Monday, August 25, 2008


WHAT TANGIER TAUGHT ME ABOUT RAMADAN, sources included in parentheses:

1. Don’t strategically forget it’s Ramadan. (General Words of Wisdom)
2. If you do not wear a djelleba, you are technically not Muslim (most boys from Al Hociema)
3. Put long skirt on over your regular outfit before you reach the door to the mosque (shifa)
4. You don’t have to fast if you are chronically sleepy, but you do have to constantly accuse others of not fasting, to make up for it (multiple sighted sources)
5. When you see a procession of young boys running with bowls through the street, you know it’s time (Grand Socco)
6. Try to remember the difference between gin and water. (General Words of Wisdom)
7. Bringing fruit to a Moroccan family who has invited you for iftur is ridiculous and they will mock you (shifa)
8. Don’t break your fast with kif. always eat a smidgen of a date first (Grand Socco)
9. Always remember to hang mildly translucent bedsheets over your wine rack. Sometimes you can cut eyeholes in these for a spooky effect (Casa Pepe)
10. Despite popular belief, glue sniffing is allowed during daylight hours (Rue Imam Laiti Glue Sniffer)
11. Despite popular belief, punching other people in the face is also allowed during daylight hours. But sex is not. Even just regularly. Unless maybe it's a really dark room. Or the Hotel Flandria (not shifa).


Friday, August 22, 2008


Now that my two years of moroccan-husband-searching are finally up (out of necessity, not success), I finally discovered the cruel secret they were keeping from me, betrayed in the end by Shayla, my friendly Arabic Podcast host. An early September "Festival of Brides" in Imilchil, south of Casa, involving mass-husband choosing by the girls that had come of age in the year preceding. When I googled it I found a photo of a group of men all peering over each other, presumably at the women, like boys at a high school snow-ball. Only some of them were toothless. I keep wishing I was there.

Shayla's incessant talk of Moroccan culture is not helping the situation either. Her subtly firm grasp of English idiomatic parlance does not convince me that she is also doomed to a life away from $.50 bowls of baysar and loosies for a dirham. I suspect she records from a flourescently lit internet cafe in Casablanca. Oh Shayla. If only you weren't my teacher.

Sometimes I talk nervously to myself out loud in coffeeshops in Arabic to warm up my vocal chords before I delve into learning and creeping out my neighbors on the sinky couch cushions totally non-condusive to serious academic work. I recently realized the first thing that comes out of my mouth without thinking is "N3am, walikin m3andish asdiqa' hanaya." It's sort of sad and makes me wonder why I miss Tangier, but then I convince myself I learned it from Maha. Hiya f3eallan wahida.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Old Times

I’ve been trying to keep up my Tangier lifestyle while spending my days dragging 30 lb groceries through the streets of Brooklyn because I can’t figure out the subway and when I do it is undergoing maintenance.

I visited Atlantic Ave. first chance I got, hoping to be swaddled by a warm blanket of Arab sights and sounds. There were more hipsters than hijabis and hardly anything halal. I managed to peek my head into a Yemeni restaurant full of only men, and was comforted by the awkward and misplaced-ness of my presence under the fluorescent lights. I will go there later with a notebook and it will be just like old times.

I found a few butchers that will come in handy for next month’s Ramadan, one Pakistani, one Lebanese, and one Egyptian. I decided to make it a competition of signage, and since the Pakistani had his price list titled “HALAL MEAT” all in that ghoulish font typically used only on Halloween (with the blood dripping down the letters), he definitely wins.

I tried to befriend the Lebanese Goods cashier in my old way, explaining that the name on my “SHIFA HONEY HEALING HONEY IT WILL AMAZE YOU” honey bottle, was in fact my own name! He ignored me. I guess it only works in Arabic. And not in America. I’m starting to feel that way about my personality in general.

At the end of the street is a perpendicular highway and beyond that highway is the river. I could see boats on it and as the sun set the whole street was orange. It made me want to buy school supplies. Instead I hung my head low and began the hour-long walk back home, when out of nowhere the Adan (call to prayer) started to blast from the loud speakers of Al-Farooq Mosque and out onto the streets of Cobble Hill for everyone to hear. I didn’t even think that was legal. But there it was. And all the shops closed, and re-opened fifteen minutes later. And I was late for prayer.