Thursday, April 15, 2010

The riad revisited

One of my Estonian friends has a beautiful riad in Fes, i always stay there when i visit the city. No different this time. When i arrived in the train station and took a taxi to the old city, it dawned on me that nobody really knows that was coming so it would be somewhat inconvenient if the house was empty and no one’s there to open the door. So i was pretty relieved when my fearful knock on the door was quickly answered. My friend herself lives in Estonia and the riad is managed by a local guy. At the time of my visit that guy was in London, but he had left two lovely non-English speaking chaps in charge. Two rather young chaps. And what do teenagers do when adults are away? They party of course!

The local youth was coming and going all day long and by evening the place was packed with them. They were mostly about 15-18 years old with few older men to boot. The older ones must’ve been making beer-runs to Marjane (local supermarket that sells alcohol) and thus earned their right to join the party. I spent the bigger part of my first day outside the house anyway, so it didn’t really bother me that there was a lot of foot traffic. My 3rd floor room windows opened to the riad’s inner courtyard so later in the evening i spent some time sitting by the window and observing the interesting social life of local teens, all on display down on the ground floor. Since Moroccan houses are not built with too much sound isolation in mind, i could hear the loud beat even with my iPod on. My only interaction with the youth was in every few hours when i went downstairs to prepare myself a pot of tea. But when some chick, who’d obviously had one beer too many, was getting in my face down in the kitchen for God only knows what reason, i started getting annoyed. Since i was the only guest in the riad and gone most of the day, they probably felt quite comfortable roaming around the house and doing what they wanted. But now that it was getting late aready, i felt that i was still a paying customer and at some point i would actually want to go to sleep, so it was time to call it a night. I don't really like Lebanese pop music quite that much to put up with it all night long while bunch of teenagers downstairs are drinking beer by carts. So a bit before midnight i told them to pack it up and move along, the party was over. It was hard to get my message across, since the only common language we had was an invented-on-the-spot sign language, but when the two young non-English speaking chaps realized what i was asking them to do, they eventually took some action and within half an hour cleared the house. Hehe, i felt like such a party pooper for breaking up the disco and i was definitely not the most popular person in the building at that moment. I could hear some unhappy girls protesting up to my very 3rd floor.

The next day the older non-English speaking chap had dissapeared and i only saw the younger one until the end on my stay. His name was Karim (on the photo >>) and he seemed to feel quite guilty for the party the night before, because he was super attentive and tried to be helpful in any way possible. He looked terribly young, at most 17-18, later it turned out that he is actually 20 years old and already married. How crazy is that? I know that Islam encourages marriages, on certain cases even demands it, but definitely not from 20 years old guy who judging by the beer party the nightbefore is not even particularly observant Muslim. His wife as i understood was Moroccan who went to live in France. Very complicated.

It felt nice sleeping in a private house again with a big cozy bedroom and a personal bathroom. As much as i enjoyed Marrakech, living in a box had it’s downsides. And living in a box with weird neighbours had even bigger downsides. I remember, one evening, back in Marrakech in my budget hotel room, i was getting ready to go to sleep when somebody knocked on my door. I open it and a fat middle-age Arabic man with a cigarette dangling from his half-missing teeth says to me: „You come to my room now, yes?“. I was too stunned to slam the door in his face, instead i was polite and said "no thanks". Jesus, it makes me laugh just thinking about it. Most Arabic men really do think that Western women are sluts, obviously.

I just love riad breakfasts, they vary a bit depending on the house and the cook of course, but generally a typical riad breakfast is one massive carbohydrates attack wrapped in the cozy protective layer of fatty acids. That said, it’s still very delicious. Freshly made croissants, bread, doughnuts and pancakes with butter, extra virgin olive oil, honey, strawberry jam, cream cheese and fresh olives. All that with hot peppermint tea, sweet coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. Couldn’t imagine eating like that every day and still fitting into my clothes a week later, but for a few days during the trip, how can you say no?

Most Moroccan houses have a rooftop terrace. It may not look anything special, but it’s a good place to get some sun and if you’re a tourist – maybe enjoy a cold beer. The first time me and Ylle visited the riad, we could actually sunbath on the roof. Other houses were too low to see what was going on our roof. And now, a mere year later, the nearby riad developments have progressed so far that there are hardly any places on the roof left without someone having a good view to it. A lot of those riads that are popping up here and there are future hotels, often quite high end. But i imagine owning a spacious private residence somewhere in medina would be a pretty nice way to live as well. Just the other day i was walking by a nearby house, the doors were open, builders were walking in and out of them. I took a quick peek in - it was the most gorgeous house i've ever seen and it wasn't even finished yet. Scaffolds were everywhere, building materials scattered around the place and so on. But even in it's raw and undecorated form, it was just superb. Of course from outside it all looked like a random rather unkept house, tightly squeezed between the other houses in medina. By just looking at the facade, you can't really guess how big is the house or what kind of people are living in there. Morocco is all about inner wealth. Moroccans, specially the older generation, believe in the concept of Evil Eye - that somebody who is jealous or envious can cast a bad spell on them or bring bad luck just with a negative look. But what you can't see, you also can't envy. Logical.

Photos of my friend's riad:


My bedroom. Aside from the wide-angle shot, it really was big!


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