When we first rolled into Rissani I thought I couldn’t leave the place fast enough. The touts and beggars amble through the dusty streets seeking out the last hustle of the tourist season.
Swarmy men befriend you and fill your head with promises of terrace sheesha and hot showers. Thank Allah we met Mohammed at the little café downstairs from his hotel before we left for the desert. Coming back from the Sahara we were sure of what we wanted. Food, water, and solace from the relentless Saharan heat. At the Hotel Filalia we found ourselves with a new surrogate father, a lovely salon for wasting away the hottest parts of the day and as luck would have it a water shortage. Who knew in the desert there were times when whole towns had no water.
Silly American, water is just another thing we take for granted.
But in America you would never be allowed to sleep on the roof of the hotel, I think one of the greatest things about Morocco are the terraces. For one or two Euro a night you can sleep on the roof, outside of the sticky rooms and questionable bedding. Staring at the stars provides all the entertainment one could ask for. Hotel Filalia is not a two, three, or even four star hotel. It is the hotel of a thousand stars as Mohammed would like to say. It is also a bit like the song Hotel California, I think we tried to check out a few times but it was almost impossible to leave, and if it hadn’t been for the painful heat, and my need to be in Spain in a few weeks time , I could have stayed in Risanni for awhile.
Mohammed took it upon himself to take us everywhere with him. We met his friends, drank gallons of mint tea, and wandered the souks and the back alleys poking our noses into everything. We contemplated buying donkeys and getting in line for a good old fashioned bloodletting, neither happened in the end though.
A few nights pass and we are invited to spend the evening at Mohammed’s friend’s house, there would be black market wine, date liquor, Moroccan pizza, oud playing and of course dancing. Supposedly it was the first time this guy had ever had westerners in his house. He kept apologizing for the state of things!? And we tried to reassure him that his house was amazing as we were comfortable and happy. Bowls of olives were passed around and suddenly after watching a video tape of the guys wedding I started to get this creeped out-where are all the women feeling. In the whole tape there wasn’t one shot of the bride, or any other women for that matter. I asked a bit meekly of Mohammed to explain and sure enough, you have to love Muslim culture, the women have their own little wedding celebration far from the eyes of the other men that may be attending the party. After hearing that I kind of took a figurative step back from the situation, here I am a western harlot hanging out with men who have their wives tucked away in dark corners and on the rooftops, but because I am a western girl I can party with them and all is good? Hmmm, not anymore, I asked to be taken up to the ladies.
On the terrace the night air was cool and fresh. The wives, grandmothers and daughters were centered around a communal tajine dish. Sophie and I sat down as they wished, the circle got wider and we were within minutes engulfed in a whole other reality completely hidden by the men. Bits of strange tongue like meat were thrust into our hands and we tried without words to express gratitude, but they must have taken that for hunger because they kept trying to feed us more. After a while it was time for the pizzas to be cooked for the men downstairs, there on the roof was a small adobe oven which they fed with bits of straw. The smell reminded me of Galena so I was instantly in love with the permanent memory, and finally getting a chance to see how the other half of Morocco lives, the women that is.
Heading home that night in a group that consisted of a barber, a fully pissed CD salesman/musician, two Mohammed’s, a few random drum players, an Italian, An Argentinean, two Londoners, and finally two Americans, we wearily walked until the moon started rising and there was the sound of celebration coming down the street towards us. The drummers as if right on cue starting drumming with the people who were approaching and for awhile we had a full on jam session with a Berber family out on their wedding celebration.
No, the Berbers don’t mess around with the night long parades throughout the street celebrating the union and love they will have for a lifetime. They embrace it, and I would have to say the most beautiful thing about it was the fact that they were there Bride and Groom together hand and hand for the entire world to see.
Even if it was 3am.