21 February 2005

Second week in Morocco, 15–21 February 2005

Tuesday, 15 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) Polly Grip briefly visited apartment. Depressing time at Diamant Noir. Eating sandwiches/panini at Chez Pierre (also in Hôtel le Marrakech). (PM) Cyber Mega connection down.

Dar Si Saïd and Maîson Tiskwin closed on Mondays. Shook soft hands of man at Mr. Fouad’s store on Rue Souk Smarine. Âli ben Youssef Médersa. Briefly stepped into Museum of Marrakech. Greeted sexy turban man. Bought hat for Âsise. Saw slim Mohammed at his store, Boutique Ouledi Hassan, 85 Souk Jdid. Unsuccessfully attempted to call Polly. Encountered tall Youssef while walking to Bert’s. Bert opened door as I was reaching for the doorbell. Substantial houseboy Âbdoulla served us all the courses at once, including bringing out ice cream while the hot fish tagine was still in front of us. Discussion of New York and real estate etc. Moved to rooftop. Cyber Internet Iris.

Wednesday, 16 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) Cyber Internet Iris. I decided to socialize around Djemaâ al-Fna, but most of the foodstalls were closing down. I gave Âsise the hat that resembled my Turkish hats I’d bought for him in the souk, and he referred to himself as my number one friend in Morocco. Seeing Âsise’s wearing the hat I gave him, everybody asked me for some sort of gift. While Miss U is away in Essaouira, I agreed to Âsise’s request to visit me in Daoudiate the following night with some other workers at his restaurant, plus Hafid and Bagheera who work at a different one.

I came home to blaring rock’n’roll music from the living room while Miss U was in the tub. She really should have been asleep because she needed to meet Jawad very early to be taken to Essaouira, but I wasn’t surprised to find her awake. (PM) I slept as long as I wanted and awoke alone in the apartment. I went to Cyber Mega across the street, then took a stroll around Daoudiate and actually found a cybercafé where they claim they stay open until 02:00. I got to see the nearby mosque close up at prayer time.

Then I went downtown and right to the Belhaj foodstall at Djemaâ al-Fna to eat there as I had thought Bagheera and Hafid had requested, and of course, neither one was there because they actually had moved to a different restaurant since 2002. I did spend a lot of time talking with ÂbdoulFatah (from Beni Mellal), and he seemed to want to spend time together with me the following night at a café or my apartment or wherever. We didn’t have a common language but somehow spent a lot of time communicating with one another. He thought one of his co-workers mean and referred to him as “Hitler.” I also saw Âziz (ex-M’barek 2002) there, who seems not to be working now, as well as “Moubrida” who is now working at another restaurant. Then I went to Cyber Internet Iris and saw sad-eyed Si Mohamed, as well as the Si Muhammad who works there. While paying Si Muhammad ten dirham for my more-than-an-hour there, I saw Âbdellah there and got into a conversation with him. I’d met him there before, and his English is pretty good. He’s a balding but cute, ample man with a white American wife in Wisconsin who converted to Islam. He told me of a twenty-four hour cybercafé in Daoudiate! He has a car and said he’d even drive me there one day or home from there should I bump into him.

Thursday, 17 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) I left Cyber Internet Iris and returned to Djemaâ al-Fna and to Charaybi (#25) where they plied me with mint tea. Neither ÂbdourRahim nor one of the other workers invited to my apartment were there, and I had seen neither Hafid nor Bagheera all day, so I guessed Âsise and co-worker Si Muhammad would be the only one’s to visit me. Âsise’s good friend ÂbdoulCarim was there, so I thought he might join us also. I went to Café Toubkal to buy sweets (soda pop and cakes) for my guests and returned to Charaybi (#25). While I was sitting there, Polly walked by, and I gathered up my stuff to join her at M’barek (#114) for a small meal of (oohh!) calamari while sad-eyed Si Mohamed listened to Polly’s compact disc of musical theater recordings and other nonsense while singing songs he already knew, like his “one two three four five six seven deedle-eedle-eedle” song. He was in a great mood, dancing and pretending his ladle was a saxophone. All the foodstalls were closing down and being pulled apart, but Âsise’s was staying open later. I spoke to Âsise, and he said they’d be ready closer to two o’clock rather than the midnight or one o’clock they’d originally estimated. As they were disassembling the restaurant, one of the middle-aged workers was chatting with me and Polly, but seeming to be a little intoxicated and saying little more than reciting prayers that began with “Allahu akbar” with a big smile on his face. They rolled the restaurant to wherever it’s kept in the early morning, and Âsise and co-worker Si Muhammad disappeared for a little while. Polly and I occupied our time talking to young Rachid from ÂbdoulMadjide/Rachida, who was asking us for a gift of whiskey, and then ÂbdoulCarim and chunky Si Muhammad near N’zaha, the former of whom was comparing himself to the Koutoubia. Eventually, Âsise and co-worker Si Muhammad reappeared, boarded the same motor scooter and assured me they had my address and would meet me at my building or the nearby Pharmacie Assif. In the meantime, Polly, chunky Si Muhammad, and ÂbdoulCarim lost interest in joining us, so I rode a taxi home to meet my precisely two houseguests.

I stood near the Pharmacie Assif waiting for them for quite a while. Expecting to be home momentarily, I put my video camera in my bag and therefore wasn’t able to record any of the presumably drunken man to show up and chitchat with workers in the market next to Cyber Mega in an animated manner that included repeatedly bowing and saying “Allahu akbar,” becoming the second presumably drunken man in a short period of time to include that conspicuously religious phrase in his ştik. He was actually young and sexy with a nice nose and wore sweatpants that hugged his buttocks in a manner that showed of how nice they were, so I was disappointed I couldn’t record any of him. After waiting far too long on Avenue Âllal al-Fassi, I finally dragged my four bottles of soda pop home and saw it was after three o’clock. Had Âsise and Si Muhammad gotten lost? (PM) I decided to try to find the twenty-four - hour cybercafé, and although the directions I’d been given were flawed, I did indeed find it. It is Net Dev Développement & Communication in the Cité Mohammadia. I hope it’s better in the middle of the night, but when I visited there were lots of giggling and shouting teens and pre-teens there, probably fresh out of school, making it the loudest cybercafé in which I’ve ever been. Upon leaving it, I took a shorter route back to Âllal al-Fassi and encountered nothing short of an amusement park with at least six different rides, including a carousel, bumper cars and Ferris wheel. Of all things, the name of the park is “Disco Round,” bringing to mind “I Love the Nightlife (Disco Round),” the very song that had been put into my mind hearing Akshash’s (ÂbdourRizac’s) name.

I rode a taxi down to Djemaâ al-Fna, and Polly and I found ourselves coincidentally walking right next to one another. We decided to eat at Moha (#117) for a change. We then went to Cyber Mohamed Yassine on Rue Bab Agnaou. While there, Polly alerted me to the fact that corkscrew Youssef and his friend were sitting a few terminals away. I greeted them and returned to my business. When I thought to say something to them a little later on, they were gone, having left as undetected as they’d come. I returned to Moha to find a large, loud armwrestling contest going on between some white tourist and a series of locals, and the tourist always won. Polly was there, and we walked around a bit, noticing that Belhaj wasn’t present, and I speculated how I’d meet ÂbdoulFatah there at 23:00 as I thought I was supposed to do. I visited Charaybi (#25), and Âsise and Si Muhammad each seemed to blame the other for not showing up at my block that morning, although truth be told, neither one can communicate effectively in English. Since Âsise seemed to brush off the whole incident and has been known to be exceedingly wishy-washy about appointments, whereas Si Muhammad seemed annoyed with Âsise, I tend to think Âsise is to blame. Never again will I inconvenience myself for an appointment with Âsise. We walked up and down Rue Bab Agnaou where I bought a bunch of compact discs, mostly video-CDs, in the liquidation sale. Polly wanted to annoy me by bringing me past the Cheese Man’s store (wherein we saw Âli), but it turned out to quite fortuitous because we ran right into the flirtatious souk worker with the turban. He said his name is something like “ÂbdoulLadi,” something specifically not “ÂbdoulLatif.” When we yet again made our way back to Moha to partake in mint tea, there was much merrymaking including Hafida’s singing “La bamba” among other songs.

Friday, 18 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) ÂbdoulFatah from Belhaj showed up at Moha, and eventually I sat alone with him at Hicham and realized I was supposed to meet him at Toubkal, not at Belhaj, and I apologized profusely. We left to sit together for our little date at Toubkal, stopping at Moha on the way to say hello to formerly-little Ahmed who looks like a man now and is a muscular boxer. ÂbdoulFatah and I sat together trying to communicate over hot drinks as an old lady at a nearby table pulled numerous items from her bag, including a plastic toy airplane, until she found the orange she wanted to eat. Polly, taller quieter Si Mohamed from Moha, Bagheera and sad-eyed Si Mohamed from M’barek joined us a little while later, but eventually we all got up and left.

ÂbdoulFatah and I got into the same taxi and rode up to my Daoudiate apartment to continue our date with some Coca Light, Fanta, satellite télévision and cuddling. When escorting him downstairs to the front door of the building, we stopped to chat on the stairwell, and of course the lights went out. In the scramble to press a button for illumination, he accidentally rang someone’s doorbell. We rushed the remainder of the way downstairs. After he left, I returned to Net Dev thinking I might see Âbdellah whom I normally see at Cyber Internet Iris, but instead I saw a loud, giggling teenager. (PM, Shabbat, Âchoura) I walked all the way downtown, and I even lengthened my walk by detouring westward on Avenue Yacoub el Mansour (which eventually turns into Boulevard Mohammed Zerktouni) so I could visit Guéliz and walk downtown on Avenue Mohammed V.

I was rather early for my appointment with Polly at Cybernet Mohamed Yassine on Rue Bab Agnaou, and I found myself falling briefly but repeatedly asleep at the terminal and decided I should leave for some fresh air. I had the first half of my dinner at ÂbdoulMadjide/Rachida for a change to hear teenage Rachid bug me about getting him whiskey. Afterward, I found Polly at Cybernet Mohamed Yassine, but she was busy and we decided to meet later at M’barek. I wandered around a bit and eventually made my way to M’barek, although Polly would take longer at the cybercafé then she had anticipated, and I sat there nursing a glass of mint tea and talking to Tyler, a Canadian who is spending time in Morocco after a trip “roughing it” all over Europe. It was nice to meet another native English speaker. When Polly finally arrived, she preferred to eat next door at Hassane with their arrangement of steer heads and worker who is Polly’s neighbor on Derb Snane. We ordered méchoui and tangia and shared them, the second half of my dinner being all red meat. We continued wandering, stopping for awhile to sit at Belhaj to be with ÂbdoulFatah and read his miserable Arabic - English phrasebook with outlandishly unidiomatic English. We went to Cyber Internet Iris and of course saw Si Muhammad. Polly left me there to go home.

Saturday, 19 February 2005 (Âchoura), Marrakech: (AM, Shabbat) I returned to Moha and sat with them quite a while drinking mint tea and chatting and sharing the fruit and nuts I’d bought earlier with Polly. There was much merriment there and at neighboring M’barek presumably due to the holiday. Yassine and little Si Muhammad from Moha started a fire in a wooden box, and taller Si Mohamed from Moha led a procession of people from M’barek over to the fire. At first, a few people leapt over it, but most seemed content to sing, clap, dance and play drums or a horn while gathering around it. It lasted longer than I’d thought it would, and every time (but the last) I thought it would end, it instead continued. I went home around 01:30, and there were still a few foodstalls open at Djemaâ al-Fna, and I wondered what I’d miss. However, it was too cold and I had nothing to do while waiting for whatever might or might not happen next other than continue sitting in the cold at Moha drinking their free mint tea. (PM) Meeting Polly at Cybernet Mohamed Yassine worked like a charm. We ate at M’barek because Polly specifically wanted sardines, and they gave us the VIP table in the middle of the rectangle of counter-style seating, away from beggars. Miss Understood, freshly back in Marrakech from her trip to Essaouira, found us there and sat with us. Ibrahim (Ben Affleck) seemed more pleased to see her than we were. Eventually, a rather tipsy Saïd found and sat with us; he’s a Moroccan I met on the street in 2001 and who gave me a great tour of Jewish and other sites in 2002, documented on the videocassette that was in my videocamera that was stolen that year. He soon left us. A small skirmish broke out between two people at a nearby foodstall, but it was broken up by the workers. We walked around and around and saw some of the performers including the notorious chicken man. We sat for a while at Âli where little Ahmad the boxer works when he isn’t boxing. We sat and had drinks at Saïd to see Bagheera in his turban and hear Hafid’s oddly operatic voice, something we hadn’t noticed before because he had been so quiet when he worked at Belhaj. We stopped and had some miserable cinnamon drink at Chrife (#4). We visited Âli at the Cheese Man’s shop, and he gave us quite the animated spil and good time, even opening a few buttons of his trousers for us, although it didn’t convince us to buy anything. Âchoura revelry continued in the form of singing and drumming primarily at M’barek when we were sitting at Moha. While there, one of the Djemaâ al-Fna drag performers stopped by out of drag to chat with us.

Sunday, 20 February 2005, Marrakech: (AM) I visited ÂbdoulFatah at Belhaj, but he was busy helping to close down and disassemble the foodstall; Belhaj seems to close early compared to the other restaurants at Djemaâ al-Fna. We stayed at Chez Mohamed awhile too, and the worker who vaguely resembled Freddie Mercury flirted with us, offered us massages and imitated what sounded like a parrot who lives with an English woman. Eventually, the cold temperature and desire to use a bathroom sent me on a homeward path. Despite staying up fairly late, Miss U and I both awakened early so Mr. Bachir could come around 09:00 and clean our apartment rather poorly. (PM) I slept while Miss U went out to see some sites, but we met at the Place de la Liberté in the Ville Nouvelle, walked a bit around Guéliz, visited a cybercafé and went to La Strada restaurant (although the menus referred to it as “La Starda”). The place was virtually devoid of customers, and we waited about an hour for our paella, but it was very good. Miss U passed the time watching cartoons and music videos on télévision and erasing precious, one-of-kind photographs from her camera’s disc. We were so full, we could only think about dessert as opposed to actually ordering it. We then took a lovely walk downtown through Guéliz, saw the new fountain near the post office, and walked to the médina to visit that cybercafé opposite the Koutoubia. Miss Understood actually went home from there, but I went out to Djemaâ al-Fna, although honestly there wasn’t much to do, especially since Polly herself had since gone home.

Monday, 21 February 2005 (Presidents’ Day), Marrakech: (AM) There were a group of young men outside our building on Avenue Âllal al-Fassi standing right in front of Dépôt Lait singing and playing various musical instruments. Not long afterward, they started marching down the street in the manner of a parade. (PM) Miss U and I got up and out relatively early. I got an egg and avocado sandwich at Dépôt Lait across the street, but I ate it at Tortilla Âsise with Miss U. Maîson Tiskiwin always closed. Bahia Palace. Badi Palace. Walk to Agdal Gardens turned into walk to housing development. Mellah, pretty piles at Herboristerie Malih, Hay esSalame. Tarik Taloudi at Herboriste l’Artisanat, Hay Salam Rue du Commerce. Through caleche park, drinks at N’zaha (and saw corkscrew Youssef). Met Polly at Moha, but ate at Chergouni where I saw 2002 Djemaâ al-Fna foodstall (possibly Hicham) worker with large ears. Locals seeing picture of Polly in drag. Drunk raspberry man.

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