Saturday, December 26, 2009


It's a full moon tonight. It's the one/two nights of the year that I allow myself to be crazy. It's great.

I am more that happy with the latest addition to my collection of mint-green 9x9 ft bedrooms to live in. I never see my roommates and our relationships are strictly monetary.
Harlem will always be home. Every morning someone compliments the boots that most of my friends refuse to be seen with me in. The Palestinian deli guy gives me free sandwiches if i come in past 2am when all the lights are off, the M7 gets me to the pastry shop in 5 minutes and I have mastered the art of gypsy cab bargaining. (shout out to Tangier)

A recent facebook comment from someone I remember as the girl who vomited in her hair once reminded me of a childhood ritual and prelude to blogging. Every night my father would have us write "The Page," which was essentially a sheet of loose leaf paper filled to the margins with anything we could think of, to prove that we were learning. I remember devoting about 4 x 4 inches to lists of ridiculous vocabulary words (I used to read the dictionary during recess), listing words that rhymed with each other, and learning what an essay was when my older brother out-did me and wrote one first. Mine was about cows, and how much I like them. But my favorite thing to write about was what I saw out my parents' bedroom window every night, because it had the best view of the moon. Every night I would continue the saga of the moon-people (which curiously resembled typical Bollywood movie plots) and try to imagine what they were doing. At an early age we were taught in Sunday School that all those cute little planetary balls floating around in space have creatures on them, so it seemed only natural that they had lives and dramas of their own.

Every night my father would file our Pages in the rest of the piles of files and paperwork that he brought home with him every night, and he would look over them before we went to sleep, which was usually much earlier than when he went to sleep. In exchange for the Page, we got Hershey bars. It seemed like a fair trade. My father kept a stack of them in his closet just below a giant green bowl where he emptied out his change every night and my brother and I would go through it every couple of weeks and roll about $10 worth of nickels and quarters. The only time we ever stole from the Hershey bar stack was when he asked us to go into the closet and look through his suit pockets to try and find his checkbook because he couldn't remember where he put it or which suit he wore that day. The only other thing that earned us this chocolatey delight was when we invited our friends over to help clean the basement. Dad made them write a Page too. Then they got two Hershey bars.

Twenty years later, I don't get Hershey bars for being a good learner, but I do get funded, which I guess is a better deal, although not as delicious. Meanwhile, I hardly ever get to talk to my father now that he has started moonlighting at the hospital when he should be retiring, to pay for all of those years that no one thought I deserved to be funded.

It's a full moon.
I love you Dad.

Sunday, December 20, 2009



١. Climate // CALAMITY

The accent led her to take these two words as the same word and she
developed metaphors around their being
the same thing and would talk about the wisdom in that thing of
their being the same thing.

Then using the words SHE and HER became something SENTIMENTAL and I had to stop using them.
I started using quotations because it makes it more "alive."

ب. GHEE:

"At the end put in more ghee: put some more ghee and it makes it better. Makes it tasty."
Mom sent me two bags of halva and encouraged me to have a tea party.

ج. Heaven and Fruit: usually you don't bother with the fruits you've never heard of anyway.

"We drink beer here because we won't have it there..." sung to the tune of a song I've never heard.
How do we know what's there?
Do women get virgins too?
Why would we want them?
Do we get to be the virgins? Is this really how it works?

4. WHITE: the medication makes you painfully sensitive to light.

The starchy white pages of the books we bought from the Islamic Bazaar, vibrating text
printed twice over but not in the same exact spot
makes for fat words talking about hell and insects and occasionally heaven and fruit.

5. In HELL: I was promised a way out.

"If you picture yourself in hell, you'll just snap out of it."

6. Capital letters are the start of something: sometimes when things aren’t moving
forward it gives you time to deal with the old things.

7. Periods are the ends of things: at a girl's first period she stops wearing shorts.

She attends her first and last baseball game with her brother's boyscout troop. She beats them all at bowling.

8. The TRICK: A pinch of baking powder!

9. One HEEL: in the middle of the floor like a dead mouse.

10. One BOOT: with a cockroach in it waiting to give me a surprise party.

They won't send you flowers on your birthday but it was fun anyway.

11. TO BOOT: he reappears within days because I set him free.

12. TWO BOOTS: with little mice in them waiting for me to step on them.

But maybe I only imagined it.

13. MOVING THINGS: those people on the subway that don't hold on to anything.

Some day I will yell at all of them at the same time.

14. The First Moving Thing: moving and shaking makes something out of nothing.

And THAT, habibti,
is where babies come from.

Monday, September 7, 2009

حومة (sp?)

In a desperate attempt to make time self-destruct in the last two hours and twelve minutes of daylight, I decided to explore the hood. The best part of moving is the getting-to-know-you part. Finding little spots and seeing the local kids and thinking about what their life is like now and if they will remember it this way when they're older. Then finding the little restaurants where normal people go and wondering if I will disrupt the rhythm of things if I went there to in a pathetic attempt at being nostalgic for something I never experienced.

It is not the same as regret, because it is not something I knew I could have been doing.

Anyway, the rhythms of these places are too ingrained to be disrupted. That's why I feel safe here. I know I could do whatever damage I want and it wouldn't matter. Its nature is to be disrupted.  Nothing every changes. It is this way with Tangier and with Buffalo. These are my only two homes, so maybe everything is like that and I've just been giving them too much credit. But it's not just me. I know that much. I've read it in somebody else's book too.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


The people of the town have a right to know

I am a local person.

I have no right to combining,
neither apparent combining nor real combining
neither apparent nor real combinations of salutations
and I salute you, members of the community.

At least three DVD vendors in Tangier think they are eventually going to marry me and it's not my fault. Each time I go back I get to learn new things about what I've been up to while I was gone. Sometimes the references make sense, or if the stories had titles they could apply to something I might do.

One of them gives me gifts. He leaves them at the cinema and then sits outside the hanout with the Marlboro men until I get there. I think he has been forced to make friends with a lot of the guys in the Socco because of this habit, and also smokes less because he can't smoke in the more public of the public, and by default this makes me a good person.

It had been a while since I'd got a gift but then, it had also been a while since I'd been in Tangier. He asked his messenger what I thought when I got it, and the messenger told him that I laughed. He held on to his fury.
"No. She was laughing on the outside but crying on the inside."

We're all in this together, the men on the corner and the crazy people and
I am also in on this. In December we agreed to disagree and I reverted to the comfort of being mute.
Wouldn't say something like, my mother looks just like Fairouz before the nose job. I can't even imagine saying that. But I know I said it like five or six times not that long ago.

The turnover rate is increasing but so is the rate of return,
and I can quietly go back
to being a local person
contained in one small pocket of the city.

Friday, August 21, 2009

BIR CHIFA //احسن يوم EVER

I canceled on Hamid for the interview three times before I decided to stop being a jerk and make my way to the cafe at 2:30, the time we both agreed would be most appropriate for me to meet him there, "because I can just keep working until 3:00 and you can just sit and have coffee and then neither of us will be waiting for each other like I waited for you before for a really long time all those other times," he said. It was also the mid-day slump when the taxi shifts were changing so anyone who knows what's good for them stays home in the midday heat. The shifts at the cafe also change, so everyone is there all at once like a big family, first the night shift in regular clothes, then the day shift in regular clothes. Most of them wear fisherman vests, except Hamid, who wears muscle tanks.

The taxis to Bir Chifa are lined up on a very upright street next to the shop where I buy djellabas for my father and brother every time I go home to visit and they never wear them. I felt the need to make awkward small talk with Hamid along the way, since we were smushed together in the front seat of the communal taxi, and soon realized it was, if not inappropriate, unnecessary to speak. We passed through parts of Tangier that I had never seen before, until we stopped at a small grey intersection where the buildings were also grey, and angular where the second floor juts out over the first floor.

Bir Chifa is one of the highest points of the city. We could see everything. Every patch of white and yellow and red and that shade of pink mostly only old people like to wear. Hamid spread his arms out nervously and said, "Bir Chifa," presenting it to me officially, and I realized he was nervous that I wouldn't like it and he wouldn't look directly at me. I hated realizing this, because it meant I would unnaturally emphasize my appreciation, even though it was sincere. I responded something like, "I love it bzzzzzeff." He nodded and kept avoiding eye contact and we kept walking. He mentioned to me in the taxi that his brother is still a tailor, and has a shop that we could go to so I could take pictures. I declined at the time but it appeared we were going there anyway. Hamid was also a tailor when he was young and when I first met him I innocently exclaimed that I had been searching the city for a sewing teacher. In retrospect and perhaps even at the time I could sense this was mildly inappropriate and probably a contributing factor to one of our many falling outs.

We stopped at a long green wall with a moped parked in front. I assumed it wasn't Hamid's because he sold his the last time I was in Tangier so he could buy a newer, faster one, and this one was more beat up than his last one. He shouted up to the second floor of the building and a few heads poked out, then ducked back in and a few minutes later his brother opened the door for us. The walls were like bubblegum and the floor was wonderfully covered in scraps from tailored women's clothing. Hamid demonstrated some of his skills on the makina while I loaded my camera- it seemed like the only way to convince him that I did really like it, and I wasn't mocking him when I said I wanted to live here. I had to be careful in crafting my sentences to be clear that I would be living either alone or with many women, also being careful not to use the phrase "house of women."

"Maybe we'll be neighbors some day!"
He smiled and nodded slowly, letting me know he was humoring me.
This was all, of course before I learned that the houses in Bir Chifa are actually more expensive than in other parts of town, closer to the city. Needless to say, this finding-a-house-in-Tangier-because-I-can't-find-a-husband thing still requires a lot more research and consideration on my part.

As we were leaving the shop, a plump woman in a blue headscarf peeked her head out in search for Hamid. A minute later we were sitting in his home, on his couch, watching TV with the woman, his step-mother. One of the first things Hamid had told me when I met him was that his mother had passed away, and that I looked just like her.
I luckily did not look like his step-mother. She looked slightly alarmed as though ready to pounce, but managed to smile as she stared at me sideways. We chatted about the Saudi Sheikh giving a lecture on TV. Hamid's brothers passed through the living room several times and were very polite. We sat this way for a couple of minutes until we got to the point where everyone in the room was looking around nervously like jittery birds, we said our salaams and headed for the qahwa.

Hamid not-so-innocently hyped up the qahwa by casually mentioning that Mohammed went there everyday after his morning shift, or before his night shift. "He pulls up a chair from the qahwa over there and brings it here to this spot, and sits here and drinks tea all night. Just like we're doing right now!" He pulled two plastic chairs over to the large expanse of dirt overlooking the city, and we made a table for ourselves in the middle of nowhere. To the left of us were four rows of parallel streets, a mini-howma, which I immediately identified as my howma. The first building in each row was simple grey concrete but I could tell there were some gems further in. I told Hamid my plan over and over, pointing to houses I thought would compliment my personality. He told me I probably couldn't afford a house in Bir Chifa. I had explained to him earlier how much debt I was in from college and now I regretted this. I really do want to be one of those rolly polly women sitting on the side of the road in a row. I wanted him to believe me.

We spent the afternoon at Mohammed's spot. Hamid told me stories about getting hit on by the European and American men that frequent the cafe and tips on how to avoid the especially creepy ones. I told him I was a lesbian, thinking this might safeguard against any misunderstandings on his part. He didn't believe me, but did help me pick out potential girlfriends on the walk back to the taxi. Every couple of sentences he would throw in an endearing comment or funny story about Mohammed, and to my astonishment and delight, confirmed Absalom's previous claim that there were no hard feelings. He shrugged. "He married a Rifia."

He asked me what I thought of his neighborhood, over and over, and I insisted, every time, I heart Bir Chifa I heart Bir Chifa, but I know he didn't really believe me. So he'll just have to wait until I can prove it with a T-Shirt. Forthcoming.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

ضريفة ومزيانة \\ NICE AND GOOD

"Cheeeeefa. Cheeeeefa." It sounded like a muffled scream under a heavy layer of track 4 from the mix CD Frank made me for my birthday.
Then an awkward poke of the arm and a mimed plea for me to remove my headphones. O Abdesalam. How is it that you so often end up randomly walking behind me?

"Asalamalaikum Abdesalam. Lebass?"
It was around 11pm near the door of the Minzah and he probably just got off work. He kept his goofy smile on and immediately dove into a lecture on the social implications of constantly wearing soundcancelling headphones.
"When I say Salaam, you don't see me!" was the gist of it.
"Well I saw you just now."
"No you didn't I had to follow you."
The subject quickly changed to how I was making everyone think I didn't want to talk to them by being so unapproachable.
"You know, Chifa," he leaned in close as we made the turn onto Rue de la Liberte. "There are people like that here. Daeeman m3asaba. Always moody. But I know you're not like that. You're a nice girl, a good girl." I could feel him framing me in his peripheral vision, waiting for me to agree. "Now, Mohammed, you know, he's kind of like those other people...moody...mean..."

It was enough of a shift in topic that I could sense this would be one of his "let's talk about Mohammed so Chifa gets embarrassed" moments.
"You know, one day, he was spending time with you, here and there, helping you with your project, having fun, good friends, and the next- all of a sudden he got married! Safi! No more Chifa."
He continued to bizarrely narrate the history of my rocky friendship with Mohammed as if we were in the beginning scenes of a sequel and he was catching up those members of the audience that were just tuning in. He even brought up the birthday cake.

"...and it was so strange because you were so nice to all the rest of us and kept coming to the cafe. You talk to everyone, even my ugly brother Ahmed ..."

"...and we all had so much fun when we went to that wedding in Bir Chifa..."

..."then you spent Ramadan with us at the cafe and Mohammed was so mean! Remember that?"

He narrated my life to me with empathy and was clearly trying to elicit some vulnerability on my part, so I performed.
"Yeah! That was mean! Why did he do that!?"
A huge part of me was curious about what had caused Mohammed's outburst years before. Even post-birthday cake, he had invited me to his wedding in Al-Hoceima, then subsequently uninvited me. The boys gave me hints every once in a while, but nothing concrete.
He followed closely beside me as we entered the old medina, facing a swarm of women with strollers and kids on bikes, wobbling back and forth.
"I'll tell you why. You know, Mohammed, he didn't just get married. He married a Rifia."

I knew this. A Rifia from Al-Hoceima. I even wrote a poem about it. The ة endings are irresistible.

"And she told him, the day you marry me, you have to stop speaking to all other women! So he did. That's it." He peered at me. "I told him it wasn't right, you were so nice, but he was scared of her. But now even he tells me how nice and good you were. You didn't do anything wrong." He paused and looked away as if to provide sufficient time for me to think about his words. It occured to me that he wanted to be the bearer of good news.

As we walked past the baisara guys calling my name, I thought about this possibility. It seemed strange that it hadn't occurred to me. Mostly because I knew I had done something wrong. About 100 things. Most of them involving inappropriate offerings of baked goods without realizing the implications of those little delictibles. The birthday cake! I never forgave myself. Was Abdesalam absolving me of years of guilt? Apparently I had just been overreacting this whole time, ignoring a friend, who I missed, for no good reason.

We were nearing my final stop in the Souk Dhakhel, and I said as much, knowing I needed to be alone to mull over these new revelations.
"Wait wait I'll come with you."
"Nooo, I prefer to be alone, inshaAllah I'll see you tomorrow."
"Nooo, I'll come with you."
"SuperHadda Beach Club!"
"SuperHadda Beach Club! Let's go!"

I noticed a curious glimmer in his eyes. Absalom then went into a strange fit of raving about SuperHadda Beach Club. "Wow! It's so great! Music! Dancing! Wow! I invite you! C'mon! At SuperHadda Beach Club, all you do is say Whisky! and they give you whisky. You say Red Wine! and they give you red wine. Wow!" He was speaking in English now, and it was getting out of hand. Seriously ليس مناسب.
"I'm sorry, Abdesalam, I don't go to places like that. Ana Muslima."
Disbelief. Repetition. He explained again, the garden of earthly delights that was Superhadda Beach Club. Then he dropped the bomb.

"You know, Mohamed was saying you should go. He says how you are so nice and good and he wants you to go to SuperHadda Beach Club. He told me to take you."

The level of his desperation had reared its ugly head. This was the same Mohammed that insisted my Ramadan fasts didn't count because I wasn't wearing a proper djellaba and would daily beg me to consider wearing the hijab and yelled at me for buying him a birthday cake. It was clear what was going on. Abdesalam had hit a new low.

I left him at this juncture, and re-welcomed the strong possibility/fact that the birthday كعك was a mushkil, I was past the point of no return with Mohammed, and I would probably never live in Al-Hoceima. Word on the street travels faster by street-cat.

I imagined Allah was chuckling to Himself, then got all serious: يا شفاء, you can continue to be ashamed of your سلوك
كان ومازال ليس مناسب
The joke's on you.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Three quarters of the way through the most eerie summer ever- where "ever" now officially means a quarter of a century. It has becoming difficult to form words around experience.

My English is failing me and Tangier is gaining on me.

I keep falling asleep in bushes and hardly have time to respond to harassment- one of my favorite pastimes back in '07- let alone fleamarketing, public ovening, kittening, etc.

Between broken relationships and broken plurals, the shekl of things has molded into a sickly shade of green with envy for anything that speaks Arabic and people with cars passing through Souani.

Things we've always known still surprise us- we are not famous in Tangier but everyone knows us.
One false move could be the end of us. The more you are loved the easier it is to disappoint and the more you are watched the easier it is to see the flaws and the brighter your leggings the easier it is to spot you! There she goes again, off to make another mistake!

Floating in the refuse of my neglect of Beni Mekada, Bir Chifa and Tanja Maghogha, my neighborhood maps are still half drawn and I keep accidentally doing my Arabic homework on the back and handing them in.
A beacon! (the good kind): redemption at Al-Hoceima.
I knew it was a fluke back in '08 when the city where I know my fate at least partially lies was repelling me like an overeager potential love interest. So I gave it another go, and thankfully. I knew he could grow to love me the way his older, more refined distant cousin could. Just took time. The trip consisted mostly of inappropriate naps and eerily decorated cafes and glimpses of the King on the tenth anniversary of his reign. The baisara isn't as good and the beaches are black but I'll be back. I can feel it like a tiny ant crawling up my forearm.
I have to make the myths before I debunk them and draw the maps before I embroider them.
It is my duty to the city.
Really, this is my true wajib.
Not all that other wajib that I am getting in class and paying no attention to.

I've been reading about our good friend "Ibn Battuta" in our good friend "Fus'ha" and find myself bombarded by dates of each of his travels which quickly led me to the conclusion that it's time to start dating again. Today it is 2009. It will be Ramadan in 2 1/2 weeks. I am leaving in 9 days, and I arrived here in 2006 which means 3 is the lucky number.

Of course, as is the course of life, relations are constantly breaking and the tiny kittens keep dying. But I can feel the vacant lots filling with promise. Soon I will be gone, and my spot will also be empty, and waiting to be filled by the next girl.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

deenii m3ak

The factory minarets are a beautiful shade of powder blue. I have been photographing a manufacturing plant of some sort. I always suspected I belonged in an industrial town. Something with a non-functioning railroad and lots of big, fat white cylinders with tiny stairs curving upwards on one side. Ideally, many of the construction projects will be left unfinished. Different levels of nostalgia and romanticizing would collide into one cinematic life, the whole way through.

Something is constructed over old, ruined things as heavy machinery bulldozes through them. The poky movements of the enormous yellow Caterpillar make me wish I had one and knew how to use it. My regular way of ruining things, while effective, would pale in comparison to a method involving heavy machinery. It would also be the closest I can ever get to being a dinosaur.

While I might consider my return to Tangier a triumphant one, you can never be sure if the city will welcome you back with open arms. Old street buddies get fired or disappear, secret beaches are buried under new roads, adopted street-cats turn up dead, the men who used to respect you make a last ditch effort to wed you and the men you fell for are still just not that into you. But aside from the details, the blueprint is the same and you can always find it, but maybe have to search the pockets and if the pockets are empty, you might have to fiddle with some buttons and if you’re still left with nothing, you’re probably just not her type. Move on!

I recently declared a silent war on prevailing notions of the Tangerine spirit, and have decided to challenge these false ideologies with my own, true ones. There is nothing more worthwhile than arguing against one subjective experience for another, more correct one. What have these years taught me, if not how to vocalize “the spirit of the city” with brevity and zeal; to retrace my steps and draw a map that would lead others down the same shwaari3 I once trod, and as long as everyone stands reaaally still, they would, soon after, “know what I mean.”

In an effort to balance out these last three years of idealism, I hope to disenchant the enchanted by debunking the myths and then immediately re-affirming them. If I am successful, I will then re-shape the image of the city in my own image; if I’m lucky, the whole summer will feel like one long refusal, comprised of many teeny-tiny refusals. In the spirit of negativity, everything I write and photograph will house within itself a negation of something I once said, or something someone else said before me.

Monday, January 19, 2009


When you spontaneously travel to Morocco for winter break, your bank may judgmentally put a stop on your credit card because they find it extravagant that a poor student would make such an unwise financial decision, or because that little list of charges from the Tangier Airport conjures up images of some curly topped olive skinned Simo who finally got a break after all his years of scamming, although they shouldn’t think such things because you warned them about your trip weeks in advance. Perhaps some curly haired olive skinned Patel forgot to make the note in your account record.
He didn’t tell me he was curly haired or olive skinned but he did tell me his name was Patel. I trusted him immediately because he let his accent roam free and didn’t say his name was Jim.

Patel’s infatuation with the distractingly hot new intern working in the cubicle beside him left me with no choice but to spend the night rooming with two Germans in the dormitory of Room 417.There is only one key so although we were strangers we were forced to coordinate our actions and become friends for the day and night I was in Madrid. I gave them tips about where to go in Morocco if they ever decided to venture back after the horrible experience they had, and wanted to point out that they would have trouble no matter what because one of the girls was ridiculously beautiful, but somehow felt shy about pointing this out- it must be the Maha in me. I've been suspecting for years that she is slowly taking over my identity. I must be 7 parts shifa to every 2 parts Maha. She's gaining on me.

I remained quiet and uncomfortable even after they both teamed up to try and help me remove my boot, which was clinging to me the way I used to grapple my mother’s leg like a frantic koala when she dropped me off to nursery school as I screamed "noooooogggghhhh!!!!" (Was it me or was it Maha?) I thought about my childhood screams and felt bad for the boot, so I left it and was that much closer to being ready for my flight. The boy asked if I wanted to leave on the television so that we couldn’t hear each other breathing and I said I guess I don’t care and it was as decidedly creepy way of saying goodnight.

I had two hours to visit the Museo Nacional del Prado on Friday. I will preface this by saying it was amazing and among my favorites. My mother would have loved it, all those walls saturated with images of hell. I was on a Goya mission and in some sections had to oscillate between a trot and a gallop because a simple jog was attracting too much attention. I kept wishing for those fat white sneakers with wheels that make me want to attack small children in the grocery store.

I attracted attention in any case unless it was one of those places where everyone stares at everyone which would be strange because you’ve got all these breathtaking triptychs to guide you through the vices of man and life of Jesus and up into heaven then back down into the fiery pits of hell. I decided upon reflection that the stares were because I was alone, and I didn’t notice anyone else alone, and maybe this is not common practice in European museums. It could also have been that I strongly resembled an animal that had recently been attacked by a larger animal.

I’m not sure why the Queen Mariana was one of my favorites, something about how she is making the same face I made when I was twelve and got into a fight with my mother and immediately after had to get my passport photo taken and I have been looking at that dumb face since 2001 and can’t make a new one until 2011 and I can’t even begin to think what she must be feeling. I also really like her dress and intend to sew one just like it, minus about 98% of the frills. I’m not a no-frills woman. Always good to have some frills.

Otherwise, Las Meninas, The Garden of Earthly Delights, and Descent from the Cross all scared the crap out of me. And to wrap it up Patenier brought me back to Tangier because everything was so blue, with little fiery hellish clouds in the distance. You can almost see the devil narrowing his eyes and setting his sights from behind them.

A visit to the Prado is a great cultural replacement for those poorly bound books we used to buy from Islamic Convention Bazaars, with the starchy white pages describing the imminent, fiery fate of the disbelievers. Bring rollerskates and you can skim through hell and land comfortably in the lap of a plump Virgin Mary, or better yet, the bed of Goya's "Nude Maja." And you even have the option of "The Clothed Maja," if you're gonna be shy about it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


They sell you a ticket even if the train is pulling out, give you your change then slap the desk and yell "go catch it!"

I made a getaway to Meknes. It was night when I boarded the train so I didnt discover until the morning that the space between Sidi Kacem and Meknes is one of my favorites, in a dilapidated, farmish, evenly spaced trees kind of way. I could also use those adjectives to describe myself so it's really all very narcissistic. My compartment mates including two giggling girls and the boy who spent the entire four hours eating nuts and staring at my face and various other parts of my body.

I searched for air in the space between the door and the storage car behind us. A hoard of boys and one older man rushed past me pushing me aside and opening the storage car doors so the freezing air came rushing at me and I had a chance to say "sh3andiiiiik!?"
They ignored me, and in a few minutes all but one turned back. The mustached man whispered something in the boy's ear then also left. A minute later he returned and locked the doors leading to the storage car. The boy eventually came out of the bathroom and tried to re-enter our car, found the doors locked, and casually mimed for me to open them. I casually mimed back that the man had locked them. In a swift gesture he buried his head in his sweater and crouched into a ball and when he rose into my view again his face was wet and his eyes were red and I couldnt hear him over the howling of the train but I am pretty sure he was screaming, judging from the curve of the O of his mouth. I stared in horror and looked back and forth between him and the first class hallway and couldn't think of anything to do but pause my ipod out of respect. A uniformed ONCF employee returned to the spot and I did the miming locking the door again thing and he said he knew then asked if I would rather return to my seat and I said no I want to watch. I said something about fresh air ("ripe wind").

At the Hotel Majestic the blankets are warm and the light is dim and I fell asleep to Shahrukh Khan's wife not recognizing him without his mustache for the first three quarters of the film. The morning brought fat rain drops falling on my head from dirty, high up places. I went flea-marketing in the mud where masses of heavy-booted children were being treated to gifts for Ashura and my general intolerance for greedy little hands left me mildly disgusted by all the pointing and wailing and "that one! that one too! wah!" Plus, the children in Meknes stare at me in a way that mini tangerines do not. At the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss a giant pink coat with a head sticking out yelled to her father, "look look! it's a Palestinian!" The other ones just laugh.

I hesitatingly dined at Restaurant Marhaba on Mo V in search of Kebda (which in Meknes comes with proud little chunks of fat in the center) and instead find myself a changed woman after sampling the harira. Even the boy that kept changing his seat so he could watch me eat could not sour the perfection of the dish. The bread is fatter and the children are cuter (maybe because they are fatter) but otherwise Meknes reminded me of Tangier. The ride was worth it if only for this soup. I'm pretty sure it was peppered with some sort of drug. I guess I don't mind. I'll try anything once.

Friday, January 9, 2009


There are many hadith related on this issue and have been discussed by the four schools. The Hanafis have judged all the narrations on this issue to be based on the method of "apparent combining" [Jam' al-Suri] not "real combining" [jam' al-Haqiqi]. This position is based on the fact that we are told to make every prayer on time, and there are hadith of Ibn Mas'ud which clarify that the Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam never combined the prayers together [by taking a prayer out of its time]

If the traveler entered a town with the firm intention of leaving "tomorrow or after tomorrow", and never intended to stay for 15 days, then he shortens his prayer, even if years pass by.

If the traveler enters his home town, then he must complete all 4 subsets, even if he did not intend to stay.

Whoever had a hometown but emigrated to another town, remains a traveler if he should travel through his original hometown. This is provided that it is not also his hometown. The basic rule is that one's original hometown is invalidated as a "hometown" by taking another place as ones home, but not by mere traveling or settling in another town.

The place of settling is invalidated by settling somewhere else (because the new place is its equal) or by traveling (because it is contradictory to settling) or by reaching one's hometown.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Ah, another year. I've been reading a lot of happy-new-years-gaza-here-are-some-more-bombs type sentiments. Zeineb and Shaima at the salon looked shweya m3asaba today so I tried to cheer them up with tall tales of my new years night. A few of those things might have been true. They feigned smiles and eventually I asked why there were so out of spirits and they told me the world was broken and Gaza is being destroyed with all its people and I stopped talking about my adventures on the playa. I eventually fell asleep as they were curling my hair. I'm starting to think of my trips to the coiffure as fifty-dirham midday naps.
A day of firsts, I turned in just before all establishments on the playa, both classy and seedy, started charging a 200 dirham entrance fee. The cab stopped as though he was looking for me, and didnt make the usual comments I get on the way home from a late night, although he did try to charge me four times the cost of the ride and when I saw the "cuntur" (I usually only use such language in kesh) read "libre" I immediately Hashuma'd him as hard as I could like it was a sport, and he agreed to let me go for just twice the price.

This morning I finally made it back to the Fndq Shajarah to buy bedcovers and the mool offered me a beautiful off-white and white one for 250, and when I accepted he stalled for a couple of minutes while talking to a friend then re-entered the shop and explained something about a telephone and a high price and a question and then gave me fifty dirhams back. He was holding it in his hand, it belonged to him, I was smiling in approval, and he gave it back. M3amrni shouft shi haja pHal hakada.
The other firsts were less pronounced but still events I would consider firsts no matter what the date because these things happen in Tanja all the time. Nothing ever changes but b'safa 3ama, the details are changing enough that everything you do feels like the first time. Everything I do. I finally know how to not reflexively always speak Arabic in second person I don't know why I keep talking about you.