Friday, January 30

Friday, December 26, 2008

This morning we got a very early wake-up call at 3:00am. We headed back to Spain today, so we had to leave Rabat at 4:00am in order to make it to the ferry on time. We had about a three-hour drive to Tangiers. I slept on the bus—like everyone else. We got to the ferry with no problems, and after an hour of sitting on the ferry before we actually left the port, we got on our way and made it to Tarifa. This time, the ferry ride was much smoother, not so much rocking and swaying.

Once again, we went through customs. It took awhile for the customs agents to clear us. Apparently this is a popular route for smuggling drugs and people into Europe, so our bus had to be thoroughly searched while we waited out on the curb.

Once through, we drove through Algeciras and along the Puerto del Sol, the Mediterranean coast. It was stunning. We had beautiful views of the sea, and the buildings were lovely as well. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and I wished we could have taken some time to walk along the beach and sit in the sun.

We arrived in Granada, Spain around 3:00pm and had time to walk around the city. It’s lovely here. Everything looks so old in that charming kind of way. This huge cathedral and monastery are just right in the middle of it all. It looks like the city just sprouted up around them. After an hour or so of wandering around, we stopped for coffee at a little tea and coffee shop. We were lucky enough to get a table that was about two feet from a coal-fired heater. It was awesome.
Dinner was at the hotel. We sat with Natalie and Mark and again had a terrific time. We all had two desserts since it is, after all, Boxing Day (even though Mark and Natalie can’t come to an agreement on the origins of the holiday). After dinner we took a bottle of wine back to Mark and Natalie’s room and hung out and drank wine all night. We discussed politics and shared our dating stories. We are consistently surprised how aware others are of American politics. They all know just as much about our presidential election as we do.

I asked Andrew to write part of today’s entry because I was getting sick of writing so much every day, and here is part of what he wrote: “Overall we had a delightful evening in Granada. I’ll miss Natalie and Mark when they’re gone. They’re the real reason you go on tours. It’s nice that you get hotels and meals planned, but it’s the companions you meet that you remember.” And I have to agree.

Thursday, January 29

The Triumphant Return of Noteworthy Thursday: #7

This note is a little different than the previous notes. This is more of a written record of a conversation—you know, for posterity. On the last night of our Spain/Portugal/Morocco tour, we drank some wine. And some beer. And some sangria. And then some more wine. And when Andrew and I got back to our room, we had this conversation. I wrote it down, because it seemed like the thing to do at the time. And I wrote the date and time on it (in 24-hour format, because I am Hip Like That). (The time stamp, BTW, proves just how lame we are when it comes to staying out late.)

Wednesday, January 28

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It does not feel like Christmas at all. There is no tree, no presents to open, and none of my mom’s cinnamon rolls. At breakfast, my pastry had a bite taken out of it. Who does that, picks up a pastry from a buffet, takes a bite, then puts it back on the table? Yuck.

Today we drove to Casablanca. We’re back on good highways, so the trip went much faster. We saw field after field of beautiful orange and yellow flowers. Really bright and vivid colors.

Andrew and I loved Casablanca. We hadn’t heard much praise about it, but I think we like visiting cities perhaps. All the buildings were white, which had a very cool effect. As we drove though the neighborhoods with these large homes, it reminded me of Southern California, I think it was something about all the greenery and the type of architecture, maybe. The city was right on the Atlantic, so it had that ocean feel about it. Andrew said it smelled wonderful, like the ocean does, but my cold was keeping me from smelling anything. It just figures—Andrew couldn’t smell the stinky tannery with his cold, and I couldn’t smell the salty ocean. Unfair, I tell you.

Driving through the city we passed a school and saw a bunch of kids in their school uniforms. It was different, knowing that for us, today was a holiday, but for this Muslim country, it was just a day like any other. People were going to work and going about their lives, much the way I’m sure I do on Muslim holidays.

We also saw Rick’s Café. We were told, though, that there are actually several Rick’s Cafes, none of them authentic since the entire movie was filmed in Hollywood, not in Casablanca. Oh well, I still took a picture.
We stopped at this enormous mosque, a fairly new mosque. The minaret was beautiful green and blue. We were able to peek inside this mosque, though the darkness kept us from seeing much. We also visited the city center of Casablanca where we had some free time for lunch. Andrew and I found the most awesome Moroccan fast food place called the Fadi Grill, Chicken Restaurant. They had bright red and yellow décor, with real tablecloths and covered chairs. I had some sort of sandwich that was like chicken nuggets and ham and cheese on a bun, and Andrew ate chawarma in a wrap. Very good. Unlike any Christmas dinner I’ve ever had, but good.
We walked around this pedestrian-only street and did some window-shopping. Since it was Christmas, we decided to get ice cream. Because we couldn’t communicate very well with the worker, we ended up getting a cone instead of a cup, and it had whipped cream on it. I think it was gelato, actually, but who could really tell? It was delicious.
We left Casablanca after being there just a couple of hours and headed toward Rabat, the capital of Morocco. I think I slept the entire drive. In Rabat, we stopped at the royal palace, the king’s residence. Then we drove around and saw bits of the city, like the old medina walls, an old mosque, and a three- or four-hundred-year-old never-finished minaret. We saw the mausoleum of Mohammed 5 (or I think we did. Honestly, I was losing track of what we saw today). There were lots of columns there, just out in the middle of this square. Rabat doesn’t seem very nice. It looks kind of rundown and dirty. But I’m quick to judge, since we haven’t spent much time here or seen very much.
It was getting dark by the time we reached our hotel. Andrew and I took a walk around the block, intending to head to the medina. But when it was dark and we didn’t know where we were going, we reconsidered and went back to the hotel. Since it was Christmas, I called my family to say hello. It turned out that our phones wouldn’t work there (the phones which we just bought specifically so we would have phones to use on this trip, phones we asked T-Mobile repeatedly about whether they would work here and we were assured that yes, they would. Stupid T-Mobile people). I checked with the front desk to see how much international calls cost from the room and found out it was 10dh/minute. Since I only planned to talk for five or ten minutes, I went ahead and called Courtney’s house (my parents went to Pennsylvania for Christmas this year). My BIL Zach answered the phone, so I chatted with him, then talked to my mom, then my dad, then Courtney. Andrew kept signaling for me to wrap it up. I ended up making a 300dirham/30 euro/$45 phone call. Whoops. But it was good to hear everyone’s voices. Sounds like Austin is adorable and they’re having a good holiday.

Our dinner was at the hotel tonight, and it was quite good. We got chocolate mousse, so I was happy. After dinner, we had a glass of wine with Mark and Natalie in their room while watching The Bourne Identity on TV. I didn’t stay long. I’ve still got this cold, and tomorrow is our early early day, where we have to leave the hotel at 4:00am in order to get to the ferry on time, so I wanted to get to bed early.

Monday, January 26

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Today we woke up on Christmas Eve, but I didn’t even consider this until midday. Nothing around us reminded us it was Christmastime, and the warmish weather and palm trees didn’t help. We started the day with a city tour of Marrakesh, first going to one of the many gardens surrounding the mosque in Marrakesh. The garden was lovely, especially for it being wintertime. Lots of roses everywhere. We had a good view of the minaret, and took lots of photos. Too many photos, really.

Next we drove to an old palace (not a royal palace, just a large home). Walking toward the palace walls, we were surrounded by dirt bikes and smoky air, but as we entered the walls, it was like entering another world. The air cleared, the noise went away. We could hear birds chirping. Again, we saw a bunch of cats. The palace was okay, but it wasn’t in great condition. No one was living there, and a lot of paint was peeling and some tiles were damaged. Again, we saw lots of intricate tiling, high painted ceilings, and several courtyards. Again, I took way too many pictures. My favorite room had high stained glass windows. They called it Iraqian glass because (drumroll) it came from Iraq. With the sun streaming through, it was gorgeous.

This is the stained glass and one of the beautiful ceilings.

Our next stop on the city tour was the worst of the entire trip so far. We went to a silver jewelry store. They told us that Morocco makes a lot of silver goods, so that’s why were going here. But then, inside it was just like any old jewelry store. They didn’t teach us anything about the silver, they just wanted us to buy things. It felt like a big scam, some sort of deal between Cosmos and the jewelry store. And we spent 45 minutes there! All we wanted to do was go see the souk, but we had to stand around for nearly an hour.

After the silver store, we went to a traditional Berber herbalist. Andrew and I were pretty excited about going here, but it turned out to be less interesting than expected. It was a small shop, and the scents of all the herbs, powders, and creams were incredibly overwhelming to me. We all sat around the edges of the room on narrow benches while the herbalist demonstrated his products. For most products, he went around the room and put a dab or cream on each of our hands or held something up to our noses to smell. One of the products was some kind of sinus-clearing thing. He wrapped up whatever herbs it included in a little cloth, then took the balled up cloth and literally held it up to each person’s nostril, pushing their other nostril closed and instructing them to inhale. The cloth was practically inside every person’s nose. And practically everyone on the trip has been sick, passing around the same cold (a cold that I have also caught, so thanks for nothing, Andrew). And I was the last one in the group. I did not want to put that same cloth up to my nose, but I did. Gross. Then when the demonstration was over, we had the pleasure of getting to purchase things. Instead of letting everyone get up and just select what he wanted, the guy went through the whole list of products and asked if anyone wanted it (which could be embarrassing for some, since the products included “female Viagra” and some kind of rash cream). Only after he was sure that everyone had the products he needed, did he let anyone pay. And of course, then he had to go through the bags and see what each person selected in order to total the cost. It was utterly ridiculous. It reminded me of a Mary Kay facial party, where you think you’re going just to get a facial, but then they push the hard sell and convince you to purchase wrinkle cream and lip balm. We did not purchase anything at the Berber herbalist shop.
Then, finally we were on our way to the souk, the part of Marrakesh we were most looking forward to. Our city guide, however, was fairly awful, and wasn’t making the experience as good as it could be. He kept walking at a snail’s pace while he texted. He was rarely not talking on his phone or texting, actually. Once, he was telling our group about some bit of Moroccan history and his phone rang And. He. Actually. Answered. It. So it took awhile to get to the souk. But we finally got there, and it was cool. A lot different than the medina in Fez. The main difference was that the streets were wider and they allowed motor vehicles in. We had to be on the lookout for motorcyclists wanting to get past us or we would’ve gotten run over. In the souk, we saw lots of vendors selling spices, figs, olives, dried fruit, and leather goods. We saw some thuya wood products that a coworker of mine told me to look out for. We saw silver teapots and lovely glass teacups. Most of the goods were similar to those in Fez as far as I could tell.
There was a giant open area there, too. There were tons of orange juice vendors with fresh-squeezed juice, plenty of women trying to get me to let them paint henna on my hands, and several snake charmers and performing monkeys on chains. All these people were extremely pushy. They’d call out to us from thirty paces away, saying we should buy their orange juice. The women would rush up to me saying “henna for you?” and reach out to take my hands. We had to be quick to say no to them. We did get caught looking at some snakes, and this man rushed up to us and threw the snake around Andrew’s shoulders. I reluctantly took a picture and gave the man a couple dirham. He then tried to put the snake around me, but I wasn’t going for it.
We had an hour of free time to wander the area, so we walked through the market, shopped, and looked around. We bought a red and golden yellow square plate that I’m hoping will look good in our living room. We each got a glass of the orange juice. It was very tasty, but very pulpy, and we had to drink it fast, since it came in real glasses, not plastic. So we had to stand there until we finished it.Nothing really seems to be disposable here, other than water bottles and coke cans. When we get coffee, it always comes in real glasses—no “to go.” Near the end of our hour, we went to a café and got some mint tea. We thought we’d want to spend more than an hour there, but it turned out that we didn’t love it like we thought we would. There were too many fumes, and too many pushy people wanting our money. I feel like I’m missing something about Marrakesh, because it doesn’t seem to be to be the magical place I kept hearing about.

See the monkeys behind Andrew?

After our tour, Andrew and I walked to a place near the hotel for lunch. I felt pretty good about knowing some French, because we need to find the supermarket to buy more water bottles, and I was able to ask our waiter “Ou est la supermarche?”

After lunch, it was time for the optional tour to visit the Berber family’s home in the Ourika Valley. This was, so far, the best part of the trip. This home was so sparse, but felt so warm, and the people were so kind. I took lots of pictures of the house, because it was just incredible.

This is the street outside the home.

They had stables below the living space with two cows, a sheep, a donkey, and some chickens. They had adobe walls, thatched roofs, just a couple of rooms, and sauna-like thing that was shaped like a space capsule. We had mint tea with the man of the house, Mr. Omar. We were also given wonderful fresh bread with olive oil and honey to dip it in. The flavors were so intense—very olivey olive oil and very sweet honey. Everything was made by this family. They grew olives to make their own oil, they harvested their own honey, and probably grew the wheat to grind their own flour to make the bread. This home they lived in had been passed down through the generations, from father to son to his son. We learned that they had only had running water for about two years and electricity for about seven or eight years. Even with electricity still being fairly new for them, they had an entire room devoted to the TV.

Just to the right of the window, notice the bare lightbulb strung up.

We noticed light switched on the walls, too. It was all just incredible. Our hosts could not have been more gracious and kind. On our way out, several kids followed us back to the bus, begging for coins. But they were also just playing together, and it seemed they were more interested in their game than in our money.

The view from the house was incredible.

When we got back to the hotel, I felt like shit. This cold has just taken over my body and I feel exhausted. We ended up in the elevator with Maggie, the kind of annoying woman from our tour, and she offered to help me feel better. I asked how, and she said with acupuncture. Normally I wouldn’t even consider this, but I was feeling awful enough that I took her up on it. She only had long needles left because apparently she’s been treating other people in the group. I have no idea why she brought acupuncture needles with her. So these needles were about three inches long, I’d say. We were in her room, and she put one needle in my forehead and one in the back of my head. Then she thought we ought to go to my room instead so I could rest there while the needles were in. So I walked up to our room with these giant needles flopping around. Very weird. I ended up with about eight or nine needles, all in my face. It hurt quite a bit, the stinging and pressure all around the needle area. I was crying and snotting all over, from pain and frustration. Andrew was very nice and didn’t take any pictures of me. I sat there for about 30 minutes with the needles in my face until Maggie came back to remove them. I had to shut my eyes for awhile because I couldn’t stand seeing all these floppy needles coming out of my skin. I did calm down enough to watch CNN, which, coincidentally, was a show about psychic healing and alternative healing, and energy fields and such. When Maggie returned, she tried to get me to take antibiotics. “You’re not allergic to penicillin, are you?” she asked. “Yes, I am, actually,” I said. “Oh,” she replied. “Do not worry, I have erythromycin for you.” Maggie was convinced that I had a sinus infection, though I told her it was just a bad cold. She said I was wrong and that I’d come looking for antibiotics from her tomorrow. She was quite pushy about it, but I don’t believe in taking unnecessary antibiotics so I stood my ground. After the needles were out, she wanted me to wrap my head up in a scarf and lay underneath the blankets with my head elevated. The entire experience was bizarre, and I still can’t quite believe I let a near-stranger put needles in my face. Maggie had told us she was an MD, but I could have said the same thing and no one would have known the difference. In the end, I don’t think the acupuncture made me feel any better.

Our fancy Christmas dinner was tonight, though it was only Christmas Eve. Apparently a lot of people celebrate Christmas the evening before. The dinner was kind of expensive, but we thought it would be nice to go, since it would be our only Christmas this year. Turns out it was not worth it. The food was just okay, and the servers were awful. They were really slow, and they kept bringing out the wrong dish. They wanted to give us dessert before we’d had our main course. Plus, they refused to give us the amount of wine and water that was supposed to come with the meal. We were promised a half liter of wine a person, and they only brought our table of five one bottle. It was kind of a mess. The music was so loud, we had to shout to hear each other. Plus, I was hoping for traditional Christmas music, but they played traditional Moroccan music. The highlight of the meal was the dessert. We got an entire bouche de noel—a log-shaped cake—and it was very good. Our table included Andrew and I, the women from New Zealand, Mary and Jude, and Maggie. Maggie told me I shouldn’t drink alcohol after the treatment, but I thought I deserved a glass of wine after that torture. One good thing about the evening was that the five of us were all united in our displeasure of the service and the food, so we were able to laugh about it.

Friday, January 23

Procrastination is a fine art.

When I was sixteen, I was invited to attend a summer program called Missouri Fine Arts Academy. To be invited, you had to, you know, be into fine arts and all. And I played the violin. And I wasn't half bad, either. At MFAA (that's what we in the biz called it) we not only practiced our own craft—the program was not just for instrumentalists, but also for vocalists, dancers, painters, and all those artsy types who had been rejected by the popular kids at their schools—we also had to, I mean got to experience other areas of fine arts.

I took some kind of 3D art class. We could sculpt with clay or create wire things or do papier-mâché. I decided to make a nearly-to-scale model of a violin with papier-mâché. I made a chin rest and a bridge, and painstakingly cut out f-holes. I toiled over the scroll and spent way too long just getting the curves of the body to look right. At the end of MFAA, I had almost finished it. Everything was painted and actually looked like a violin (to my astonishment). But it was still in pieces. And it had no strings.

My plan was to take it all home, get some wire for the strings, and assemble it. Then I wanted to hang it on my bedroom wall. I thought it would look really great against my tulip wallpaper. “I'm going to finish this project,” I told myself. “This isn't going to be like all those other projects I start and never finish.” Like the quilt square from summer camp when I was ten, or all the photos I never put into albums.

And of course, what did I do? I put the almost-finished violin in a box on my closet shelf. And I never looked at it again. It's still there, I imagine. And my mom wants me to come clean out my old stuff so she can finally rip down the twenty-five-year-old tulip wallpaper. So perhaps I'll take that violin, get some wire and some glue and put the damn thing together.

Or maybe I'll move it to a closet shelf in my own home and think about it again in another ten years.

And maybe I'll actually get around to typing the rest of the stories from our vacation one of these days. I promise it won't take me ten years.

Wednesday, January 21

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Today we had a long drive to Marrakesh. We stopped at a couple smallish towns for rest stops and our lunch break, and I was struck by the cloudy air and the overpowering stench of diesel fuel fumes. Also, for the most part, homes looked rundown and poor, and many many people were on bicycle, dirt bikes, or guiding donkeys on foot. It’s just so vastly different from what I’m used to, and I’m so glad to get a chance to see it all.

There was one notable exception to the rundown small-town look. We passed through a town that looked just like a quaint Swiss, or maybe French, chalet. Like it was meant for skiing, with steep sloped roofs and well-manicured landscaping. Crazy. We found cold medicine and Smile cookies there. Nice.
Notice how there are people painting the curbs. Apparently the king was going to pass through town, so they got everything freshly painted and spruced up for him.

Again, we were on these crazy, curvy roads through the Middle Atlas Mountains. At one point, the road wasn’t even finished, or maybe it was being redone, and we had to take this detour alongside the main road, on a rocky, bumpy dirt path. And this is the national road!

Our Moroccan government-appointed guide was getting annoying today. After every stop we made, he talked nonstop (into the microphone) for 20 or 30 minutes. About NOTHING. Today he talked about couscous and semolina for ten minutes. I don’t think he would have talked quite so long if Maggie, the front-seat sitter, didn’t ask him questions and act so interested. Sometimes Maggie asked him a question that no one else could hear, and he’d respond over the microphone, “Yes, a little bit . . .” or whatever. Grrrr. The nerve of that guy, interrupting my naptime.

When we finally reached Marrakesh, we got in a car accident. Or rather, a bus/cart accident. This three-wheeled bicycle/cart thing swerved in front of the bus and we hit it. There were three people on board the cart and they all got knocked into the street, but no one was really hurt. The bus had minor damages to the headlight and some scratches. We were stopped in the middle of the road and the traffic built up all around us, with everyone honking and trying to get around us. Kind of exciting. We ended up getting moved to another tour bus that took us to our hotel.

The hotel was nice, and we had a good dinner. The hotel has this awesome game room with pool tables and a bar. Great gigantic light fixtures and ornate woodwork. We didn’t stay though. Alcohol is really expensive in Morocco, due to it being an Islamic country and all.

Tuesday, January 20

Monday, December 22, 2008

We began the day in Fez with a hotel breakfast buffet, like usual. But this morning, we had the most delicious thing ever. A woman sat in the corner and made these wonderful traditional pastries. They were flat and round and fried in butter. We topped them with honey, and it was just . . .mmmmm. We also had the best little Clementine oranges, too.

Then we were off on the bus tour of the city. Our first stop was at the royal palace. We couldn’t go in, but we saw the exterior walls and these fancy, intricately designed doors. The tile work in the doors was incredible—thousands of tiny tiles all placed in colorful patterns. The doors themselves were gold, very shiny in the sun. Our guide had nothing but good things to say about the king. He’s relatively young—in his 40s, I think—and he’s very progressive. For instance, we learned that now in order for men to have more than one wife, they have to get their first wife’s permission before taking on a second. And if a man wants a third wife, he has to get the permission of both his first and second wives. Apparently, it has become much less common for men to have multiple wives after this practice went into effect.
Next we drove to the medina, where we left the bus to explore on foot. We were instructed to stay together, since the medina is like a labyrinth, with tons of narrow passages and twisting, turning alleys. The medina was nearly indescribable. The streets were narrow, with hundreds of vendors pushing their wares at you from all sides while donkeys carrying heavy loads trudged by. The scents of flowers and fruit was often overpowered by the stench of shit and smoke. Sometimes a chemical smell surrounded us—not sure what that was, maybe tanneries?

Did you know that the oldest university in the world is in Fez?

We stopped at a carpet shop where the vendors showed us many magnificent carpets in all shades of beautiful colors. They were all dyed with vegetable dyes, like saffron, henna, and indigo. The reds were especially vibrant. We looked a bit for a carpet for our dining room, but they were too expensive. The size we needed would have cost around $2000 (American). We probably could’ve talked them down some, but it was still a lot. And we weren’t sure how our bargaining skills were.
Next we visited a weaving workshop. We saw two men working the looms, making scarves, pashminas, tablecloths. Beautiful bolts of woven fabrics were everywhere. We bought a couple silk scarves for gifts. We did some haggling here and ended up getting them both for 250 dirham. We have no idea if this is the best price we could’ve gotten, but we felt pretty good about our first attempt at haggling.

Then we visited a shop where they showed us the traditional outfits, called djellabas. Andrew volunteered to try one on. It was strange seeing him in the robes and everything with his tennis shoes sticking out the bottom.
Our coolest stop was next. We went to the tannery and saw the leather being dyed. Because of the strong smells, they gave us mint leaves to hold up to our noses to smell instead of the leather stench. I actually didn’t think it was that bad. It was sort of like the smell of blood and a sweaty locker room. Certainly not a pleasant smell, but tolerable. The cool weather made the smell more manageable, they said. In the summer, we heard the smells were just awful. The vats of dye were enormous, and the workers were just standing in them up to their thighs. Their skin was dyed in shades of red and yellow. Hundreds of animal skins were laid out on nearby rooftops, along with heaps of wool. After seeing the process, we were herded into the leather goods shop. The salesmen were quite pushy. If you so much as looked at a bag, they were there, asking if you wanted it, telling you how good it looked on your arm, and what a fantastic deal it was. I was surprised how good their English was, but I imagine they actually knew several languages, because knowing the language meant they could make a sale. I ended up purchasing a pair of sandals. I haggled for them, too. I don’t think I’m very good at this. The starting price was 350 dh, and I got them for 250 dh in the end—about 25 euro.

Our last stop was at a metal works shop. They had gorgeous platters and teapots for sale. We saw lots of glass teacups, too. Everything was a bit too expensive here. It was a fixed price shop, and even the small plates were 300 dirham. I loved looking around, though. They had pounded metal, making gorgeous patterns and designs. Also had some really neat metal light fixtures. I wished we had a better way to ship stuff home or more room to pack it, because I think I would have considered more seriously some of the goods here, but it was just so impractical to carry them with us.

On the way back to the bus, a couple of young boys followed us, begging for coins. They had pitiful expressions, but we’d been warned about these kids and how they follow tourists around. I felt like their facial expressions were practiced. It seemed like their minds were somewhere else, but they knew that they had to keep that look in order to get any money.

It was only lunchtime at this point, and we had all afternoon open. Andrew and I went to a creperia across the street from the hotel with Natalie and Mark. It was more like a bar than a café, with pool tables and tiny little bar tables. But the food was decent. While we were there, this cat came in, ran up the stairs, and waited for people to give her some food. No one seemed to bat an eye at a cat being in the restaurant. I gave her a couple pieces of chicken and made a Moroccan feline friend.
After lunch, we walked down a long, palm-tree lined avenue in the new part of the city. It was referred to as the Champs-Elysees of Fez, but there wasn’t a lot to see. We noticed that all the cafes just had men sitting at their tables. Where are all the women? We wanted to stop of coffee or tea, but I felt awkward being the only woman there, so we decided to just stop at a patisserie instead. But when we went inside the patisserie, all the food was covered with the biggest flies I’ve ever seen. Okay, not everything was covered, but there were far more flies than I would like to have on my food. So we went to the McDonald’s. I know, I know, but we’d heard they had something called a McArabia and we wanted to see what it was. We actually didn’t see a McArabia on the menu—maybe it’s a nickname for something else? But we did get a snack. Andrew got a milkshake and I ordered a Daim McFlurry because it was the only thing I didn’t know what it was. Turned out to be like Heath bar. And surprise, it all tasted like it does at home. The McDonald’s didn’t look like they do in the U.S., though. It was lovely, with traditional-looking lamps and carved, patterned woodwork.

We decided to go back to the hotel room for a rest before dinner. We read books, watched bad American movies on TV, and rested. We went to the lobby and had a café au lait and basically killed time. Tonight was the Imperial dinner and show and we wanted to be rested and ready for a late night.

The Imperial dinner was impressive. The food was good. We had this amazing soup, vegetable and chickpea with a thick broth. Very good bread, too. Sort of like a pita, but much thicker. We had lots of veggies and side dishes as a next course. Rice, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, white beans, green beans, other things I can’t remember . . . The main course was a beef tagine. I was kind of hoping to eat it in the traditional way, where it comes in a big terracotta pot and everyone just eats the section in front of them, with no utensils, just bread and your hands. We got the terracotta pot, but we served it onto plates and ate it with forks. But it was still good. It was beef with carrots, potatoes, and green olives—a lot like a pot roast, except for the olives. The dinner also included tons of oranges, kebobs, coconut cookies, and mint tea. I was so stuffed. Could hardly move after all the food.
During the meal, musicians played Moroccan music and entertainers entertained. We saw a magician, percussionists, and belly dancers. They had lots of audience involvement, and again Andrew ended up dancing (which he loved). The show was a bit corny overall, but very good. I liked the atmosphere. Except for how cold it was in the building. And the chairs were really low, so after awhile my legs desperately wanted to stretch out but there was nowhere for them to go. The room itself was beautiful, with the same sort of intricate tile we’ve been seeing. The ceiling was high and ornate, too. The show ended with a wedding ceremony reenactment, where they lift up the (seated cross-legged) bride and bridesmaids on a platform. Afterward, the show abruptly ended. Strange ending, but good performance.

Andrew commented that he loved the music, but it wasn’t the kind of thing that could get stuck in your head. But he was totally humming it later.