Monday, January 26, 2009

Couscous, Camels and the Casbah - Part TWO

Can you pick out the tourists in the picture below??
Answer: The tourists are the ones not wearing their pajamas!! :)
One of the things that we really enjoy while traveling is experiencing local cuisine. We had requested a typical Moroccan meal in a local restaurant and Said (Cy-eed) did not disappoint us!! The exterior of the restaurant looked just like all the other entrances around, but once we stepped inside, it was a different world!! We took Said's recommendation to order our food and we enjoyed all of it!! Our lunch started with the same soup that Muslims use to break their fast during Ramadhan - made with vegetables and broth. Our salad (pictured) was a mixture of cooked vegetables, including beets, tomatoes, cabbage and carrots. We had two entrees - a chicken with vegetables and couscous, and a meat pie in pastry covered with powdered sugar and cinnamon - both incredibly tasty!! For dessert, we had the best tangerines ever!! Lunch was fabulous, and fun too!! We were enjoying typical music while waiting on our meal and one of the musicians asked me to come play the drums with them. I couldn't resist!! How often would I get THAT chance?? While Charles was laughing and taking pictures, they motioned for him to join us too!! What fun!! We look pretty silly, but we enjoyed participating!
After our lunch, we explored more of the medina (old city) inside the casbah. We walked up and down the narrow streets full of activity where most of the people really live. The majority of these areas are communal living where there is a central water fountain, a community bathhouse (Turkish baths) and a community bread oven. The man who cooks the bread is paid by the piece and people just bring him bread all day. He cooks it, then the family returns to pick it up. We thought it was interesting that each family marks the bread with a different symbol, so they can distinguish their bread from the rest. When he saw us with a camera, he motioned me inside and was proud to show his oven (open flamed!!) and suggested we take a picture together.
It was nice to have Said (Cy-eed) for many reasons. One, we would have been very lost and would have still been looking for our way out of the medina. Second, he was able to answer all the many questions we had about things that we saw in front of us. One example was the sheep skin hanging out the window. He explained that each Muslim family would have just purchased a sheep for the recent holiday, Eid al-Adha (or the Festival of Sacrifice). This religious practice required the sheep to be slaughtered to commemorate the sacrifice that Abraham made to God. While as Christians, we believe that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, Issac before God provided a sheep, the Muslims believe that the son was Ishmael. Said also told us that the price of sheep go WAY up during December to $400-$600 each - requiring many poorer families to need credit to purchase the sheep. He also told us that many families (Said included) didn't want to kill the sheep, so it was the butchers busiest day of the year as he traveled from house to house!! The sheep skin was hung outside since it needed the fresh air before it could be used.

We also asked questions about the different dress. The national dress is the hooded robe for both men and women. If men don't use the hood, they tend to use a fez like the man pictured. We also saw women with pom-poms on their hats and we were told that these were the indigenous people called Berbers (think Berber carpet). We learned that the head covering for women was religious, but the face coverings (not seem much in Morocco) was required by the husband, not the church.
The sights, the sounds, the smells were all so foreign to us, and we enjoyed just walking the streets and observing. We learned so much that we wished we would have had a tape recorder to help us remember....
We enjoyed our time in Morocco and would love to come back someday. -





No comments: