Wednesday, 25 July 2007

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.



scarlettscion said...

Actually I wasn't that nice, I argued with her and then her manager and then her manager's manager until I only had to overpay by 4 dhs, and only that because I didn't want to wait for change.

Honestly, I would have been calmer about it if she hadn't kept saying "This is all your fault" and being nasty.

scarlettscion said...

I believe her other argument was, "I can't change the price, it is in the computer already."

So you can't reverse a receipt? Seriously? Either the computer program is flawed, or the people in that restaurant need to go back to a cash register.

Omega Mum said...

I hate to butt in on a family discussion but just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this. And those dates are wonderful. Enjoyed your final para with the idea of veil between what was and what is (bad paraphrasing sorry) being thinner in some places than others.

I Beatrice said...

Lovely piece. So glad you're better.

And so glad too, to hear that someone (viz, Q) behaves in certain situations in much the sane way as my husband would behave...... (You can't THINK of the altercation he had in Marks & Spencer this afternoon! TG I only heard anout it afterwards....)

xoussef said...

before the procession, a prayer is held in a mosque. Women are not banned form the mosque, procession or cemetery, but are strongly recommended not to take part. All Princesses took part in late Hassan II funerals for example.
The behavior you witnessed is normal, to get out of your vehicle if possible and stand still and quiet, recite some Quran and prey for his soul to rest in peace, until the cortège passes.
The Mourning color in Morocco is white by the way.

lady macleod said...


As always your comments are informative and most welcome. I did not know white was the mourning color albeit the proper color in China as well. The ceremony is lovely the way your describe it and just what I observed.

May I ask why women are asked not to take part? Is this cultural custom or religious precedent? And what happens when women die?

Thank you for your input and thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

i beatrice

thank you and I will be over to visit everyone tonight. I can't wait to see what I missed!

Perhaps we should let Q and your husband shop together while we have tea...

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

omega mum

As always I appreciate your comments.

thank you I am pleased you enjoyed it, and thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...


exactly right dearest.

taamarbuuta said...

Even worse is that the cafes around Djemmaa al Fna in Marrakech also serve their tea with only one sugar, presumably for the tourists' sake. Last time, I had to get up three times for more sugar before the tea was up to my Meknassi standards. The guys kept laughing at me, but before I left I told them that they should talk to their manager - tourists don't go to Morocco to drink crappy tea, they go to experience Morocco!

lady macleod said...


Indeed! well said.

thank you for coming by.

I Beatrice said...

Excellent idea - that they shop (taking on all comers) while we have tea........ (So long as we stay out of earshot: that has become my rule in life.)

And it wasn't so very long ago you know (well, not more than a century or so anyway), that women did not attend funerals in this country either. Except presumably their own, as you so rightly point out?

I daresay it had something to do with their (our) fundamental uncleanliness?

Oh my, what strange power we have always wielded over the men, poor things! Always closing doors in front of us before we can bolt.

The Good Woman said...

I feel that the veil is quite thin here in your home country too - and the contrasts so stark - Tesco not 100m from a medieval ruin. Staggering.

Suzy said...

hi there,

i started reading your blog a few weeks ago and it's so very enjoyable! i really like your style and the variety of things you tackle. i dropped by today to tell you that if ever you go to visit tangier (again?), you would enjoy treating yourself to dinner at the Villa Josephine up on the Old Mountain. It's a lovely throwback to fine French dining in an estate with a long history from the international zone days. I went with Yto of the Cinematheque and had the most delicious confit de canard.

(I told scarlettscion about it, but thought it might be more your style than hers!)

stay out of the heat...

debio said...

So glad you're back, lady m; sorry for not sending get well wishes but having a few techno difficulties.

Don't know about computer rage but witnessed husband road raging yesterday - not a pretty sight and more than a little disconcerting!

I've put it down to the heat and humidity (44 degress c/90%); he is usually such a laid back fellow and very lovable. Obviously has an aversion to horns being beeped behind him!

Great episodes from your land, as usual.

xoussef said...

it's always a pleasure to read your posts ^^
it is mainly the traditionnal gender spatial separation, i think. Supposedly there is a Hadith stating that it was ill-advised to visit cemetery, to prevent the idolatry risk may be, but i am not sure.
White is also the color of mourning in Vietnam, Japan and India.. isn't red he color of mourning in China?

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Your last paragraph about the thin veil between what was and what is reminded me of India. That is what it felt like when I visited there. So much happened in the past there but so much is yet to come.

lady macleod said...


True! India is very much the same isn't it? I think you can find it everywhere but it some places it is more apparent.

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...


Thank you for the kind words.

Thank you for the data. As i beatrice rightly points out it has not been that long ago that women were not welcome at funeral services in the West. I rather enjoy her reasoning as to why....

No, red is the color of celebration in China. White is the color of mourning. But in South Africa red is the color of mourning. This is really interesting. I think I shall do a post about the signifigance of the colors...

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...


thank you, i will take well wishes whenever i can get them. I feel the only thing worse than tech problems are auto problems, and even then it's close...

oooouuuh.... Husband rage. I am with husband on this one, I think that kind of temperature is just cause in and of itself! Poor dear.

You make it almost difficult for me to complain about my heat until I remember in your part of the desert, there is a/c. Ah ha! :-)

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...


I am pleased to have you as a reader! Thank you for the kind words and the recommendation; that sounds just my style as a matter of fact. I shall try it.

ug, the heat...

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

good woman

That is so true isn't it? But I think for us who live there we don't notice it as much for we are still in the 16th century as well! I can tell you right now who the Macleods were at war or just pissed with, or at, in 1605 as well as I know what was in the London Times today. We Scots are slow to progress and long on memory.

thank you for coming by and commenting. I know you are packing!

lady macleod said...

i beatrice

You are so right. I did not think of the fact we used to abide the same cultural rules. I LOVE your reasoning as to why!!!!

thank you for coming by.

jmb said...

Hi Lady Mac,
Glad to see you are out and about again and bringing us interesting tidbits from Morocco. Thanks to you and your faithful commenter Xoussef we get all the interesting information about local life there.
Did you get my email?

lady macleod said...


thank you and yes, I am trying to get all caught up! I know you are being diverted by your granddaughter.

thank you for coming by.

Sparx said...

I once saw up in Harlesden, North London, a procession of men in top hats following a coffin on a horse-drawn cart walking very slowly through traffic. There were only about 5 of them, plus the driver and it was so remarkable that I felt the veil thin myself. This was about 3 years ago. I love the contrast of the ages, although here they are much more compressed and not so ancient.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Lovely, fascinating post, Lady M. Love the tale about the wedding invitation and the goat. And I am just picturing the colours of the thread. Interesting about the funeral: I think there are many cultures where the women don't go because it is deemed too emotional for them - this is even so in the valleys of Wales. I have a friend there who didn't even go to her own husband's funeral. This is not the case in the cities, I hastev to add.