Saturday, September 25, 2010
September 25, 2010
Cecilia and I are visiting Morocco for the first time. I came here as a child with my parents but stayed only in a tourist hotel on the Mediterranean. I have traveled in many places, but here I have to open my eyes to new experiences and be willing to open new doors. Fortunately, on our second day we joined Samira on her daily journey to the market in Fes, and chose to do it again on our third day.
For me, being a part of everyday routines is a way to feel comfortable in a new place. I learn quickly that, unlike most places in the West, here the local countryside and farmers provide a daily wealth of fruit, meat, vegetables, spices, and herbs – all fresh and reasonably priced. Samira meets up with a porter who carries her purchases every day. Then she spreads her budget over a wide range of producers, buying best quality at best prices: bread from the communal ovens, squawking chickens for tonight's dinner, beetroot and carrots and cucumbers for three kinds of cold soups, luscious tomatoes for salad, and much more.
Back at Riad Laaroussa we hang out in the kitchen with Samira and her fellow cook Fatima, and with co-worker Badia. Soon, all the other women from the riad come by to eat or to talk around a large table. And after a while, guests drift in to the kitchen, emptying the courtyard, crossing the line between them and us. There is talk in Arabic, French, and English, much laughter and also serious discussion about the progress made and not made by women. The candlelit dinner tastes so much sweeter for having witnessed its origins and preparation.
No doubt, the Riad Laaroussa is a lovely place to stay: gorgeously restored architecture, delightful colors, comfortable rooms, excellent service. But for me, the highlight is the sense of power and democracy among the staff, the honest talk, the humanity of the people who work here and reach out to visitors with a human voice.