Summer in Morocco brings many things, among them ...
- 100+ Temperatures (indoors and outdoors)
- The world shuts down between 10 A.M. and 3 P.M. (read: too hot to function)
- Fresh Figs
- Incessant evening drumming and chanting emanating from all corners: weddings
Usually I avoid wedding affairs as they usually equate shaking one's rear in a flurry of lace, ruffles, henna and mint tea until 5 A.M. Sometimes that can be exhausting.
But... I braved the streets one evening to pay a visit to a family whom I know well. The father had passed my house earlier in the day to inform me that the wedding would be going on from "3,4,5,6,7,8,9 P.M...." Usually it's advised to add 4+ hours to any time indicated; and most of the action gets going in the evenings. So, accordingly, I left my house at 8 P.M.
Approaching their home through dark alley ways, I grew worried. I heard no drumming, chanting or lights glowing around their residence. All was, in fact, eerily quiet. I approached the door. A young girl sat with several toddlers in a wide court-yard. Quite alone. "Have I missed the wedding!?" I queried. "No, no! It's upstairs!" She assured me. There was no noise, nor lights that I could see, as we wound up the stairs. She led me through dark mud hallways, and around to a backroom - a single bulb gleaming from inside. "The wedding is in there," she pointed. I cocked my head at hear, wrinkled my eyebrows in confusion and stepped in. A dolled-up bride, her mother and another lady sat on the Berber rugs, noiselessly pouring mint tea. They greeted me with weak smiles. The bride sat dabbing her coal-lined eye with a dirty rag, periodically.
"Oh we waited for you all day, Raja! M'barak said you would come, so we would make coffee. And drink it. And again he would say you were on your way. And we would make coffee. And drink it. Again and again. And you never came. Oh there were many people here today, a party!" My first urge was to prostrate myself on the ground in sordid compunction. It only occurred in my mind's eye. "I'm so sorry," I uttered, trying hastily to explain how I thought nothing would start until late at night. They seemed too exhausted to care.
All the relatives were gone. The groom came and sat on the bed with the bride. This, I had never seen before - a couple sitting together in such an intimate setting - on a bed! I wondered if - oddly as it seems considering this was probably night #2 of their marriage - if possibly they might want the audience to excuse themselves. The mothers sat contentedly, feeling no need to
quit the room. So I sat a while, if nothing else, as penance for my tardiness. The room was lined with gifts of moo moos (all apparently bought at the same hanut, only in different bland colors); Takshitas and Jallabas; little pairs of shoes strung intermittently.
Finally I departed at the urging from another girl to meander to other weddings.
The next wedding was small, but rambunctious, with men, women, teenagers and children all dancing. Gyrating, as it were. The bride, groom and matriarchs sat sullenly on their lace couch at the edge of the ruckus. A video operator stood amongst us, filming. A television propped next to the bridal couch let us watch ourselves. So we stood, dancing, laughing, watching ourselves; being entertained by ourselves. Maybe the bride appreciated all eyes directed elsewhere. Funny how technology nudges itself into traditions. I discovered many girlfriends in the chaos, grabbed their hands and pranced about in circles with them. Little girls gazed wondering into my foreign eyes and grabbed at my hands. It suddenly occurred to me that I was thoroughly enjoying myself, and felt quite at home among them. This was a new sentiment. So we danced and danced.
Eventually I was dragged off to another Ahawash, where a hundred girls chanted in a circle. Samira and Fuzia sat beating massive stretched-leather drums at the center. "Raja, Raja!" rang out from many corners. I smiled and waived and hugged, pleasantly delighted to be amongst "my girlies" again. Most of our summer months have been spent hiding indoors from the sun or traveling. They chanted a melody about a certain "Raja" while, I stood laughing, clapping along, and helplessly blushing. Finally the attention moved to another girl and I melted in (as well as my white skin and blonde hair would allow) to the swaying circle.
At 11 P.M. I felt content with the evenings affairs, and decided to make an exit before my exhaustion crept into the perma-smile region.
Samira grabbed my hand and insisted I pass by her house on my way out. She has been begging me for months to visit. I think she instinctively felt that this was her only chance (at which, sensing, I felt like an ogre). She pushed open a wooden door, blue paint flaking off. Little tots, a sister and mother lay on the mud floor of the courtyard, somehow covered in blankets despite the 90-degree night air. She shook her sister: "I've been telling her about you for so long!" The girl shyly squinted up at me, mumbling a greeting in her torpid state. I laughingly chastised Samira for waking them and she hurried me off to unveil the latest gayly-colored carpet on their family's loom. I rubbed my hand over it, smiled and departed with a whispered lay luh saida!
A little Tashelheight "princess", pushed toward my camera by her proud mother.