In the countryside: Me, Bobby, and Rose
We leave Tangier in a white van with our guide, Darren, a 30-something, Californian, Peace-Corps vet, who taught us key Arabic phrases like shabet (I’m full). The prose proved necessary when my home-stay mother in Rabat repeated kool, kool, (eat, eat) as she filled and re-filled our dinner table with fresh bread, tomatoes, and beef tagine. Darren reminded us to eat only from the portion of the bowl directly in front of us, and only with our right hand. The left hand remains, by tradition, the unhygienic “bathroom” hand (and the reason we packed our own toilet paper).
The following night, after a second family dinner in Rabat (this time kool, kool the cous-cous), the girls of the group meet, separately from the boys, to wash up at a traditional hamam. We walk through the dark, narrow, maze-like streets of the medina (city center). We pass a messy open-air market, huddles of men,,and women veiled in various colors. In the steamy, powder-blue tile room, we fill buckets with scalding hot water to cleanse our naked bodies (one girl wears a T-shirt). We giggle and rinse, none of us knowing what to do with our eyes. I scrub the thick, brown, liquid soap onto my belly with a glove as rough as chain mail, and let the water cool before pouring it over my reddened skin.
Preparing Moroccan tea
After lunch, the mother, wearing her thick, black curls tied back in white cloth, sets a kettle on top of a rusty, blue heating tank. She sprinkles mint leaves, sugar cubes and green tea into the kettle, before pouring the ready tea into small glasses. The sweet, minty tea warms my belly like a hot mojito.
I never did poop in Morocco. But as I returned to Madrid (immediately joining the group in line for bathroom at Barajas airport), I longed for the minty Moroccan tea to settle my stomach.
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