is not better, is still not eating – so we are off to the Vet’s at 0900hrs. But not without difficulty as the road that runs along our river (the one that is advancing from two lanes to four) was blocked off in the two lanes heading east, and slowed traffic to a crawl for five or six klicks.

M.C. apparently has some infection that is giving him a high fever and is the cause of his lack of appetite. After one injection of a new antibiotic at the vet’s he appears to me some better. The vet wanted to keep him there but as we were not happy with the care he received at the hands of the secretary/assistant last time, Q told her she would take him home and return every day for his shot instead.

We returned home and Q went to the house to get him squared away while I went across the street to our local apothecary (with the lovely pharmacists) to see if they could fill the prescriptions. They did have one of the antibiotics she had prescribed but not the other. In Morocco, with animals as with people, it is not the standard of care practiced by the doctors and veterinarians but rather the lack of supplies and equipment that is lacking.

When I arrived home he had eaten a bit which was more than he had in the past days. Again, I took this as a good sign. Q and I picked up our bags and donned our hats and sunglasses for another foray out into the rising heat of the day to go to Marjane’s and get a blender and supplies to make him chicken broth (see those “old wives” knew a thing or two) per suggestion of the vet. As I had returned from the apothecary I noted that the highway heading east was now blocked off entirely which meant our path to Marjane (our destination) was either unreachable or only attainable by a circuitous route. My backup plan was of course the Marjane at Souissi, which I also know is much COOLER. The MacDonald’s that is attached has what Q deemed, “American a/c” (meaning frigid).

We did manage to get a taxi in short order and headed in the correct direction, albeit at this point everyone else (and the entire city of Rabat had decided they needed to go somewhere in an automobile today of all days) had been made aware that the road was closed and were doing the Moroccan version of a turnabout which resembles nothing so much as the head long frantic rushing of the salmon headed upstream to spawn. Our driver took on another passenger, like you do, a young woman who looked very relieved to be out of the heat. As we progressed up the boulevard that runs parallel to the Medina I saw through the front window a scenario that passed so quickly, and was so horrid that I didn’t realize it had occurred until it was over. It was like having a movie stamped on my memory of which I had awareness, but only later did frame by frame project itself.

A young boy of nine or ten was knocked over and dragged underneath a silver midsize car (about the size of a mid-size Mercedes) in the lane coming toward us. The back wheel on the driver’s side then rolled over him. As the car passed over the boy he leaped up and ran crying around the back of the car and out of sight!

Our driver, seeing the last of the accident took the young woman (late twenties, dark hair, wearing a skirt and blouse) to task by insisting that she stop her car and not leave. I indicated to the driver he must stop as well. I am trained as a Medic and I had to stop, no equivocation. Q further explained after my hasty exit and the kind young woman in the front said, “Go, I will pay your portion of the fare.”

Arriving at the scene – the child had made it as far as the curb before he collapsed which is why Q thought he had run off all together, but I knew he would not make it far as I had witnessed the entirety of the incident – I found a crying, terrified child surrounded by caring adults who had no idea what to do, but offered support and stayed through until the end. I love Moroccans. The word “medico” is a powerful one here; as soon as I identified myself everyone backed right off and followed my directions.

He was calling for his mother, which was a wonderful sign as that indicated to us he was not a street child and at the hospital he would have someone who was responsible. I made sure that someone had indeed called for an ambulance (everyone here has a mobile) and proceeded to give him a check head to foot. The great news was that he was oriented (no concussion), moving all extremities (no spinal injury), and calling for his mother while crying (likely no broken ribs, no perforation of the lungs). All of which I found amazing. I had exited the taxi prepared to give CPR to at the least, a severely injured child and perhaps even a dying one.

After examining this child it is my considered opinion that the Universe has something in mind for this young man. He had no broken bones, no rigidity of the abdomen (bleeding), no difficulty with deep breaths (fractured or broken ribs), no problem following directions (thank you Q), no dilation of the pupils (concussion) or following my finger with his eyes. He was able to turn his head without difficulty (neck or spinal injury) and could wiggle his toes (broken knees, leg bones, nerve injury). His grip was equal in both hands and strong (concussion or spinal injury), and he was crying in pain (no shock).

He did have the skin scraped right off his left ankle and the top of both feet, and scrapes to his hands. That was the extent of the injuries that were visible and diagnosed on emergency examination. What he needed was a chest and abdominal x-ray to check for damage to his spleen, and I am not convinced that one of his lower ribs may be fractured and he was so frighten that the pain had not set in.

The ambulance arrived shortly after I had finished my examination, given him some OulMes to drink, and used the last of it to give a cursory cleaning to the wounds on his feet and hands. A well meaning, but ill informed bystander, while I was diverted by the arrival of the ambulance and giving them a report, poured tap water over his feet – a bad idea here as the bacteria content in tap water varies depending on where you obtained it and when. The EMTs had the stretcher out and him in the ambulance in short order. The only difficulty remaining was that his mother had not arrived yet and I was concerned about his ability to pay for the x-rays, which was a dilemma as there was no one to whom I could give any money since his mother had not been found; but the EMTs had no hesitation in taking him, and assured me he would have x-rays on arrival at the hospital.

We left at this point being certain that in the Medina, as in the Oudayas, everyone knows everything about everyone, and someone would find his mother. As we crossed through the gate in search of another taxi we saw the ambulance leaving. The timing was such that I think his mother had arrived.

We secured a taxi in short order and entered the nightmare that was now all traffic within ten klicks of the Oudayas. I don’t know why, it was just one lane! After spending what seemed an eternity, but in truth was more likely ten minutes (says Q it was five, but I swear it was an hour!), our taxi pulls out of traffic (huzzah we are thinking) and into a repair garage (uh oh) which was apparently full and busy so he pulled up to another. The back tire was flat and we were gone.

Now we are walking the streets of the New City in the increasing heat of the day trolling for another taxi. Again the time seemed like hours, but this time even I admit it was more like five minutes. We had no desire to return to the clogged traffic on the roads behind us, so we requested he take us to the Marjane across town in Souissi.

Yes, there is MORE if you can believe that. Part II coming up.

Monday, 30 July 2007

..back in the saddle again

This blog-cast is coming to you from the rooftops of the Oudayas. The heat has driven us to the roof with our laptops, and while a tiny bit inconvenient it is lovely and blessedly cool, and there is a naked pudgy man a few roofs over and I am having a very hard time averting my eyes… he may well have on some sort of skimpy bathing costume, I fear to gaze too long in his direction lest he suspect me of more than simple curiosity. While I am clothed in what is normal summer attire (a short sleeve shirt and shorts) it is not something I would wear even outside my door here. However as I informed Q, this is my house and I am not going to wear any more clothes in this heat. There is the sound of drums in the distance, which could mean anything from a wedding to some sort of show for the tourists. Oh my giddy aunt he stood up and has on a rather skimpy bathing costume – and he is not someone who should… Ah yes I see now it is a bar-b-que on the neighboring roof, and as Q so brilliantly noted, “there’s a fire over there!” And only men. So where do you suppose the women are eating? Oh my, our mouths are watering as the smell of meat grilling and some sort of delectable sauce is poured over it while on the fire. We are not big meat eaters, more your chicken and fish girls, but we are carnivores and now and then the body screams, “feed me meat!”. Alas after dark here that is not going to happen, perhaps tomorrow we need to go back to Le Grand Comptoir. We have decided it’s the only place to eat fish and I’m thinking the beef will prove out as well.

We have such a splendid view up here of the river and the city. In the twilight the city is a soft white and grey with the green rooftops and the twinkling lights of the traffic adding splotches of color. We can hear the prayer calls now going out over the cityscape and see Hassan’s Tower and the palace are lit up. The neighborhood’s only two dogs are barking from the palm-covered roof over next to the bakery (they do not leave their roof as they fear attack by the gang of “terrace cats”). “Who’s your daddy now?”

The moon has risen and is the kind you see in all the landscape paintings. Full and rose colored with the clouds drifting across the bottom. In the distance we can see the lights from the “I want to die in an accident” Ferris wheel and tipsy top rides. Q is crying out in some agony from the smell coming from “the men’s party” terrace of meat roasting.

File under total lack of personal responsibility: NYTIMES “Study Says Obesity Can Be Contagious”. “You don’t want to lose a friend who becomes obese, Dr. Christakis said. Friends are good for your overall health, he explains. So why not make friends with a thin person, he suggests, and let the thin person’s behavior influence you and your obese friend?” Didn’t that used to be, “It’s just as easy to love a rich chap as a poor one”? What a world, what a world. So now let’s see.. it’s not guns that kill people… and it’s not that buttery pastry you are putting in your mouth but your friends who are making you fat? I don’t think so.

I am one who believes in the power of thought – be it called prayer, meditation, or intentions – and we can use some of your positive thoughts just now. I had not told you of this as the incident with marymary took my attention, but M.C. Solaar is unwell. He went in Monday last for the very simple neuter procedure. Unfortunately a series of events has turned it to a dark day indeed. One of his testicles had not descended turning the snip-snip into an invasive procedure with multiple stitch sites. Then he had a very bad reaction to the anesthesia and we had to take him back to the vet where he stayed for three unhappy days. Q brought him home and he is a scruffy, sad little fellow indeed. The first antibiotic gave him terrible diarrhea, and now he is on two antibiotics. He won’t eat or drink and Q has been patiently feeding him with a syringe and squirting the water into his mouth. There has been none of his usual running, jumping, leaping – just sleeping. We are very concerned that he is no better after a week’s time. He returns to the vet on Wednesday to have his stitches out. I know there are many of you who are ‘animal people’, and those who are wonderful without animals. If you could spare a moment to send a positive thought his way it would be so kind. This is the poor dear’s schedule at present:
10AM--amoxi 1.5 ml
10:15--12 syringes of food+3 water
11AM--stomach antibiotic 2ml
2:15--12 syringes of food +3 water
3PM--stomach antibiotic 2ml
6:15--12 syringes of food+3 water
7PM--stomach antibiotic 2ml
10PM-amoxi 1.5 ml
10:15--12 syringes of food+3 water
if you're up--2:15--12 of food+3 water

We are somewhat encouraged as he moved aside the box blocking the staircase and made his way up the stairs to crawl into bed with me last night, where he curled up and slept quite soundly.

All good thoughts are appreciated.

If I don’t die from the heat, it is to be 39C and over the next few days, I shall return.

You all certainly made me feel better these past days. After all the hoopla I really considered dropping the blog thing, but you have made me rethink that decision. Thank you to everyone – and thank you for coming by☺


Thursday, 26 July 2007


On 17 July 2007 I said in a post: “Ah yes for the heady days of the terrorists who called ahead. One did have to evacuate the tube stations, and the train terminals, but at least they called ahead, considerate that way the Irish…”

I meant to be amusing but I thoughtlessly hurt some feelings, most specifically marymary who wrote: UPSET

after she had posted on my comments:

“{Lady mcL:- It was not the Irish who planted bombs in London or elsewhere. It was an illegal organization called the IRA.” 18 July 2007

She left her comment on the 18th and I was by then posting already written messages, as I was ill. Once I had answered the comments of 17 July I did not go back to check if there were more. Even welshcakes was kind enough to leave a comment pointing me to marymary’s blog where she had said the above in her post UPSET.

But I did not see that either. When I was over to james’ blog this night and saw where he had posted marymary’s comments was the first I heard of it. So in addition to being upset with me over my remarks she was justifiably in her view upset at my callous disregard of her feelings.

I have left this message on her site:

“I am here to apologize and I have come right over upon reading your comment. It has taken me this long because I was ill and laid up. I posted the apology over on "nourishing obscurity" as well because you are absolutely correct.

When I am done here I will apologize on my own blog. It was thoughtless and hurtful. I was trying to be amusing, but I did not stop to think that it could hurt people that I like and respect.

I thank you very much for taking the time to comment and tell me how you feel. I very much hope and intend that it will make me THINK before I make another careless remark that could hurt. Again I ask your pardon.”

It took me a while to find the original comment but I have posted it above. It takes courage to stand up and say “that’s wrong” when someone makes a comment that is prejudiced or thoughtless, especially when they are being funny. One takes the chance of being called a prude or over sensitive. I think not. If more people stood up to say, “that’s wrong” perhaps prejudice would die a fast and agonizing death.

I was WRONG. I apologize to marymary and to anyone else who felt slighted or hurt by my words. It was not my intent. As I said to mary I will make this a lesson to myself to THINK lest I am funny at the expense of someone else. Let us hope I am not so slow it will take more reminders but if it does I hope it is someone of marymary’s caliber that has the courage to stand up and say, “you’re wrong”.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

my brain is..

Your Brain is 33% Female, 67% Male

You have a total boy brain
Logical and detailed, you tend to look at the facts
And while your emotions do sway you sometimes...
You never like to get feelings too involved

in addition to being Blue! I don't know whether to be pleased or worried. I will say years ago when I had surgery on my knee and my surgeon caught me running on the treadmill the next week, he did threaten to test my testosterone level! I never did ascertain if that meant he thought men were tough or stupid?

news of the day

The wedding in Ghana: A was sent cola nuts and a cough drop for the invitation. If he accepted he ate either the cola nut or the cough drop. We don’t know how the family extending the invitation knows if you ate them. I suppose if you don’t want to go, you leave the invitation outside the front opening? The tradition at the wedding is to either kill the goat, let him go, or keep him. They kept him which is all to the good excepting he lives in the patch of grass outside A’s window and bleats until midnight. Such is the price of prosperity.

In the Rabat Medina on my walk home I saw two young boys standing about four or five meters outside an open hannut, and in their hands they each held four thick threads, balancing the two hands to keep the eight lines of thread separate. Now you see the boys and men in the Fez Medina as a matter of course weaving the thread to different thicknesses. One chap will hook the threads onto an anchor some ten meters away or have someone hold the end, and then swirl the threads to one for the desired thickness. You cannot imagine the array of colors in the shops where you buy thread in the Tailor’s souks. I tell you I had no idea so many shades of red, purple, green, and all the rest existed. They are stacked up against the walls on either side of the man or boy manning the hannut and up the back wall as well, to heights as much as a full story. It’s amazing. You feel a bit like Alice down that rabbit hole.

But these two youngsters in Rabat were holding the threads taunt for two older gents who were sewing curtains. Their needles flashed almost in unison in the afternoon sun that was creeping under the eves of the hannut as the boys sought to position themselves in the shade. The rhythm was so certain, sure, and constant I could almost hear a drumbeat and something by Vivaldi I think.

I stopped to buy some dates and the youngster tried to sell me body soap. You have to love the enterprise. Q and I have decided as tasty as the King’s dates are, and they are indeed succulent, the middle-line dates at 36 dirhams/kg are sweeter. It is two quite different tastes, and we shall save the King’s dates for an occasion.

Continuing on my way back to the Oudayas I passed a procession that I ascertained to be a funeral. There was a small white van with green writing in Arabic on the side. The back doors were open, a few chaps sitting inside with the body and a small cadre of gentlemen walking slowly in the oppressive heat behind the van, followed by a parade of cars. Now all I saw was men, but there may have been some women in the cars? The automobiles coming in the opposite lane not only stopped (and the lack of honking in Rabat was astonishing) but many of the men got out and stood while the van passed. Also in the traffic there was a military truck and the two soldiers got out, stood, and saluted while the van passed and turned in front of me to proceed to the large cemetery on the hill. I have no idea if there was something special about this person or if this is standard procedure but it was quite lovely. Any of my Moroccan readers care to comment?

Here’s an historical class distinction for you – mint tea is made very sweet, I mean very sweet. However a recent development in Rabat and Casablanca at the more expensive cafes is the serving of the tea with only one sugar. It is meant to be quite posh and show that the drinker is aware of the diet issues of health and weight. It does not taste as good. I will forgo the class elevation and take my mint tea with lots of sugar thank you.

Q and I were having breakfast at La Comedie, which is great for the café au lait, but only mediocre for food and service, but they serve eggs and we were in the mood for breakfast food. Q had an incident there earlier where the waitress overcharged her but became so distressed at the suggestion she change the price that Q just let it go. Apparently the café has a computer, this is unusual and we surmise it is a bit like one of those odd gods on some remote island – a rock or Nike shoe - that becomes sacred because of its singular uniqueness. We envisioned the waitresses leaving flowers at the computer in the morning and never, never offending the computer. So when she panicked when we wanted breakfast in addition to café au lait, Q carefully explained she could simply make another ticket. And lo all was well in the land…

The weather this week promises to go to 35 C today and up to 37 C in days to come. I am running to PAUL’s, my office in Agdal, today to write and hide.

I am convinced the world is not as old in some places as others; the veil between what was and what is hangs more thin here; history is something you can see and touch rather than read of in dry text. It is a walk through time on some days and really quite lovely.


Tuesday, 24 July 2007

not a good day but a good feeling

24 July 2007

I do apologize but today is unfortunately a migraine day. I did however receive a feel good nod from the “good woman” at My Wee Scottish Blog and I am oh so grateful and touched by her kind words. I intend to be back on the ‘morrow. I have an article this week on TopBlog magazine. Regular readers will have read about Hassan, if you are new you may want to take a look. Thank you for coming. Ciao.

From “the good woman” look to the right..

“ I think that many of the readers of this blog are already familiar with this week's recipient but I feel her popularity is no excuse to omit her from my list of Uber-blogs.
Lady MacLeod is a Scottish/American globe traveler currently living in Morocco. She writes about her everyday experiences in Morocco, gives tantalizing insights into her love life and potted history lessons. Her interest in current affairs is clear with many thought provoking posts tackling the meaty issues that many of us (or maybe its just me) shy away from while blogging.
She researches her topics but is always humble enough consider other points of view. I have been known to disagree with other bloggers and have become quite annoyed with how many delete comments that aren't in agreement with the post. Not so, with Lady M. Opinions are welcomed and the discussion made more stimulating for it.
Lady MacLeod, may this award be proof that I knew you before you were published.”

Monday, 23 July 2007

happenings in Rabat

Q and I were over to PAUL’s for lunch on Friday and everything is on sale in Agdal. It looks like London in July, heavenly. Sale is my most favorite four-letter-word. Q picked up three ba-ba-boom shirts and a lingerie collection that should ensure the happiness of all parties. I did a bit of shopping at La Vie en Rose myself.

While we were shopping in one of the clothing stores in Agdal I realized playing over the sound system was Kenny Rodgers singing that song about gambling - surreal. Moroccan women have a notable sense of style, but it is to a great extent ten years or more behind the West. The eye makeup is definitely from the sixties.

There is a habit or custom here in Morocco that I have witnessed nowhere else in my travels. Bags of laundry, of market goods, with a lamp or chair, milk or water are carried by two persons, with each one carrying one of the handles and the load between them. Many of them are the same plaid bags with the outside covering of plastic, but it is the same with luggage or plastic bags. It seems quite efficient as two to carry a load is certainly better than one, but I do wonder if this is from some older custom?

If you have traveled to France you know it is custom and good manners there to announce yourself when entering a shop with “Bon jour” and to signify your leaving with “Au Revoir”. It is much the same here, but you get much better service if you take the time to say hello in Arabic or French, , and then ask after the health of the shopkeeper. You will receive handshakes, smiles, and an array of tidbits such as fresh, tasty walnuts, dates, and an invitation to the back of the shop where he keeps the fresh spices.

Another custom here is the sprinkling of water on the front stoop and the street, followed usually by a sweeping with a squeegee device. At certain times of the day in the morning and the afternoon around three you have to dodge the water being tossed in the Medina. As Q points out it doesn’t appear to really clean anything but rather to keep the dust down.

Apparently a large percentage of Moroccan men have some sort of Turret’s syndrome. When they see a woman they just spurt stuff out and leer. I can’t believe they actually think you are going to say, “Yes please take me. Take me now.”

Update from the earlier post about A in Ghana:
“Hey babe everything is going well. Saw one castle yesterday. Eerie. Staying at a hotel built over an artificial crocodile pond! Headed To Park in an hour/ text missing… “
Upon A’s return he called Q to tell her apparently “Paris” had fallen into the sea and he had to stand guard while she changed her shirt. The life of the young Americans in Africa –“ more news at eight”. A is attending a wedding in Ghana and he must take Coca Cola and Chiclets… I know! I will get the details for you.

Talking with one of the students doing his research for his Fulbright we learned there are only three purification plants in Morocco; everything else goes into the rivers and the ocean. The government instead of buying the inexpensive easy to maintain systems, buys the new and fancy plants and equipment that requires complicated technology. These systems then break and there is no one to fix it –because the government agent buys the salesmen’s line that, ‘you can give tours and say look what I am doing for my country.’ I am thinking this has something to do with the unpleasant odor that on occasion finds its way into my bathroom. I am now the single largest purchaser of Clorox in Morocco I am sure.

“Dearest it is so hot out and the hannuts were not open so I could not pick up any Oul Mes. Will you get some while you are out for lunch with K.?” I asked.
“Dearest?” I repeated when there was no reply from the child laid out in a boneless posture on the settee.
“I made an affirmative eyebrow motion,” she said languidly.

In Tangier Q had an encounter with a jeweler:
Q: “If I pay that price you will be taking the meat from my tagine (in Arabic).
Moroccan: “So eat chicken.”
Q: “No, no chicken, just vegetables. I will only have vegetables. And what about my poor sick mother?”
Moroccan: “You want to buy a present for your mother?”

The exchange shows both the typical tenacity of the Moroccan shopkeeper and the growing expertise of Q in bargaining.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

can you hear the sound of the moral high ground collapsing?

I am ranting today. I don't do it often, but I am really on a tear this morning so you might want to scroll down to the more pleasant posts or click over to something more soothing like the Harry Potter site. You have been warned. If you are in a ranting mood, click over to Long Way Home for a feminist's rant (this one is good for stay-at-home-dads as well).

Is it torture if you have the go ahead from the United States government? Don't think for a minute I don't get it. I lost people I love to terrorists long before it was "the war on terror". I also know how much you can and cannot learn by torturing someone - no matter what nice name you put on it. I know how terrifying the actions of these people can be, that is after all the idea. If my child were in danger do you think for a moment I would not want to do whatever was necessary? Would that make it right? Our 21st century world of mechanical, scientific, and medical advances is becoming more violent every day. Is more violence in the form of torture the answer to that? If they cut the heads off captives how can we of the west condemn that action if we have their people in a small room somewhere bleeding from a thousand cuts? Is it better because we don't televise our actions? Is it better intel if it is not true but said to stop pain? Does the US actually believe there is one chap calling the shots and all the terrorists report to him? That there is a nice clean chain of command you can break up if you just know who to shoot? Have they not been watching the Israelis? There is no one better at breaking a prisoner, there is no one with more reason to get the intel on terrorists groups. Has it been working? Or is it more likely the releasing of prisoners to back the moderate Abbas (out of the 10,000 they are holding) is a better plan?

In order to contain suicide bombing they are not torturing people, it doesn't work. Today suicide bombers are middle-aged and young, married and unmarried, and some of them have children. Some of them, too, are women, and word has it that even children are being trained for martyrdom.

Suicide bombing initially seemed the desperate act of lone individuals, but it is not undertaken alone. Invariably, a terrorist organization such as Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement), the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), or the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has recruited the bomber, conducted reconnaissance, prepared the explosive device, and identified a target—explaining that if it turns out to be guarded or protected, any crowded place nearby will do. "We hardly ever find that the suicide bomber came by himself," (a police officer quote to Bruce Hoffman). "There is always a handler." In fact, in some cases a handler has used a cell phone or other device to trigger the blast from a distance. "There was one event where a suicide bomber had been told all he had to do was to carry the bomb and plant explosives in a certain place. But the bomb was remote-control detonated." Do we think torture is going to make people with a commitment like this tell us what we want to know? Suicide bombers and other terrorists' acts are committed by people who know the secret: people of the West "love life more than any other people, and they prefer not to die". In contrast suicide terrorists are often said to have gone to their deaths smiling. Data from "The Logic of Suicide Terrorism" by Bruce Hoffman.

According to the Rand Corporation's chronology of worldwide terrorism, which begins in 1968 (the year acknowledged as marking the advent of modern international terrorism, whereby terrorists attack other countries or foreign targets in their own country), nearly two thirds of the 144 suicide bombings recorded have occurred in the past two years. No society, least of all the United States, can regard itself as immune from this threat. Israeli Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized this point when he addressed the U.S. Congress nine days after 9/11. So did Dan Schueftan, the Israeli strategist. He said, "It is an interesting comment that the terrorists make: we will finish defeating the Jews because they love life so much. Their goal is to bring misery and grief to people who have an arrogance of power. Who has this? The United States and Israel. Europe will suffer too. I don't think that it will happen in the U.S. on the magnitude we have seen it here, but I have no doubt that it will occur. We had the same discussion back in 1968, when El Al aircraft were hijacked and people said this is your problem, not ours."

Israel has developed a plan that has decreased the number of terrorists incidents of suicide bombings, and it does not involve torture. Not from any moral stance, but because it doesn't work.

Torture is not new. If it worked would we not have a more peaceful world at present? Think people!

I cannot tell you how I am further not reassured by actions of the U.S. in sending officials recenty to visit Africa and France to drum up support for a new US military command in the region. The new command, known as US Africa Command (AFRICOM), is supposed to lend "greater focus to US policy in the region". Yes, I've always supposed one needs a military unit in order to "lend ..focus to policy..".

And so we can be terrified even of subcontinents, the Indian Army indicted its first battery of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile on 21 June 2007. Oh goody. And the German Luftwaffe (I'm sorry but that title sends shivers down my spine) has passed the half-way mark of the deliveries of the Taurus KEPD 350 stand-off missiles. Mr. Churchill?

South Korea's Ministry of National Defence has proposed a 9.9 % increase to the Fiscal Year 2008 budget. That's equal to KRW26.9 trillion (29.3 billion usd). No worries about the hungry there - forget cake, feed them lead.

Russia's national defence expenditure is set to break the RUR 1 trillion (39.3 billion usd) mark for the first time in 2009. Not to be outdone as this would only put them close to the spending on defence of Western European countries such as France and Germany. Don't you feel all warm and fuzzy over that?

And in the UK an amendment to the UK Competition Act has been passed in the parliament allowing the US secretary of state for defence to exclude certain contracts from parts of the act, paving the way for Complex Weapons partnering agreements. As far as I know only the people who actually wrote this amendment know what it means other than giving the US a say in who the UK shoots at or takes and makes weapons for..

Is it just me or is this nuts!? No I don't have the answer, but I have been around a while and I just can't see that the answer to the current situation is more violence and torture. It's like the death penalty in that if you get the wrong chap - once you're done it's too late to take it back.

I'm done. I'm going to go read a novel now and bury my head in the sand (no pun intended). Lighter subjects on Monday I promise.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Now THIS is Frightening!

Cheney to be in charge during Bush colonoscopy

I'm lighting candles now that all will go well. Talk about the rock and the hard place!

The Moroccan Royal Family

I am broken. Ow ow ow. I was (foolishly) sitting on a stool (alright it was a small cocktail table but here a tea table I should think) talking with Q and watching the cat play with his new toy (so much better than the telly) when the bloody thing crashed under me dumping me to the stone floor on the base of my spine (you know that bone … right ‘there’). In my defense the table looked sturdy enough but when I turned it over the third leg had apparently broken before and was tethered in with three nails. I didn’t feel a thing until late yesterday after we had been to the English (used) Bookstore down by the train station. We were only going to stay and look, but books are to us as shoes are to some women and catnip is to cats – addicting and expensive. I swung myself into the taxi and Oh My Giddy Aunt! I almost came up off the seat. The point of sharing this little ditty with you all is that I am having a difficult time… well… sitting. Sitting is required for typing, you with me here?. I am also telling you because Q is coming up very short on sympathy in this instance. Actually she keeps making fun. (Sigh, where did I go wrong?) So in the best tradition of the Highlands I shall solider on. Glenlivet anyone?

Mohammad VI the current King is from the royal ‘Alawi dynasty which has reigned over Morocco since the 17th century. There was that period where the French did their bit at suppression and exploitation but the royal family just passed the crown around a bit. Mohammed V was sultan in 1927 and became king when the French went home and Morocco became independent again in 1956. His son Hassan II became king in 1961 and was a randy, mean bugger. He made human rights abuses a cornerstone of his reign and punished entire cities for any real or perceived slight. He ruined the economy of Fez by cutting off all state funding and projects of any sort because someone said something to offend him. A state from which they are just now recovering as the new king has flowed money and city improvement projects to the city. Hassan died in 1999 and Mohammed VI became king.

The King has almost complete control over the government. There is a parliament but at this time it more a gesture than a real part of the government. Mohammad VI is viewed as a champion of women's rights, which means secular women's rights activists are often in the royalist political camp.

Hailed as a bright hope for Arab modernization when he ascended the throne seven years ago, Mohammed VI has had a mixed track record since. But even his fiercest critics concede that his initiatives supporting women's rights have been a resounding success.

On Oct. 10, 2003, the king presented parliament with a reformed Family Code. A package of personal and family laws covering marriage, divorce and inheritance rights, the code--or "mudawana"-- was a battleground for a decades-long fight between secular modernists and conservative Islamists who called the debate "a war between believers and apostates."

It was the deadly May 16, 2003 terrorist attacks in Casablanca that eventually turned the tide in favor of the modernists. Following a widespread anti-fundamentalist wave after the suicide bombings, the king came down firmly in favor of women's rights, while positioning his arguments within an Islamic rubric.

In a country where the monarch is the final, sacrosanct arbiter of power, the modified code was in effect, a done deal. Months later, parliament approved the code.

Considered one of the most progressive in the Arab world, the code grants women equal gender status, shared family rights and the right to initiate divorce and marry without the permission of a male family member.

In the past royal weddings were secret affairs, no one knew when King Hassan wed his Berber wife Lalla Latifa and she never appeared in pubic or was featured in any family photographs. Hassan maintained an extensive harem who lived in isolated luxury and were never allowed to bear children. I am not certain of this next but I think they now live in a lush compound inside the Fez Medina and it is called “The Place for the Women Who are no longer Allowed to live in the Palace”. I know the compound exist and it is called that, but it is my surmise that it is the old harem of Hassan.

Information about the family life of the late King Hasan was always closely held. Apparently he married at the time of his succession, as did his son Muhammad VI. In Hassan’s case his wife, Lalla Latifa, was not publicly identified until the birth of the first child in 1962. Many Moroccans believe that Hasan maintained one or two additional wives, including a French wife or perhaps mistress, but confirming such stories is most difficult as the King’s family life is a closely guarded secret. Only the children by Lalla Latifa are considered as part of the royal line, in any event.

The eldest son, Sidi Muhammad, is now King. (Moroccan princes are referred to with the title Moulay, “master”, unless their name is Muhammad. Since the only “Master Muhammad” is the prophet, princes named Muhammad are addressed as “Sidi”, “my lord”. Princesses are given the title Lalla.) He is a year younger than his sister, Lalla Mériem, born August 26, 1962. She is married to a prominent businessman. The other children of the late King Hasan II are Lalla Asmaa, born September 29, 1965; Lalla Hasna, born November 19, 1967, and finally another son, Moulay Rachid, born 20 June 1970 who was the Crown Prince until the birth of the son of Mohammad VI.

King Mohammed VI broke with tradition by issuing a communiqué about his engagement and the identity of his future wife on 12 October 2001. The couple met in 1999 at a business conference.

Lalla Salma was born on 10 May 1978 daughter to El Haj Abdelhamid Bennani, a schoolteacher from Fez and his wife who died when Salma was three years old. She has one sister and was brought up at her grandmother’s home. She obtained a Baccalaureate in 1995 in Mathematics and Science. She completed a two-year preparatory course at the Lycee School (very well thought of) in Rabat and graduated valedictorian in 23000 from l’Ecole Nationale Suprieure where she majored in computer science. She was working as a computer scientist at Omnium North Africa (Morocco’s largest private corporation) when she met His Highness.

On 21 March 2002 King Mohammed VI and his fiancé Salma Bennai signed the marriage contract at the Royal Palace in Rabat in a private Muslim ceremony in from of family members. Days before the wedding the first photographs of King Mohammed VI and his bride were issued. In another break with custom she was granted an official title and is known as Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Salma. She does not bear the title of Queen. The King made it clear he will stick to one wife and not practice polygamy as all his ancestors did. I’m thinking the Princess had something to say on that before the wedding…

The wedding was celebrated with three days of festivities that began 12 April at the royal palace in Marrakech, this is in keeping with the centuries-old traditions of the Royal family and authentic customs which have though time consecrated the bond between the Cherifian Alaouite family and the Moroccan people. It was a fairytale wedding and for the first time in history the Moroccan people were allowed to take part.

Their son, Crown Prince Moulay Hassan, was born in 2003 and is such a cutie; followed by a daughter, Princess Lalla Khadija, in March 2007. You will find photographs of the King and his children in the shops in all the cities. I have a magazine from a couple of months ago featuring the entire royal family. This is such an unheard of thing here you have no idea, and I think from the Moroccans I have spoken with it has made them admire the King. There is much of the bond that king and people had in Britain decades ago when the Throne still held the power present here. You can still be thrown in jail for speaking ill of the King. Hopefully that will change, as Morocco becomes a true republic, which is my hope for the country.

The Morocco Muhammad inherits is a study in contrasts. The Arab country closest to (in fact, within sight of) Europe, and well known to European tourists, it is also very poor, well down the list in rankings of Arab countries. Though it enjoys a Parliament (recently made bicameral) and a plethora of political parties, all major decisions have remained in the hands of the monarch. The Royal Family is said to own about a fifth of the country’s land, and Morocco’s rich phosphate mines are a royal monopoly as well. Nor is the monarchy’s prestige solely political. Moroccan Kings, like their ancestors the Sultans before them, have long claimed the title Amir al-Mu’minin, Commander of the Believers, traditionally a title of the Caliphs of Islam. King Hasan made a particular effort to portray himself as a charismatic religious figure, drawing on the traditional North African veneration for holy men. Though Hasan was a highly Europeanized, golf-loving King, his official portraits often showed him in the traditional Moroccan djellaba or dressed as a pilgrim in Mecca.

The royal family’s private wealth is estimated at 4 – 5 billion usd by Forbes magazine, other estimates place it as high as 20 billion usd. There have been complaints of how the King spends this money in contradiction to his promise to his people but I will save that for another post.

I think the King is trying to move his country forward. You have to understand this is much like moving the Pacific Plate, you have to go slowly or you get earthquakes. The bombings in 2003 were a direct result of his reforms. The Princess is a real inspiration to the women’s movement here and she does a great deal of work for the Moroccan children and education. There are of course faults and many matters that need to be addressed about and to the royal family, but that is not what this post is about.


Thursday, 19 July 2007

our Princess

jmb pointed out to me the link for the “Queen of Morocco” did not work on the post yesterday, so I am posting some photographs of our lovely Princess for you. I apologize for listing her title incorrectly. The story of the royal family here is quite fascinating really and I am a fan of the young king, but as Q says I am a monarchist at heart.

This is the Princess at one of her charities, meeting the Queen Rania of Jordon, the King and the new Princess who was born while we were in Fez, and a portrait of the Princess. I am going to do a write up about them for you tomorrow but for now I must get off to the Press, the gym, and the spa. In there somewhere I have to write!

I’ll be back later with more post for today. Ciao.

When the sun goes over the yardarm in Rabat, the Medina fills. We have been having SUCH hot weather since the first week in July to make a camel sweat, and it continues.. If Fez is any barometer it will stay hot until October. The Moroccans in addition to being a bit more relaxed about the clothing stay inside if possible until around six in the evening for the most part and then BOOM (but in a good way). The Medina was so full last night we had to find the currents of people that were moving forward and get in someone’s wake to move to our destination. Mercy I love being tall!

In the land of delicious dates (dates are a Holy food, and I am right on board with that) the most delicious are said to be the “King’s dates”. It is interestingly enough a story much like the vines in the Napa Valley. Some years back there was a vine rot in California that ran through all the vineyards, they imported the French vines to replace; there was a drought in Morocco and they imported the date palm trees to California for replanting to be imported back to Morocco to replenish the groves. The “King’s dates” are the Medjool dates cream of the crop and we have been in pursuit of them since last year during Ramadan. Yesterday we found a hannut in the Medina that sells the “King’s dates” at 200 dirhams/kg! We ask for a sample to see if they are really worth that price and the seller, unsure of our motives gave us one to share. After seeing the look of rapture on my face and the fact we both immediately began to dig in our pockets for money he offered another. We gave him 80 dirhams for however many that would buy us. He then gave us walnuts, almonds, and more dates to sample. There was a Moroccan couple standing next to us. The woman was doing the shopping and the man was laughing (in the nicest way) at my obvious enjoyment of the free samples. “Free food, it’s my favorite, “ I said.

“Free food is everyone’s favorite,” he replied enjoying his own sample from the date seller. I offered him one of our “king’s dates” because in Morocco more so than anywhere else it is good manners, but he declined with a smile.

Early yesterday to escape the heat and get some work done on the story I ran away to PAUL’s. It has become hot enough for the Moroccans that the a/c is on!!! Praise Allah! It was absolutely chilly in the restaurant. I set myself up at the small table in the corner (great view of all the comings and goings), as there is a plug there. PAUL’s now has wireless as well. The lovely waiters one by one, trooped over during my three hour stay to ask, “Where is your daughter today? She is very beautiful.” See mother beaming. The really very pretty one came over during my last hour and was too clever and lovely, “Where is your FRIEND?”

“She is my daughter.” And he had the charm to look shocked! Don’t you love that?

“She is very beautiful. So are you of course,” he said. As good as the a/c that was no matter he meant it or no.

The taxi ride home was –adventurous. Now you must understand I am a woman who has ridden with the drivers of Northern India where they hang two of the wheels off the side of the bloody mountain while maneuvering around the crater that is in the center of the road and swerving past the boulder slide without rear view mirrors and seatbelts in cars that have been patched and held together with string and gum. So I am not easily frightened in a car. This was more a joy ride. His solution to the Rabat traffic jam was to pull out of it into the oncoming traffic and swerve around the buses in the narrow road that borders the Medina. When we pulled up to the entrance to the Oudayas in record time after barely missing getting creamed by a huge truck, I burst into laughter and he had a shit-eating grin not to be trifled with by man or beast. I’m sorry but I gave him a big fat tip, cheap entertainment at its best.

A called Q to tell her he and ‘Paris” are off to the coast of Ghana to see the rainforest and slave castles; and they are sharing a bungalow. She’s a “co-ed” who “can’t look after herself” and he was “forced” to take her by the leader of the research group who was afraid she would get herself sold into white slavery. You have to know how honorable A is and what a trusting relationship he and Q have built to know this was totally funny rather than worrisome.

Did you know there is Gourmet Nutella? Q is telling me there is a place where they make it without all the preservatives (its true attraction to climbers) and sell it in little gold packages for exorbitant prices. What a world.

Footnote: because that is all “The Ugly American” who appeared in the taxi line outside the Medina yesterday deserves. Q and I had been through the market after coming through the Medina and picking up some of the King’s Dates as I told you above, some drinking glasses, and eggplant. Into the market where we picked up three bags of vegetables, some olives and a bag for two cartons of the Greek yogurt, you can imagine we were weighted down.

We went to the Taxi Stand to wait in line for the chap who calls up the taxis and says who goes where. He signaled our taxi, after a bit of a wait, during which I was holding all the bags so Q could get the doors.

This chap, in his early thirties I would guess, runs up behind me as Q is sliding across the back seat and I am handing the bags into her. Thinking I would not understand him from his tone (which was nasty) he said, “Oh sure go ahead even though we were here first.”

“ I looked up at him and said, “Oh dear you know you need to wait over there,” pointing to the Taxi Stand. Thinking to lighten the mood I said, “Well if it makes you feel better I’m old.”

To which he replied in the afore mentioned nasty voice, “Yeah I can see that.”

I tell you I really did not meditate long enough yesterday morning because this sob missed getting cold cocked by the skin of his teeth. I had my arm pulled back and my fist made before I pulled myself back, closed the taxi door telling Q I would walk home. I turned and gave him my best dazzle dimpled smile and walked back into the Medina. Jerk! And I am here to tell you I had on my “cute” jeans, my La Vie en Rose shirt, and a little cap. That’s all the print he gets.


Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Are you an Organ Donor?

18 July 2007

Organ donation: Today *“BlogCatalog Community Organ Donation Awareness Campaign” is doing a full court press to raise awareness about the need for organ donation. In other words, I am an organ donor, are you? I mean really, when you are dead why do you need those organs? You aren’t going to use them again. If you insist on an open casket those chaps can fill you with Styrofoam.

Seriously, and it is a serious issue, people die every day for lack of an organ donor. Here are some links for more information. Do give it some thought – as in what if it were your child, husband, mother, sister, brother who needed an organ transplant? What would you do to make that happen?
If you live in the United States, all you have to do is link to OrganDonor.gov.
or MatchingDonors.com .

Visit the British Organ Donor Society for known worldwide links.

Once you sign up make certain you discuss your decision with your family. Be sure they know this is what you want, and that they are comfortable with your decision. Read some of the success stories if you have any hesitation. It’s not just the old kidney transplant (albeit that is pretty spectacular) but did you know you could save someone’s sight with a corneal transplant? How brilliant is that?! Come on, sign up, it is the cool thing to do. You can brag about your philanthropic ways at the next Club Brunch over martinis.

And now back to our normal programming….

Last night hearing strange sounds ‘above’ I made way up the stairs to the terrace where I saw our neighbors to the ‘right’ decamping to the roof for the evening. I assume it is now hot enough to bother the Moroccans! They are set up with chairs, lights, and a television – there you have it, the Archers in Rabat catching the ocean breeze.

I want to post a little DISCLAIMER today. I know I have readers from Morocco, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Britain, Italy, American, and France, et al (you know who you are) – I want to make it very clear that this is MY view of Morocco. These are MY experiences here. There was a lot of talk on the Morocco blogs ( you can find the list at this link) some time back about the “incorrect” view, the “tourists’” view, the “unrealistic” view, and the “real” view of Morocco. I think they are all valid. It is the old tale of the blind man and the elephant isn’t it? I mean do you have hold of the tail or the trunk? I am a well traveled western woman, but western nonetheless. Hopefully this is not an Orientallist point of view, but rather that of one who knows her biases, limitations, and has an eager desire to learn and explore – one I have indulged for many years. I welcome all my readers and my Moroccan readers are welcome to always post any difference of opinion or correction. Meanwhile I shall continue to give my impressions and experiences in this wonderful country.

Here are some better photographs of my neighborhood of the Oudayas (Oudaia) than I can take.

Yesterday I was at my New City ‘office’, the Majestic Boulangerie that has some of the best sandwiches in town and a wonderful bakery. The only complaint is that the café’ au lait deliciousness is not consistent. It is one block over from Mohammad V Blvd. where at present there is a world of construction work going on with the sidewalks.
I was working on my story and doing a bit of people watching, like you do. Q came back from her Arabic class and over café au lait we were discussing the positioning of the veil in Moroccan society.

Our observations have been that if she is dressed all in black and the veil is right under her eyes, she is from out of town or Islamist, and is usually young. The newly converted (usually westerners) will have the veil up and tight but will go to different colors at times. Worn by the middle-aged who still bow to convention or habit lays the veil gently across the nose and often is beautifully embroidered. I have not seen the lovely embroidered veils on the younger women. I don’t know if it is no longer part of the trousseau, out of style, or I have just not seen it. Worn by those in the later years who have seen much, the veil is often worn loosely under the nose and even under the chin; these women have either amusement in their eyes or a look that says, “Don’t even think about it.”

There is a place for feminists in Morocco, and you can’t always tell by the veil or the lack of one. The Queen of Morocco does not wear a veil.

We have also noticed in the past weeks we are not the only ones to become more “relaxed” in our clothing choices. As the weather heats up and stays there, the scene in Morocco is more sleeveless and less covered but shorts are rare on this side of town. In Agdal and Souissi it is shorts, sundresses, and t-strapped shirts.

Personally I try to expose the least amount of skin I can stand to the sun here. I saw a group of tourists yesterday that resembled lobsters more than anything else. Ouch!

You can tell the Moroccans and those of us who live here from the tourists by one sure method, the Moroccans will head for the shade even if it means extra steps out of the way. Q and I have begun to take a longer, but shaded way through the Medina to the New City. The tourists walk down the center of the street or look into the shops on the SUNNY side!

I have to go meditate now before I THROW MY COMPUTER AGAINST THE WALL. Which would be illogical because it is the Internet server that is so slow I could be dead for three years before I was able to blog about it! Then to the hammam which should help with the relaxing. Don't forget go sign your donor's card.

Om mani padme hum…

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Meanderings of a mind adrift in the universe

Since the Security Services have upped the alert to “Maximum” I have noticed security guards at the entrance to the Mega Mall and Marjane’s checking packages and doing sweeps with the metal detectors. On Saturday at Moving there was a guard with a dog sniffing the cars in the car park. Also at intersections in the New City and Agdal I have noticed the traffic policemen who normally stand in the intersections or on the street corners were stopping cars seemingly at random and asking for papers. I have no idea what papers, as I would NEVER drive in Morocco. It seems they are on top of things. I didn’t really consider us in any danger as we live in the Oudayas and don’t move with crowds of tourists or even local westerners, but seeing the guards at Marjane gave me some pause. Ah yes for the heady days of the terrorists who called ahead. One did have to evacuate the tube stations, and the train terminals, but at least they called ahead, considerate that way the Irish…

Q and I have had an idea: a tour of the world’s great libraries. It would not be not restricted only to rare books and scholarly treatise though those will be included, but also for the beauty of the building itself. We are thinking we must restrict the number to six plus the guide. Everyone who goes must have individual recommendations to submit both to the guide to approve and to the individual libraries to ask for permission to enter. This is the preliminary list, whom would you add or delete?
Oxford, Vatican, Florence, Venice, Louvre, Yale, Penn, Cambridge, MIT. In China, India, Cairo, and Turkey, and Damascus for private collections.

Our garden is DEAD, really really quite dead. Just look to the right. The neighborhood cats decided we had set out a decorative litter box in six parts, and they made good use of them. “Ug” and “oh well”, we still have the lovely table and umbrella. I shall think of some other decoration for terrace – suggestions welcome.

PAUL’s, the wonderful restaurant in Agdal of which I have spoken, is the best hospital cafeteria in the universe as it sits just across from the Clinique des Nations Unis where I had treatment for my “episode”. Moroccan waiters (street food to finest restaurant0 do not appear flustered which is relaxing even if the food is a bit slow. A most splendiferous corner of Rabat – you can have a fabulous lunch and get your head examined before dessert across the street. You really can’t beat that kind of service can you?

I was watching the workers on the new highway just below the Kasbah planting the seedlings by hand in the (to me) devastating heat next to the workers on the sidewalk drilling to make way for the new sidewalk, and it started me thinking – like you do. Is there a certain sort that is attracted to a career or job in the fields of gardening or being a florist vs. a butcher or highway worker? Or is it just the way things fall out. You know you wake up; need a job, look at the classifieds, and take what’s there? Does it depend on the country? I know when we had a house in Belgravia gardeners were prized, that horrible woman on the corner was always trying to steal our man! Whereas in no country is being a jackhammer operator prized is it? But then everyone wants a good butcher, but does he enjoy the work?

I also see the “royal gardeners” at work over on the palace grounds and wonder if they enjoy their work. Is it a prestigious job here? Does it pay well? Do they feel like they are practicing the art of creation vs. the art of destruction practiced by the jackhammer chap? But then isn’t destruction part of the cycle of creation? Do they think of that while the dust is billowing about them and the noise must drown out everything but the sound of their own thoughts? I was just thinking…

Quotes from Q:

“There’s a kind of awe about it, of the someone, that can escape the lions and live with the unicorns.”

“It is very hard not to make fun of most men.”

Monday, 16 July 2007

the princess and "Die Hard IV"

Q and A are closing the geographical gap, they are on the same continent now as A is in Ghana. Communication however is proving more difficult than when they were separated by 4828 km of ocean. I begin to think they must both long for the fall.

Everyone! here smokes. I cannot imagine the statistics for lung cancer and emphysema. Of course not everyone, but at times – especially in a café – it seems true; but I will say this, that is very forward thinking, there are in the larger cafes and restaurants “no smoking” areas.

In Morocco the sharing of food is just good manners - in the home, the café’, taxi, or train. On the train in second class food is always shared, in first class it is not but first class passengers will take your magazines without asking if you are napping and without any but the most cursory request should you be awake, and in second class they will not.

Rolling couscous with the fingers is, like chopsticks – an acquired skill. You can see the Moroccans in the sidewalk cafes or sitting in groups while at roadside work eating the couscous with their (right) hand in perfectly rolled balls. Being the adventurous sort I gave it a go last time we were invited to dinner at Mohammad’s house (which was over the moon delicious) with much encouragement and instruction from the family. Mohammad and his brother own the rug/antique/jewelry shop we frequent in Fez. We use him exclusively for our rugs and my antique djellabas actually. His shop is the Coin Berber, which had a write up in the New York Times, we were so proud for him. He, his brother, and his father, who is the most adorable antique in the shop, own and run the shop. We first met Mohammad when Q and I went in his shop for Q to look for jewelry (never go jewelry shopping without this child; I am thinking if the professor thing does not work out she can definitely get a job in the jewelry business). Then of course we had to look at some rugs upstairs, and have tea, and look at the antiques across the street (not a street in the western sense, think more of across the ‘hall’).

I found an exquisite antique caftan that had been worn at one of the royal weddings. I mean a real stunner, which Q made me try on. Now I have told you I like to collect, but only things I can use. The price for this caftan and justifiably so was $2000/980 pounds. One had just sold that was not as fancy for $2500/1226 pounds. I said, “Oh no thank you very much but that is too much to pay for something I won’t use.”
Mohammad went back to his shop to wrap the wonderful Berber blankets we had purchased, and Q kept telling me why I should buy it. We went to pick up our package and I said once again even after he lowered the price “No.” I told Q, "If I were to purchase it, I would carefully unbutton all the handmade buttons down the length of the front and wear it as a coat with jeans, a pullover cashmere, and heeled black boots."
Then he said, and you will hear this, “How much would you pay.” So thinking to end the discussion right there because I did really want it, but could not justify the extravagance I said, “3000 dirhams (367 usd/181 pounds) is all I can pay.” After picking his jaw off the ground, Mohammad smiled indulgently and said, “That is unfortunate. But come you both must meet my father.”

His father stays mostly over in the antique shop and as I said fits right in, and he is so lovely. Mohammad ran off a string of Moroccan at him that even Q had trouble following, but we got the jist. He was telling his father about the caftan I liked and the ridiculous price I offered. The father looked at me and I shrugged and gave him my best dimpled smile. “Fine,” he said.

“What?!” asked Mohammad of his father.

“I said give it to her for her price. Her hair is so beautiful.” And THAT is how I came to own the princess coat and how we became friends with Mohammad and then his entire family.

In the very large condominium in the New City in Fez lives Mohammad’s grandmother, father and mother, two aunts, a sister, he and his wife, and I think the brother. Can you imagine working in that kitchen? When Mohammad told us his wife had chosen to take a job outside the home, we were not surprised.

When we were invited for lunch all of the family was there, and one of the other sisters and a friend dropped by for lunch, which was more delicious than I can tell you.

Then it was tea and entertainment time. We watched the video of Mohammad’s wedding, which was quite a splendid affair. All the men stayed to watch as well. Now you must understand this is a very common, from what I have seen, entertainment. The family all sits around and when they see themselves or someone they know they point and clap and make comments. “Now where am I?” “What were you doing there?” “Who are you talking to?” “Look at you dance Mama’!” When the music comes up they all clap and sing and sometimes get up and dance. It is splendid.

Here’s the ringer, Mohammad was married almost a year ago.

The man who makes our fresh orange juice has been on holiday and I MISSed HIM, at least the chaps who make the fresh bread just inside the entrance to the Oudayas are still here, you can smell the wood burning at the stoves when I go up to close the roof at midnight.
He returned on Sunday and we all had a great reunion. He is always so cheerful. He is practicing his English on me, and I try out my Darjia on him. I have never seen him have a "down" day, in spite of the fact he has some sort of deformity of one leg which must give him pain and he works every day from early to late. He and his family had gone to the mountains that surround Marrakech, and had a smashing time apparently. He has a beautiful daughter who is very intent and a son who has that look of mischievousness in his eye. We are soooo glad to have him back.

On Sunday we headed for the market for yogurt, dates, and DVDs in the now aggressive search for HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHONEIX. As we were going to the market we saw a parade of people headed to the beach – coming up the hill from the road toward New City the sidewalk was packed with beachgoers. “Oh no I am thinking they know something about how hot it is going to be today,” I said to Q.

“Oh yes, look at that,” she said pointing to the people coming from the direction of the Medina. As we walked farther toward the Medina it seemed everyone else on the road was heading in the opposite direction toward the beach. “I feel like I am in one of those disaster movies. You know where the idiot heroes are headed toward where the fire, earthquake, bad guys, or erupting volcano is located and everyone else is fleeing to safety.

Nonetheless we forged ahead but no joy on the yogurt. The dates are brilliant however. No joy on Harry Pottter but I found DIE HARD IV in English. Joy and rapture! My Sunday afternoon is made.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

a rearranged day

For some reason I always think serial killers should be more attractive. I mean really look at this chap, would you be lured by him? Anywhere?

What a day, what a day. On Wednesday I got up, wrote the blog, readied for the gym and then there was a kitten emergency! Put the gym off (sigh), picked up the laundry, as we had to wait until three for an appointment with the vet. I am happy beyond normal reason to report the Press is very good. Everything is cleaned, folded, and smells divine. So we are set.

I stopped for a café and water after stepping into the stationary store for Faber Castell pencils and a notebook. I completed the character of the Reverend Harland Bishop (we don’t like him) for “Three for Matilda”. On the way home I saw and purchased the Osama train!! I was so pleased they had one left. Now I must look for one for Colin Campbell, reinforcing my belief it is westerners fueling this particular market – although… they are made in CHINA. What a tangled web…

Returning home Q had M.C. in his basket and we were off to Souissi to the vet. The vet is quite lovely and competent. Q is reassured that she went to veterinary school in the U.S. She has taken on a new assistant, a young woman of thirteen or so I would say which pleases Q no end. The swollen red eye was nothing deadly (whew) just some type of conjunctivitis that will require eye drops (fun and joy for Q).

Going into the vet we asked the cab driver to wait, as we did not want to be stranded in the very hot sun with an ill kitty. He agreed to wait, and we didn’t pay him his 30 dirhams to insure his presence. After the appointment, which was very quick, we went to the café on the corner where he said he would wait. Outside the café was a LINE of taxis with the drivers out sitting under the shade. They were ready to load us up when we said, “No we have a driver waiting for us. He is in the café.’ But he was neither in the café nor anywhere around it. We lost the cab driver, oops. We waited a few minutes but the whole point was NOT to wait. We counted on the fact our appearance is odd enough to remember and that the other drivers would inform the lost chap that we did indeed look for him. My thinking is that he buggered off to try and get another fare in while waiting. I am sorry he missed his fare but we could think of nothing to do.

We arrived home and put the kitten to bed, off to the apothecary and a bit of shopping for sunscreen and moisturizer (of which you can not have too many). Then to a new café recommended by E. for brilliant chicken sandwich, Oul Mes, and café au lait for 51 dirhams! Kudos to E. We left with olive and cheese bread from the bakery that proved to be delicious. The café HAS an air conditioner, but the Moroccans do not find it sufficiently warm at 36 degrees C to turn it on. Ai!

Back home to unpack clean and sweet smelling laundry and literally squeeze out our skin and hair, all clothes to the washer bucket and sitting in front of the fan at last. To find out the Security Service has issued a “Maximum” threat level for terrorists’ attacks in Morocco. Oh goody.

Q and K. had a fun trip to Tangiers last weekend. I had a nice moment when the hotelier told Q, “A woman called you. She spoke very good Spanish.” Made my day as I am constantly speaking very poor Moroccan and French.

The guide was going past with the tourists the other day when Q was sitting on the stoop letting M.C. have a look around, “And here is the American,” he said. Really every neighborhood should have one. Soon I expect we shall be on the ‘must see’ list for all the tour groups.

The neighborhood ‘new baby’ lives on our block, and we have seen her taken about the neighborhood and the hannuts and handed off for kissing on a daily basis (most especially by the men which I find endearing) since we arrived, it is apparently some sort of delightful ritual. Today, I was kissed by the baby! I now feel accepted in the Oudayas.

I went to the Mega Mall after working out on Thursday. I admit it, I am a woos – I went for the a/c. but I countered this selfish and energy guzzling behavior by walking the entire structure and shopping in order to support the local economy. The dress code is much more ‘loose’ at the Mega Mall, I saw a young woman in a pair of short shorts and little t-strap top (she looked fabulous, so that was good), as well as jeans, tee-shirts, sun dresses – the normal mall wear you see everywhere, with a djellaba and hijab thrown in here and there to remind you where you are. It is still amazing how the site of legs and shoulders is so shocking here. Not the low cut blouse, dress, or even djellaba, they abound.

I have discovered more of the anomalies of shopping in Morocco. The trousers are all three or more inches longer than you will find in Europe, Britain, or the U.S. I am 5’10” tall, and I find really expensive trousers are just long enough, and more moderately priced trousers have to be let out, or worn with flats. Every pair of trousers I tried on today (with the new very orange sandals) pooled on the floor. It is because to a woman they all wear those stiletto heels with everything – djellaba to jeans.

I met a lovely young woman from Canada in Antonelle (where I left my white lace fan, sigh). She is here for three weeks visiting her family. “It is so nice to hear an English accent,” she said. I need to get myself to the Highlands for some debriefing on the accent – too many years away.

Speaking of politicians, beware I say, this could be you. I’m sorry I know this is not funny, but I am laughing. You do a bad job in your political appointment in China and they kill you, now in the West we… don’t. Whereas in Iran, it is the civilians who are being executed by stoning and hanging for “morals violation”. I really can’t see either of these policies as a solution to the world population increases, but it might work for political corruption.

And here lies intolerance – as a Hindu clergyman was leading the prayer in the American Senate chamber (well done U.S.Senate!), protesters shouted from the gallery saying it was an “abomination”. They were quoted as saying they were Christians and patriots.

On that note I am off to the gym just in case a handsome serial killer shows up I will be in shape to fight him off, then we are going to Paul’s for lunch, people watching, and work on the story. There has been a request (thank you jmb) for another “John story”. Trust me they are as much fun for me to write as they apparently are for you to read, however at present I am taking three online courses, writing the blog, and writing an ending for “Three for Matilda”, then comes the editing for a 3 August deadline. I will have some more after mid-August. I have to polish up my work and have enough work to present to the agents and publishers in Canada in October. My goal is to leave there with an agent. “John” fans just hold on, it’s coming.

Friday, 13 July 2007

The Osama Train!

The chaps are selling these at the entrance to the Medina. I am not sure exactly of the Moroccan view of the play being enacted. Is bin Laden the victim? Does he have a bomb hidden under the skateboard? The press here [that I have read, and that Q has read] while not condemning bin Laden does not, and most certainly the people do not condone terrorists acts against ANYONE in Morocco. Perhaps it is only tourists and expats buying the toy? All possible choices, you decide.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

first here, and then go here...

The post today is one of travel, you have to travel to get it.

My interview with Expat Magazine is online here.

My other recommendation is that you visit Long way home who began her post with this:

“…this article today actually connects to a discussion with an older Moroccan man I had on the train who used to live in Miami. He told me sort of sadly that he had lost all faith in the American government, which had used to be a shining light for him, and that it was nothing but spin--if you scratch the surface nothing is there. I argued back a little, but it was hard to disagree with a lot of his points--I'm depressed about transparency, campaign funding, and lobbyists too. What I find interested is that my first reaction was to shrug and announce "All politics is like that." And he said, sort of sadly, "No, it doesn't have to be."

I think one of the things I am most profoundly angry with the Bush administration about is the fact that now, when I am confronted about America's supposed evil, I have to take pause--long pause--where I feel ashamed of what we have done. I never felt ashamed before. To be fair, we've done terrible things in the past as well. And there are a lot of exemplary things about my country. Truly great things. But this Moroccan man felt bad for us --for US, the American people, not for our foreign politics, but for what he saw as the erosion of civil rights in exchange for security. He knew Morocco was worse, but he used to look up to us, and now he didn't. "When you are the most powerful nation in the world, you have to set an example," he said.”

She goes on to post a very interesting and disturbing article.

Tomorrow: the Osama Train!!! CNN and IHT; CIA and MI6 can't get a recent photograph of Osama? We bring you an exclusive from Morocco!! ...and other interesting things as well.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

“Come on people!”

I was sitting in my bedroom working at my laptop on the bed, bemoaning the lack of a breakfast table (sigh), and basking in the delicious breeze from the fan, when from outside I heard, in the exact intonations that I use the phrase ubiquitously to the children and tourists in the street, “Come ON people!” as I make shooing motions with my hands. Goose bumps went crawling up my neck (considering the temperature it felt pretty good). I tell you, just when you think no one is listening… you are caught out influencing the youth of a foreign country! One of the little beauties who plays house on our stoop and is always out front with her friends was trying to organize a game (next item) and she was corralling them around with MY phrase – “Come on people!” In ENGLISH. I cannot tell you my chagrin and my feelings of flattery, perhaps misplaced but I tell you all I am smiling still.

The game she was organizing was Ring around the Rosie - in Darjia. I have a photograph for you. It was somewhat surreal, and then the unkind fellow from next door yelled at them and made them all go home! Harrack!

Another great surprise I had today and I’m sorry oh ye of staid personality and reserved emotions but I am so tickled, I smile still (lots of smiling today, which was good after writing that post this morning). I sallied forth to my BlogPower blog roll to read some interesting, fascinating, technically (will someone teach me the secret to making the page go from one side to the other?) savvy, tasty, and other brilliant adjectives, blogs, and lo did I find there my OWN little blog title, sassy and proud to be among such company. I must do my thank you, like a well brought up person, and that is to Sir James (I can’t recall all of the new moniker) of Nourishing Obscurity. Three months ago when I was just an infant blogger he wrote some delicious and kind words about my blog on his site. I was beside myself with glee to even be noticed by someone of his obvious blog-caliber, but to be reviewed and brought to notice was heady indeed. He has since that time not only read my blog but offered comments. He has been a cyber friend of the very best kind. He is generous of spirit and someone to emulate. Thank you james. You are my cyber hero.

After my verbal decanting this morning, Q and I left the house with arms full of dirty laundry in two bags full to find the Press that the girls down the way had told us of. Words on laundry in Morocco: when we were at the Villa in Fez we had a washing machine (sigh). Everyone, really everyone, hangs the laundry out to dry. I suppose in Agdal and Souissi there are a few dryers and in the Presses of course, but the majority of the country hangs to dry, and why oh why would you not? Since moving to the Oudayas it has been a constant struggle to get clean laundry (something I am a real stickler about). We don’t have a washing machine and I looked in to buying one of those toy ones – you know the baby machines, but there is no hook-up for it in the house at all unless I put it in the shower… all right I DID think about it, but only for a minute. For a few months the housekeeper was washing the clothing by hand and taking the linens to be machine-washed. I was not happy with this arrangement for a couple of reasons – she was overcharging us (by quite a bit) and she put everything in the same load or basin. Once I told her (idiot me thinking she would know to separate) I wanted the linens Clorox-ed, she dumped it on everything. Q has some lovely tie-dye shirts now.

The odd part is Presses are thick on the ground in Fez. I mean really they are everywhere; you stumble over one going to the cookie cafes, but here – thin on the ground. I have looked and looked. I did find a Cleaners nearby, but … hmmm a bit dodgy I think. I ‘m still looking. We have been washing our lingerie, and I my gym clothes by hand, easy enough in the summer. We have lines for hanging the wet clothes on the roof and truth be told I find that a hoot. Finally today we found the Press, she took the two bags of linens, and the first question was, “Can everything go in together?” Hey, at least she ASKED. I pick them up tomorrow, and we shall see, the price is very reasonable, around 120 dirhams I think. In Fez at my favorite Press where I had them clean my djellabas they were wonderful, EVERYTHING was 30 dirhams. Bring in two sweaters, 30 dirhams. Bring in one djellaba, 30 dirhams. Bring in two djellabas, 30 dirhams. I was very tempted to bring in the cat.

When we were leaving the Post after Q picked up her package, we passed a shop with pens, pencils etc and a GLOBE in the window. I have not told you the difficulty of obtaining a world map in Morocco. There are “political reasons”. “You know Africa yes, well these countries are always changing their borders who can keep up. Would you like a map of Morocco?” I did find one old world map hidden away at the Villa with the labels in Arabic and the sizes of the countries and continents somewhat distorted.. So when we saw a bright orange (perhaps I should get it to match my new shoes. I could carry it like the new ‘it” accessory? No? eh.) But it was just 1300 hours and the store was closing, so another day will have to do for Arabic globe shopping.

We went ahead to La Comedie, which is a place Q really likes for their deserts. Today we tried lunch and were convinced that this is an excellent place to come for café au lait and dessert.
Another cultural oddity (to us) is the eating of pastries with fresh squeezed orange juice. It makes my blood sugar rise just to watch it. I went to the loo after eating and I felt like I had entered downtown Delhi. The bathroom was so thick with smoke I could barely make out the faces out EVERY SINGLE waitress! After I left I felt in need of an x-ray, but I had chocolate instead.

Q and her professor had a discussion about arranged marriage and forced marriage – the differences thereto. One where the parents are indeed looking for your best interest, and the second more their own interest. The professor’s point was that the divorce rate is comparable in both so it can’t be so bad. Q pointed out that only in the past few years have the women been able to get a divorce and they may well have slanted the statistics a bit.

That’s over a thousand words friends and you have things to do. Tomorrow: Q and Katie’s Excellent Adventure in Tangiers, women in positions of power, the patriarchal bent of history, a inadvertent purchase, all right four purchases at the jewelry store, the state of politics in Morocco, and the Moroccan’s love for the melodramatic when it comes to love. “Don’t you find that romantic (sigh) that he was willing to cut his wrist for his love!” said the Arabic tutor
My pragmatic child said, “No not really.”
“But it is so, so romantic!” We are constantly beset with the love of the Egyptian soap operas in every hannut and shop, and Othello is bigger than Elvis.

What is this? “Concern grows in Britain over female genital mutilation”

All right we may not be able to change this practice in Africa but we can bloody well keep it from happening in Britain. I say write some letters, give the MPs something to read. Email to anyone who has an address and especially the media. I am sending off a little note to CNN and the London Times stating that this subject should remain a news item! This is not just Muslims, it is also Christians; the practitioners are mainly from the Nile Valley region and parts of sub-Saharan African, Yemen, and Oman. Britain is our country, a country in which women have rights, and control over their bodies. A country where we protect our children. This is unspeakable. Tell everyone you know about this article, e-mail it around; get people talking about it. When this sort of thing is dragged out into the light of reason, it cannot continue. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men/women do nothing.”

# Story Highlights
# Female genital mutilation is becoming a growing problem in Britain
# Police campaign beginning Wednesday will highlight that practice is a crime
# 20,000-pound reward offered for information leading to UK's first prosecution
# Problem mostly involves first-generation immigrants from Africa, Middle East
-400-500 victims every year.
Police estimate up to 66,000 girls in Britain face the risk of genital mutilation.

I have to begin to post BEFORE I read the papers… To bring things back up to a cheery note. Look right to see some of the cats of Rabat. I told you they are everywhere, and generally well cared for as far as feeding. You can see someone had just left them lunch. If you look carefully you will see the kittens all about hidden in the grass. I tried to get some photographs for you but I kept shaking the camera as I was so busy going, “Awww.” This is a small meditation park in the Medina.