Monthly Archives: February 2012

Meknes Cotton Candy Man

Meknes Cotton Candy Man

This is my new favorite cotton candy man (CCM) in the Meknes area.  Here’s why – the our conversation went a something like this:

Me: “May I take your picture?” (or some garble of darija/arabic/french/gesturing to that effect)
CCM: “la” (means no)
Me: (in Darija) “no? ok, no problem”
CCM: “oh you speak Arabic?”
Me: “shwiya” (a little)
CCM: “alright you can take a picture”

Oh the wonders of language =D

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I came across this poem today and was struck by how appropriate it is for any journey, striving to reach any goal.  Of course, since I love both travel and Greek mythology, that just makes it even better, but the message is the most important:

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty,
if a fine emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

-Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

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Home Sweet Home Again

A warm hug, a friendly smile.  Familiar streets and well-trodden paths.   These are just a few of the things that mark a homecoming and my return to Meknes certainly fits the bill.

I was exhausted from traveling all over Spain, France, and Morocco with my parents for a month but the new group of students for this semester arrived the same day they left Marrakesh.  Wandering around Jemaa El Fna, buying candied nuts, dried apricots, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and hot brochettes with “free” mint tea from the square’s vendors occupied most of our evenings, and some hours of the afternoon as well.   We witnessed story-tellers, acrobats, monkeys, musicians, and snake-charmers, all vying for money from the crowd.

During the day, ISA arranged some tours for the group around the city.   We visited the Menara Gardens, wandered the Majorelle Gardens, went to the Saadian tombs, saw the Koutoubia, walked through the souk, and finally ended with the afternoon free to explore Jemaa El Fnaa and make our own way back to the Hotel Akabar.

The day was a whirlwind of new places, new faces, trying to remember everyone’s names, catching up with old friends, making new ones, and exploring more and more of the lively city of Marraksh.

We started the journey home the next morning, heading North East toward Meknes and stopping at the Ouzoud Cascades and Beni Mellal on the way.

Man oh man were those cascades awesome!  They’re the tallest waterfalls in all of Morocco and they’re absolutely gorgeous.   Calling it a hike is kind of a stretch but we left the bus at the top of the hill and walked down to get a better view, visiting a few different lookouts, both facing and below the falls.  A couple of the guys decided they would be all macho and jump in.  It was pretty cold outside (we were in the mountains after all) and I’m sure the water wasn’t much warmer but it was entertaining.

There were also some monkeys there, which proved to be a problem when we sat down to eat.  Some came right up to us and snatched the khobz (bread) right off the table at Iman’s elbow.   There was a kid working there whose only job seemed to be to chase them away but he started working a lot harder after that.  After a great meal of tagine and tea, we headed back up to the bus and drove to Beni Mellal to spend the night.

We were scheduled to have an ISA program meeting shortly after our arrival, but the game between Morocco and Tunisia for the African Cup of Nations would be at the same time so they moved it to later that night (sometime after our giant 3-course meal).  Only in Morocco would important meetings be scheduled around futbol.  =)

We made it to Meknes by 2pm the next day and everyone was thrilled to unload their stuff off the bus and finally unpack.   I ran upstairs to my old apartment to grab the last of my stuff from the previous semester so I could move in with my new host family.  Somehow I found I had almost twice as much stuff as I came here with.  It certainly doesn’t bode well for moving back to the US at the end of the year – I already have too much and I still have four months to accumulate more.  I felt ridiculous hauling my plethora of luggage to my new family’s home, but was happy to meet them and move in to my new room.

I finished unpacking and came out of my room to find my host mom and her sister at the kitchen table making Tiramisu.  I asked if I could help and before I knew it, I was set to work measuring different flours and sugars, dolloping custard on top of cookies, and saran-wrapping finished mini Tiramisu cups.   In no time I felt right at home.

The following few days only increased this feeling.  I ran into old friends on the street, I took taxis on my own, visited people now living where I used to live, exchanged greetings with shopkeepers and doormen that recognized me, and I showed the new students around “my hometown”.   It hadn’t been that long since I was last in Meknes with my parents over winter break but the welcoming familiarity of this small city continually reinforces the feeling of homecoming.  Man, it’s good to be back!

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