Yesterday, a couple of colleagues/friends and I walked into Ifrane for a morning coffee and, …yes, I’ll admit it, two petit pan aux chocolat. The center of town, an Alpine look-alike, is not distant (perhaps ¾ mile from my apartment), nor an arduous in terms of slopes and inclines, so the stroll is usually a welcome diversion from dashing around on campus. Coffee drunk and croissants savored, Sandra and I walked on to the Municipal Marche where I do most of my weekly shopping, which consists of the fixings for harira or another soup, yogurt, apples, bananas, the Moroccan equivalent of Crystal Light, bread, eggs, cheese, plus sunflower seeds and fresh roasted peanuts. Alas, neither of my peanut/sunflower men was open for business, a slight damper to my day as the treats are effective nibble suppressors. Those of you who have lived here, particularly in the Peace Corps years, probably used them, as I did, as meat substitutes and protein staples.
Yesterday’s souk find was a COAT! I couldn’t believe it when I saw one about my size hanging on the rack at a “could be new, could be used” shop at the Marche – black, below the knee length, with a fuzzy liner and good pockets for gloves, plus a hidden hood. And it fit! She wanted 500 dirhams, or about $60, but I was firm at 350MAD, and ultimately she agreed. Living in California, a coat hasn’t been a priority, with an urgent need arising only a few times a year. And boots, are you kidding? Only a wuss wears boots. Athleticism in the Bay Area is all about leaping over puddles, dodging tire spray, and managing your umbrella so adroitly that it never blows inside out.
Here, with the still-frequent cerulean skies, and despite one umbrella already in shreds, I’ve been slow to recognize what 5000 feet will mean in terms of serious chills and inclement weather. The week before our Eid break a storm raged on for days, dumping swimming pools of rain on the lawns and pathways, creating puddles that soaked my leather slip-ons, leaving my footwear a sodden mess and my feet frozen bricks of flesh.
And so it was that the first thing we did in Tangier on our five day Eid break was hunt down and visit Casa Barata (Cheap House), a vast souk of hundreds of stalls. In one I found white rubber go-go boots in my size, which happens to be larger than most Moroccan women. Donna Summers and I could be a duo in these boots. The pic on the left is not of me, but it is a dead-on match of what my feet look like in these style-police horrors. Still, I was grateful to find them and relatively cheaply ($9) as well. The jacket hunt which followed resulted in an equally fashionable windbreaker-type covering in a death-to-beige hue. Great for boating if you boat is a tug. Any jacket in a storm was my mantra as I plunked down $10 for the jacket. Returning by train a few days later, after skimming the surface of Tangier and spotting hundreds of char-broiling sheeps’ heads, bloody hides rolled into lumps of hairy wounds and packed into vans for transport to the tanning factories, and horns by the hundreds that would have Pan drooling, I felt more ready for the approaching winter.
Our stay in Tangier was made more interesting by the choice of hotel. The Hotel Continental, with its ornate and fascinating interiors, first opened its doors in 1895 and has welcomed dignitaries both famous and infamous on a regular basis since. My share of our triple room with breakfast for four nights was $100 even. Breakfasts were usually taken on the second floor terrace and provided a stunning view of the port and the ocean beyond. Just as riveting a scene was available from the roof of a restaurant in the Kasbah where we ate a most delectable meal and fended off the importunities of a “faux guide” who at first assured us he wasn’t after any money. Twenty minutes later, as we are wondering why he is still with us on the roof, we learn that his assurances were akin to those of a politician. But, no money exchanged hands and eventually he left, bereft. That didn’t prevent us from enjoying the meal and the scene and even the sounds of boys playing soccer in the ancient square just below.