Friday, August 21, 2009

Getting the traveling bug

The pool continues to be as wonderful as any pool could possibly be but we're starting to get out more, possibly because we're beginning to realize we have only another week here.

Two days ago we decided to explore the souk (market) here in Casablanca. Although of course it was similar in many ways to the souk in Marrakesh, there were some fascinating differences. Casablanca, unlike Marrakesh, is not a tourist town: it's Morocco's business center. There were some crafts being sold but mostly it's a market for people who live here. Amend that: POOR people who live here. I doubt the rich ones go here, and in Morocco there aren't that many in between rich and poor. There were more everyday things for sale, such as plastics for the kitchen. The clothes were made of cheaper materials, often synthetics, and in bold, cheap-looking prints. On the other hand, the area where fruits and vegetables were sold was a revelation. Poor they may be, but people who buy produce here get gorgeous stuff. The peaches were perfect, and the figs were better than figs I've seen in the supermarket. As always, many, many booths/stalls/carts with exactly the same merchandise, often lined up right next to each other.

On the way back we got royally lost. Navigating the streets of Casablanca is a challenge, probably true of the streets of every town here. Because these places are so old, streets go every which way. No such thing as a grid, and street signs are either non-existent or so small or poorly placed that they might as well be. But no one stays lost forever.

Yesterday Rick went back into town to see the big mosque I had seen earlier, and he was truly lucky: while he was there they opened the roof. Can you imagine, an enormous roof was designed to slide open to let in the air. That must have created an entirely different feeling in that vast space. Afterward he walked along the Corniche, a road and walkway along the sea, and had a fruit and seafood salad at a restaurant there which he told me was beautiful and delicious.

Last evening we were invited to our friend, Leila's, for dinner. Her 17-year-old niece, Maha, was there too. Maha will be leaving soon for England, where she plans to spend the next three to five years in school. Her English now, while not terrific, is better than Leila's, so while I was in the kitchen with Leila Rick and Maha were able to talk fairly easily. Leila has a beautiful apartment in an old part of Casablanca, not far from the market and also not far from the American consulate where a suicide bomber blew himself up three years ago, an explosion she heard. As is true of all the rooms we've been in so far, the ceilings in her apartment were very high, 9 or 10 feet, and the rooms were large by American standards. We had both thought she'd have a poor little place, but she had a very big living/dining room, two bedrooms, a large kitchen, a bath, and a balcony. She made a salad with rapeseed oil (had to use an English-French dictionary to find that one), which she said is the best for salad and keeps depression at bay (?!), stewed chicken for which I must get the recipe, and couscous with onions, raisins, and honey. We brought patisserie from the baker that we'd been told is the best, and were delighted when Leila confirmed that. We did too, when we tasted it at dessert. She made us Moroccan mint tea: first you put a spoonful of Green tea into the teapot, in little balls, not dried tea leaves, and rinse it in boiling water supposedly to remove the caffeine. Then you take a handful of fresh spearmint, stems and all, and put them in the teapot too. You cover that with boiling water, add a few sugar cubes, and let it steep. Everyone, start growing spearmint! It was absolutely superb.

We also talked about the king. He's a fairly young man, educated abroad, who succeeded his father within the last ten years and immediately set about some modernization. I've read that he set aside 30 seats in the Parliament for women, but I don't know how many seats there are nor do I know how independent the Parliament is. Obviously a subject for my next conversation with Leila! However, this king is awesomely rich, with a palace in every major city and many minor ones, plus ownership of huge companies. The poverty of this country is horrendous, so that's hard to hear -- slums are everywhere. She told us there's been a birth-control publicity campaign on television to deal with the fact that many poor people don't use any and have a dozen children. But if you're poor, that means a dozen people who can beg or work or get money for the family somehow.

Today we are off for two or three days to towns south of Casablanca along the Atlantic coast. Next week, having checked the internet, we'll go to Fez because much to my surprise it is less hot than Marrakesh.

So I wish you all a good weekend! Back next week.


No comments:

Post a Comment