After Hakeem left us at the guest house, we had a few hours before dinner. I chose to use that time to nap, since I hadn’t slept well the night before and I was pretty exhausted from walking all day in the desert heat.
After a couple of hours, I got up and changed into my only other outfit. We still had time to kill so we went up to the rooftop terrace again, and my sister had a couple of beers.
Lovely, isn’t it? That’s the same place we had dinner on our first night.
Anyway, we got the details hammered out for our dinner excursion. The plan was that Ben, a Moroccan man who worked at the guest house, would walk us to the taxi stand and tell the taxi driver where we were going. Evidently there was another place with a similar name, so it could get confusing.
We left with Ben to walk to the taxi stand, and let me tell you Ben was not a slow walker. He had enormously long legs and as soon as we hit the streets he booked it. I was bobbing and weaving around the other people in the street so as not to lose sight of him, but Megan was lagging behind. I was trying to keep my eye on her and Ben both which was a bit overwhelming in the tiny crowded streets. We passed the lovely meat market again (hello diarrhea smell) and then we made it to the Blue Doors which was where all the taxis were.
Ben hailed us a taxi and talked to the driver, and we were on our way and officially on our own. The taxi ride was incredibly cheap—a little over seven Durham—about 70 cents. The taxi driver stopped on a main road and basically said, “The restaurants over there.”
“Uh…where?” We asked. I scanned the nearby signs which were all written in Arabic and/or did not say the name of our restaurant on them.
“Over there!” He said, clearly wanting us to exit the cab. We paid him and got out.
We looked. We could not see it. I tried to read the street sign, since I had the address on a business card. The street sign (at least what I thought might be the street sign) was in Arabic. Perfect.
We just stood there, stunned, lost, confused, frustrated. I decided to go into one of the tea shops that had English on the sign to ask them. Then, before I knew it a man had come and approached my sister asking her if she needed a tour guide. She told him we were just looking for a restaurant and he said he knew exactly where it was and led us straight to it (more than a couple of blocks up the street! What was up with that cab driver?). After we got there, he kept talking and offering to be our guide the next day and asking if we had a reservation there, etc., until I handed him 100 Durham and then he promptly walked away.
The restaurant was completely empty save for one older, obviously American couple already seated. We told the staff members we had a reservation and the name of the guest house and they showed us to our table: Directly in front of the stage. We sat and perused the menu.
We ordered a bottle of wine and my sister ordered vegetable couscous (for some reason she shied away from the meat…I have no idea why!) I ordered pigeon pie…with chicken instead of pigeon…I’m not that brave. I ordered it because Hakeem told me it was his favorite food and I wanted to try something new.
As we sat, more people filed into the restaurant. All foreigners. A dad and his two teenage children, a table of Spanish women, and another table of young American adults. We all sat in the center tables, the restaurant was not even at a fourth of its capacity.
The first course came and it was the delicious vegetable hors d’oeuvres that we’d had the night before, with some variations. There were tons of them, and they were all delectable. At that time, a live Moroccan band came and began playing.
Some time passed, and our main courses were brought out. Megan got a giant mountain of vegetable couscous and I got my pigeon (chicken) pie. It was round and thick, like the bread. It was a flaky pastry crust (more like a croissant than a pie crust) very sweet, with powdered sugar and cinnamon on it. Inside was chicken meat and some sort of sauce. I liked it a lot! Unfortunately, I had filled up on the veggies and it was a bit rich for me. But I was impressed with the chicken, it tasted really great. I’m sure it’s because about 10 minutes before it was on my plate it was wandering around the streets of the Medina. Anyway.
I think we can all tell who is NOT the photographer in the family.
The show moved along and began to pick up a bit with some drummers. They would play the drums and then spin them and hold them on their heads.
I have slippers like theirs. Actually, I was wearing them that night. More on that later.
After the drummers, a dancer came. She didn’t seem exactly like a belly dancer (namely because she was not showing her belly) but she did have bells on her hips and boy could she jingle them! She pulled up some volunteers from the audience.
One of whom was my sister. They made her dance on the stage. She was a good sport.
It was then that we realized that this was to be a very audience participatory show…and the audience was not big. And we were sitting ducks directly in front of the stage.
Not long after, a magician came. He scoured the audience looking for volunteers and I put on my “I am an angry person and will not be at all entertaining if you pull me up on stage” face. Guess who he chose?
That’s right, not me. She tried to tell him that she’d already had her turn and it was mine, but nothing beats the angry face.
He told her he was going to pull a snake out of her shirt but instead he pulled out a bra. Weird joke for a Muslim country, I thought.
Moments after Megan rejoined me at the table, Hakeem appeared! He had been standing in the back and saw the entire magician moment (which made us slightly suspicious as to why Megan got picked). He introduced us to one of the servers and said that this was the guy who was going to make sure we got back safely, all the way up to the door of the guest house. Hakeem sat for a while and we chatted. He didn’t ask us again about the next day. When he got up to leave, I gave him two kisses (evidently they do that in Spain and Morocco) and he said “Inshallah we will see each other again.” Inshallah, I remembered from reading The Kite Runner, means “God willing.”
At this point, our fruit course had arrived. It was melon, cherries, and some other fruit (I don’t know I only ate the melon…delicious!) And I was feeling pretty relaxed. Just then, the waiter that Hakeem had introduced us to (the one we were trusting with our lives to get us home safely) came to me and held out his hand. Obviously, I took his hand without thinking. He led me and one of the Spanish women upstairs.
Upstairs there was a group of Moroccan women waiting for us and a table full of clothes. They looked at both of us, had a quick discussion, and began throwing clothes on us both. It started with just a robe, then a rope belt tied preeeetty tightly around my waist. Then I was kind of shoved into a chair.
The woman in charge tried to communicate with me while she was tying a number of things around my head. “French?” She asked. “English?” I responded. Then nothing. Just lots of tying and pushing and heavy things being put on me.
I never got to see myself before I went downstairs. All I knew was that I was wearing some sort of head-dress and what felt like a bullet-proof vest. They finished it off with a lace cloak and the woman in charge put it in my hands so I would hold it in place. They almost made me change my shoes, but when they saw that I was wearing the slippers I had purchased earlier, they changed their minds and let me keep them.
Before I descended down the stairs, they made me stop and pose for a photo. For all I knew, I looked ravishing.
The bullet-proof vest and matching headdress were incredibly heavy, I was having trouble holding my head up. Also, they had tied the things on my head really tightly, I knew it was going to leave a mark. The robe was really long so I dropped the lace part to hold it up so that I wouldn’t trip. Lady in charge pretty much smacked my hand and put the lace in it again.
As I came down, I heard one cackle rising above the rest of the goings-on in the restaurant. It was my sister. She was laughing hysterically. Laughing so hard she could barely stand up and could barely hold the camera up long enough to take a picture. Maybe I didn’t look ravishing after all?
I was told to take off my shoes and sit in this round thing. I had no idea what was happening. I was bright red and my sister was still cackling.
That was when they lifted me over their heads and started spinning me around. WTF? I was in a daze. All I remember hearing is loud cackling coming from the direction of my table. All I remember seeing is every single person in the audiences camera flashing while taking a picture of me.
You’d think the embarrassment was done after that. But, no. I had to sit on the stage, head drooping from heaviness, while the Spaniard (whom they had dressed only in a robe and a thin ribbon tied on her head) rode in the round disc. Then, they made us dance on stage. I could barely stand, let alone dance, and I don’t dance under normal circumstances unless extremely intoxicated. It was horrible. More cackling.
Finally, I was released to go up and change. The head lady gestured to me like she expected a tip (!) (I didn’t have my purse anyway) I headed back down and found that everyone else had cleared out because my show was the finale. I ate a coconut cookie and whatshisface was ready to take us home.
We made it back safely for our last night in the guest house. We had a half-day left in Morocco and then it was back to Madrid for one short night before we were off to the relaxing part of our vacation on an island called Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.