Saturday, March 6, 2010

Monsieur Sofi, part 1

I am so very happy that my husband is flying in tomorrow to visit me in Morocco. He’s never been to Morocco before and finally i get to make the introductions. Sadly he only comes for 5 days, but we’re just going to have to make the most of it.

So far i’ve lived in a very modest hotel, but now i booked for us for the days Jevgeni is in Marrakech a fancy riad, so he’d get to see the more ethnic part of Morocco. The riad locates in medina and it’s website gave only a cryptic address to find it by. Everybody who’s ever been to medina knows that finding something by the address only can be near impossible, specially when you are not fluent in Arabic. There just aren’t many streetsigns and if there are any, they are mostly in Arabic. So i took up a mission to find that riad before Jevgeni arrives. And i’m very glad i did that, because it took me about 3 hours of making infinite circles in medina trying to understand directions the Moroccans were kindly giving me in Arabic. I can’t imagine how a person who is arriving in the late evening is supposed to find the place when the nearby souq-streets have packed their business up and the streets become almost instinct by 11 pm, not to mention rather gloomy and dark.

When i finally did find the place the guy managing it named Medy, though cute and charming, could not speak nor understand a single word in English. It was quite interesting to meet a person who is working in the tourism business and does not understand you even a bit. It made me realize how limited my pantomiming skills really are. Medy could only speak French and Arabic, but luckily by the time me and Jevgeni were checking in there was another guy (Zaza) working who’s English was way better.

I also had an obsession that i wanted to meet Jevgeni in airport wearing a jellaba. Jellaba is a local traditional long robe, worn both by men and women. Men have it usually very simple, women play more with colors and fabric. I spent couple of days searching for the one i liked and laughing at the prices shopping guys were quoting me. Seriously, do i look naive enough that i’m going to dish out 1200DH for a machine-made commonwear jellaba? But i guess i can’t blame them for trying their luck, there are plenty of tourists who will pay that price and more. But if you smile and tell them not to give you a tourist price, the price drops to 800DH, and if you add that you live Marrakech and is he joking with that price, the price drops to 600DH. If you chuckle and walk out of the shop, he lowers it to at least 400DH. And after a bit of haggling, you might even get it for 300-350DH, which by all locals i’ve asked from is a good price (for a blondie :)).

So i got myself a simple jellaba, bought couple of scarves and practised for two hours how to tie a scarf properly so it would cover my hair but not fall on my eyes in 10 minutes. Now i was ready to meet Jevgeni.

Very very early one morning i was standing in the airport and waiting for Jevgeni’s flight to come in. I felt like on an important exam, nervous and very anxious, blood pressure rising and butterlies in the stomach. The fact that i was wearing a jellaba did not add to my comfort.

On my way to airport absolutely nobody paid any attention to me. Few people did watch funny, but for the most i was just another local woman in a robe. At the same time i personally felt terribly uncomfortable. I can understand when a Moroccan woman who is used to wearing a jellaba can feel herself naked and exposed when wearing fitted jeans or skirt but somehow i felt exactly the same way. Though jellaba is essentially a shapeless bag, i felt exposed and very very uncomfortable. Like a wolf wearing a sheep-skin and trying to pass itself off as one. Fake, very fake.

Jevgeni was of course the last person coming off the plane, i already had time to get worried that maybe he missed the flight or they sent him back to Germany. Finally he came out of the Arrival’s Area and walked almost passed me. I blinked first, i just couldn’t stand there with a serious face and pretend not to know him. So i smiled at him. Oh, it was so lovely to meet him over such a long time! He embodies everything that is safe, homy, cozy and familiar. Add to that him being my most important person and i fully understand why butterflies were having a rave in my stomach.

When we were walking to my hotel, i was suddenly aware of people watching us and not in a kind, approving way. Then i realized that from far it looked like a Moroccan girl is walking holding hands with a white guy. So we took few steps apart and walked the rest of the way separately.

Me in a simple red jellaba:

When Jevgeni saw my hotel room he poisonously stated that i live in a cupboard. Well, it might be a cupboard, but it’s my personal cupboard, the whole 10 m2 of it. With my personal bed and table and chair and sink. And the whole two windows – one for the courtyard and one for the streetview. Two windows is luxury even in the better establishments. And did i mention that i have a big mirror on the wall? How cool is that?

We gathered my stuff and for few days i relocated out of my cupboard. Since I’d found our riad already few days before, it was only a quick walk. The room i had booked – double bedroom – turned out to be an apartment with a bedroom, living room area and a bathroom. The breakfast was included in the price and as usually, it was served on the rooftop.

In the evening i took Jevgeni to eat in my favourite foodstall number 4. My temporary cooking-friends at the foodstall no. 4 had curious faces on when i suddenly turned up with some white guy, holding hands. i tried to introduce Jevgeni to them as my husband, but they didn’t seem to understand. It was only when i pointed at our wedding rings, that the light dawned on Milod’s face: „Ah! Monsieur Sofi!“ :)

Curiously enough, Jevgeni got „cheated“ 3 times already in the first few hours of walking about. In one of the cases, we were sitting in Cafe France on Djemaa el-Fna, drinking tea. I go there from time to time, so i know what the prices are. After we were finished, Jevgeni went inside to pay for the teas and although i told him the price was 12DH, the waiter still charged him twice as much. So when he came back with less money, i went inside to look for the waiter. The guy knows me by face already and when he saw me coming, he started searching for the missing money to give me. He didn’t even bother to argue with me or tell me that he doesn’t know what i’m talking about .. etc. I found it very funny, i guess Jevgeni had a wafting „just-off-the-plane“ scent on. Luckily it wore off soon.

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