Partying Hard in a Caftan
My dear readers, I apologize for the long absence. I can only blame a combination of things, including a busy schedule full of research, moving, traveling, and laziness. But here it is: the long anticipated post-Eid entry. No animals were harmed in the writing of this post. I promise.
Monday, I bid adieu to my host family. It was actually a tough parting for me: I had to reign back tears several time throughout the week preceding my departure. (And this is a pretty weird thing for me: I don’t cry easily. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure Soukaina started to think I was crazy after she caught me sniffling a couple of times.)
After two months of living with them, I’d started seeing them as a real second family. I loved having a quirky big sister, a goofy (and shameless flirt of a) brother, a cute, old baba, and one of the most welcoming mama’s in the whole of Morocco. But, come Sunday, I had to pack my things and move a whole five minutes outside of the medina kadima. Now I’m living in a cozy flat with four friends that’s costing me about $4 per day, with a terrace that has one of the best views of the city. Be jealous.
My stay with my Moroccan family certainly ended with a bang. On Sunday night they held Soukaina’s engagement party. Have I mentioned how big these things are? This is the second one I’ve been to, the first one I attended being held in September. This one, though, was bigger: over 50 people were packed in the small house that I had been living in for the previous two months. My family had spent the entire week getting ready for it; prepping the ingredients for the pastilla and cleaning every square inch of the house. Aunts, cousins, and other female family members came to help out Soukaina and hejja. All day Saturday and Sunday, women were busy setting up the decorations. Even my brother and his friend helped out a bit. Saturday night, a woman came and did henna on the hands of female family members and close friends. I got my right hand done up in flowers and swirls. It was pretty.
When the party finally started, rented chairs lined the perimeter of the central room, and all the women, dressed to the nines in caftans made out of silk and velvet, parked themselves here. Men went off to the side, in the room where I normally slept. In the middle of the main room was set up an elevated white love seat that reminded me of a throne. This was to be where Soukaina and her fiancé sat. Meanwhile, the family reassigned Amine’s bedroom to be Soukaina’s dressing room. She was to go through three different outfits that night.
Initially, there was a lot of awkward sitting and chatting while we waited for Soukaina to get ready and for her fiancé to arrive. I hung out with Molly, another American student staying in Rabat with SIT. A little before six, Soukaina came out in her first outfit, looking absolutely gorgeous. A lot of us then went outside to welcome the fiancé and his family and friends. They arrived in style: following them was a Moroccan band playing loud, festive Issawa music and three large, decorative tagines filled with presents for Soukaina and her family. All of them came in, further packing the tiny house, and dancing ensued.
Dancing in Morocco has made me realize how little I utilize my hips back in the states. Couchar and Shayma, two of Soukaina’s friends, dragged me onto the dance floor and I was able to get a little bit of some hip action, but it was nothing compared to the finesse with which they moved. Shakira herself would say that their hips don’t lie. I don’t think I embarrassed myself too badly, though. The trick is to cock your hip out a bit and move it forwards and backwards—if you’re feeling fancy, twirl your hands around a bit and throw in a turn or two.
The singer in the band certainly knew how to work a crowd. He sang traditional songs to which everyone seemed to know the words. From time to time, he’d hold the microphone out to someone and have them finish singing a phrase. At one point, he and the band burst into a rowdy rendition of Cheb Khaled’s “C’est La Vie,” an incredibly popular and catchy song (that I am determined to bring back to Whitman and make popular in Walla Walla). That certainly got everyone excited.
At one point, in the night, a group of men brought out a large seat that looked like an ornate nest. Bars were attached to it. Soukaina was put in the nest and the men hoisted her up with the bars. She was then carried around the room for a song or two. It reminded me of how the bride and groom at Jewish weddings are lifted up in chairs.
At 7:30 we were served mint tea and Moroccan cookies (both of which I am going to miss quite a bit when I’m back in the states). Women were served first, and then the men. This was to tide us over for the actual meal, which didn’t come until after 10 (but, compared to the midnight dinners I’d been having with my family normally, this was still a pretty early dinner). We were served pastilla (yet another Moroccan dish I can’t get enough of), a tagine of beef, apricots, and prunes, and the typical Moroccan dessert of fruit. I was one of the last people to eat, along with my family, and by the time I had finished, many people had already filed out. A degree of calm was finally restored to the tiny house, even though there were still plenty of extended family members hanging around, cleaning up.
I got into bed around 2 am. I slept in the same room that I had slept in for the past two months, but tonight Soukaina was in here, as well. We curled up and talked in the dark.
“Thank you for including me in this.”
“You had fun?”
“I had so much fun.”
“And what do you think of my husband?”
“You two were so cute! I can tell that he loves you a lot.”
“Yeah. Do you love him?”
“Yeah! A lot!”
“Bezef (a lot)?”
Filed under: Leah Siegel's Study Abroad Blog