Thursday, September 23, 2010


I was smothered in mud today. Okay, so not exactly smothered and not exactly mud, but I still had henna literally covering both my feet and both my hands. It is surprisingly immobilizing. It made me feel that I was smothered in mud.

In Marrakech, the woman who applied mediocre henna that burned my skin slightly told me that she would give us a good price: 400 dirhams, reduced from 500. I thought she had lost her mind. The small design atop my hand and forearm was nice, but nowhere near worth close to fifty dollars. I thought maybe it was worth fifty dirhams. I couldn't believe my ears.

Obviously, I didn't pay it.

My next henna experience was better. Surrounded by babies and women in leggings, dresses, and head scarves tied to have a braid, I was given two pillows in a concrete room and had my feet jerked over them.

And she started.

I was unsure at first, then distracted by the surrounding chaos. Children screamed and women chattered. Mothers indiscriminately popped out their breasts for a child to waddle over to and drink from. When I finally looked back down, it was beautiful.

It took a long time. One foot was a masterpiece unto itself, but after that she did the other, and both hands. Before I knew it, I looked like a Moroccan bride.

The most unpleasant part of getting henna is the removal, which unfortunately does not involve water. To help the henna stay longer, instead of satisfyingly washing it way, it is chipped off with a knife, which apart from being mildly terrifying, left me feeling dirty and muddy for hours.

However, when it was off, I was left with a beautiful maze of flowers, petals, and zig zags that would tell every Moroccan who saw me the same thing: either I paid a lot, or somebody loves me.

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Location:The village of Fariat

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Moroccan Couscous


Cooking Time: One and a half Hours

One box of couscous
Half a chicken or three chicken breasts
Half a cup of milk
Four onions
Three tomatoes
One eggplant
Four zucchini
Four potatoes
Half bunch parsley
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp saffron
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp pepper

Cooking Instructions

Begin by placing the chicken and spices in a medium sized pot. Cut the onion in fourths, and rough chop one quarter bunch of parsley. Tie the rest of the parsley into a bunch and place in pot.

Peel the tomato and quarter it. Put it in the pot and place on stove
on high. Pour water over the ingredients until they are just barely covered. Cook for twenty minutes. Then, add quartered zucchini and eggplant to the pot, along with a teaspoon of vegetable oil. All the vegetables should be chunky and large. Allow to cook for approximately an hour and a half.

For the couscous:

Spread the dry couscous on a large platter and sprinkle one and a half teaspoons of oil and about a half a cup of water. Make sure to sprinkle it slowly and to rub it between the hands periodically to avoid clumping. Place the couscous in a metal colander or sifter over the pot containing the cooking meat and vegetables so that the couscous steams.

The water will hold together the couscous so that it does not fall into the cooking vegetables. This is the Moroccan way of cooking couscous. Alternatively, you may boil it as suggested by the box, but cooking it this way is authentically Moroccan and the flavor and texture will justify the effort!
After approximately fifteen minutes (once the couscous has absorbed e water and puffed up) remove it from the pot and dump it onto the platter. Again, using about a cup of water, rub it between your hands to work out the clumps so that the morsels of couscous are all separated. When the couscous has cooled slightly and is no longer clumpy, put it back in the colander and steam it. Repeat this process two more times, and then dump it back in the pot (it might be necessary to add more water to the pot for steaming). Then, add half a cup of milk to the pot of vegetables, chicken, and broth, and pour over the couscous.

Note: Cooking couscous is not a precise science. Any vegetables can be used, along with any amount of couscous. This is the perfect recipe for experimentation!

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Location:The village of Fariat

Friday, September 17, 2010

What color of nothing would you like?


The random man on the street summed up the majority of my experience in Marrakech. He asked, insightfully so, "What color of nothing would you like?" Through the shockingly vibrant, winding souks of the medina of Marrakech, I found the most stunningly beautiful, fascinating things in what i guess to be the entire world.

But I also found what any tourist in Marrakech will tell you is the biggest annoyance: constant badgering, harassment, and abrasive behavior.

It came to the point where Rebecca and I became shocked when for even a moment, in her words, there wasn't someone who wanted to take our money. There is nothing quite like walking around as either a sexual object or a dollar sign. Despite my new appearance, I found that Marrakech was just as enticing as I remembered it. Perhaps the best part was the food stalls, constructed with full tables and fuller stands up uncooked food every night.

They sell delicious, cheap, authentic Moroccan food. I will never forget gulping large quantities of Harira (Moroccan soup) with the giant wooden spoon, or the woman who enticed us into the place, and must've spoken at least five languages. Not to mention her amazing ability to spot which tourist spoke which language.

When it came down to it, though the streets were exhausting, there was nothing like going to a spa-hammam and being soaped up, scrubbed, and slathered in clay by a Moroccan woman to heighten my spirits and reboot me for the adventure ahead.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Family and Wandering


After several kinds of transportation, including two planes, a van, and two trains, not to mention our feet, Rebecca and I finally arrived in Rabat. A shower and nap later, we took the winding road to my host family's tiny rooftop home, where I found my host Mother sitting in the salon. The reunion was lovely; my entire family was as thrilled to see me as I them. Little Aya had cut off all her hair, leaving beautiful curls on top of the little person I had long before affectionately deemed "jeja sagira deelie," or "my little chicken". Six year old Rabie had managed to grow even more, so that he now was even larger than his sister, and seemed to be exercising a good deal of independence, if his late night bike rides were any indication. Fedua had gotten married, and was now living in Sale with her new husband. That night, we were served lentils, fried fish, and a uniquely Moroccan salad of rice, tuna fish, corn, and mayonnaise. Not to mention delicious Moroccan mint tea, steaming hot, and small, elegant pastries covered in sesame seeds and honey.

Later, I was reminded how there is nothing quite like the experience of walking down the bustling streets of the medina during rush hour. It is pure sensory overload. Shopkeepers and merchants yell the bargain of their produce and knick knacks, while motorcycles zoom past, carts creek by with yells of 'balak' ('move!'), and women in djellabas and head scarfs put their heads down and push. The smells of mint, fried fish, garbage, and fresh baked cookies waft through the streets in puffs of smoke and people dance constantly as they weave gracefully and treacherously around one another.
It is chaos.
It is crazy.
It is real.

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