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.