Amanda MacLean

Moroccan Solo Adventure

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What can I say about last night? It was like Morocco Las Vegas or something.

I went to a “cultural dinner” last night. It was this “Fantasia Folklore Etcetera-Whatever-Something-or-Other” thing, as titled by the tour company. (I signed up for a bunch of guided tours while I’m here, since I have no clue what else I would do by myself. Keep walking around the Medina bartering for souvenirs? Oh man. Five days of that and even “good price for you” gets too pricy).

The dinner came with a show. The restaurant was magnificent and huge – a palace where you spent the first 15 minutes just walking through it, taking pictures and watching dancers and drummers move around. The dancers weren’t, like, totally authentic looking to me…some of them looked like they really hated their jobs (they stood there picking their noses and swaying a little bit), which I thought was really funny.

I ate at a table with two girls from England, a couple from Scotland and Ireland, and a French husband and wife. The French man was sitting at the end of the table where every 10 minutes or so a train of dancers would come through and pick on him to dance with them. It got ridiculously funny after a while (he was a good sport).

The meal had four courses, starting with some kind of soup. I was so excited when they brought out a HUGE rack of lamb for dinner. The guy set it down and walked away, and we waited for about 5 minutes for him to come back and start cutting it (he didn’t leave a knife for us to cut it ourselves). Then we realized that everyone else was starting to cut into theirs with their own utensils (butter knives and forks), which was a little gross for all of us Westerners, but…what else were we going to do? We also had to serve up the couscous with the spoons we had just eaten our soup with.

I had never had couscous before. I knew that it was on the menu for the night but I didn’t realize that was it when they set it down. So I made the mistake of asking the French lady next to me (who spoke English), “Do you know what this is called?” EVERYONE at the table looked up at me as if I had taken the dish and thrown it on the ground and stepped on it, then they all exclaimed in unison: “It’s couscous!” I felt like such an uncultured American.

The time came for the dinner show. Outside the restaurant was this big open area, sort of like a rodeo-grounds, with stadium seating around it (this restaurant was seriously huge – it was more like 10-15 restaurants linked together around this stadium thing). I hadn’t the foggiest idea what to expect. I think that’s the best position you can take in Morocco, though. The catch phrase or motto for this country should be, “Who the hell knows what’s going on?” (And who the hell really cares?)

First these riders came out and did a bunch of dangerous stunts on their ponies. Standing up in the saddle, hanging from the back, etc. One guy even ran alongside his horse, which I thought was quite impressive. The ponies (I think they were ponies) were very agile and beautiful. After a while I spotted something remarkable: they were actually stepping in time with the music. I didn’t know it was possible to teach any animal to do that. Then, later on, they seriously were dancing to the music. I’m not kidding – the rider would pull their reins and they would, like, DANCE. Like people! They danced better than I could.

The whole show was a bunch of random stuff that didn’t connect to form a cohesive story or have any logical explanation whatsoever (hence the country motto). There was one point where the lights went totally black and Star Wars music came on (the Darth Vader theme) and all the horsemen came back and started marching ominously down the field. I couldn’t figure out why I was the only one trying not to die laughing.

The only thing I didn’t like was going back to my riad (that’s what they call hostels here) by myself at night. I was hoping my taxi would pull right up to my derb (street), but apparently taxis can’t drive through the Medina at night. So I walked through it by myself, which was actually cool and not too scary because there were still huge crowds of people partying, buying things, and watching the snake charmers. Once you pass through the main square and into the more dark and narrow derbs where the hostels are, however, it gets pretty scary. There was a crowd of youngish-looking men loitering around by my corner, and as I walked down my narrow, walled-in derb I saw in the corner of my eye as they all turned their heads toward me (being a white female alone is something that definitely draws attention). I quickened my pace toward my hostel, hoping to God that it wouldn’t take me very long to fiddle with the keys and get the door open (and freaking out in my head anytime I saw a person walking by or heard footsteps approaching). Right when I walked up to the door, the guy who runs the hostel was opening it to go out, giving me a clear entrance with no time to wait for the possibility of any creepy dudes I imagined were following me. Nice.

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