Army brother gets married, soccer tournament.  May 2-6, 2019.  It may be only the second time that my Director was at the Youth Center on a Friday, so when the call came from my first host family, saying “come now to the wedding”, he told me it was no problem.  While I was miffed at the short notice, this is Morocco.  Within the hour, I was showered, packed and in the first of four taxis.  Along the way, in El Menzel and Sefrou, I noticed mats and worshipers surrounding the outsides of the mosques.  It was the final “normal” Friday before Ramadan, and so I attributed this to high attendance, a way to handle overflow.  I later learned that praying outside is common during Ramadan, so guess they were just getting a head start.  I saw cherries fully colored on trees, but none for sale on the streets.  I helped my latest taxi suitor, a real cutie, an excavator operator working on our street project, navigate all the taxis as far as Immourzier.


I arrived in time to join the family for Cous Cous lunch.  I met the bride’s family in the salon upstairs.  I had a bite of the meat with prunes, and then joined my family in my old room for the cous cous.  I had a nice visit with my former tutor and PCV friend, who still lives in the village.  We had tea at the muhilaba owned by one of the host families.  We went down to see all the improvements she and the kids have been making to the spring area.  The spring is flowing again and they are hopeful for a good tourist season.  The construction projects are nearly done and the place looks really nice.


The bride is only 18.  I think Army brother is in his 40s.  Until recently, marriages as young as 14 were not uncommon, but they are rarer now, due to changes in the laws and increasing education of girls (now nearly even with boys).  I was happy to be part of the event.  Both of my host sisters are pregnant.  As with my host sister’s wedding back in October, there was no real wedding party.  There had been a big celebration the previous week, at the bride’s home.  But I was not invited to that one.  All sorts of conflicting excuses were provided as to why.


My host grandmother is still in the hospital (in and out for months now) and so it would be shameful to “celebrate” at the groom’s wedding.  In this case, everyone just comes for a meal.  Guests began arriving around 10 pm.  The men were outside in a tent.  A herculean effort must have been made to clear out the old goat pen-dump-storage yard to accommodate the tent.  The women were in the house, on two floors.  The men were served first.  The women were not served until after midnight and some with children tried to escape beforehand.  The old and the young were dropping like flies.  A little late, even by Moroccan standards, but he food was good.


The ceremonial hand washing is followed by tea and cookies, then Bride’s chicken, beef with prunes, a sweetened cous cous, and lastly fruit.  I helped with serving and washing dishes, but all the cooking (for roughly 100 people) was done by one friend of my host mother.  My host mother spent most of the time lying down.  My sisters were clearly exhausted from a week of baking a thousand cookies and prepping chickens and all.  The men are nicely dressed.


The cookies are an important part of the event.  There are thousands, 6 different kinds, wrapped on large platters or plates, with clear plastic wrap and ribbon.  We bring the platters into the room of guests and ceremoniously cut the plastic (which was just put on a few minutes prior).  I held one type of cookie, and other family members each had a different type.  We walked around the crowded room, allowing guests to dutifully take one of each type of cookie.  Then the cookies are taken away and the family eats these leftover cookies for months.  Each guest is given one small glass of tea.  Experienced guests bring bags.  This is the same ritual I observed in the past, and confirmed, normal.


The bride is barely seen, and makes no effort to mingle with her guests.  Nor do they actively seek her out.  The women just sit and wait.  The men are singing songs of worship, this being the only non-shameful music.  After the fruit, the guests cleared out pretty quickly, it being after 2 in the morning.  Then the family eats in the salon upstairs.  But there were several visiting family members sitting in my old room.  You would think that even if they had eaten, they would want to come up and visit.  All the women and children spent the night in this house.  All the men went to the house of one of my host sisters.  The bride and groom stayed in my old room.


In the morning, between the fish salesman and the little kids, there was no sleeping in.  I stayed long enough for breakfast and then hit the road home.  If they had invited me sooner, I would have stayed to help clean up.  As it was, I did not feel inclined to do so.


I was home by 1:00 and finished the day at the Youth Center.  I was rewarded with an invitation to a soccer tournament the next day.  A group of about 40 boys from our village, including several Youth Center regulars, were going to the next town over and 4 towns were competing.


What fun!  I got to ride in the bus over.  After arriving at the field, the boys dawned their uniforms, and, along with kids from 2 cities, we paraded down the hill to the local Youth Center.  We joined with the local boys and every official for miles around.  There was a small uniformed band (including two girls!), flags and pictures of the King.  We made an even more impressive parade going back up the hill.  Tons of photos were taken and the first game finally began.  I got to stay roughly half way through the first game, but needed to leave.  I had hoped to come back to see the final games, but they finished before I could get back.


I had promised to make a taco lunch for my host family.  Coincidentally it was Cindo de Mayo.  I had prepped everything the night before and so cut it close.  I need to expand my menu options, but it is something they like (third time now) and doable with my limited two-burner, two-frypan operation.  My tutor and her sister came also.  They are all from the same town up north, so nice.


The boys are playing again next weekend, so they must have won at least one game.  We had two teams, older and younger.  I hope they invite me again.


Tomorrow is the beginning of Ramadan.  Muslims are very religious and already pray 5 times a day, but get even more dedicated during this special month.  In addition to longer prayer times, they do not eat or drink during daylight hours.  They are encouraged to be more charitable, mindful of kindness and all good behaviors.


Out of respect, solidarity, learning and more, I will do my best to follow the same regime of “fasting” during daylight hours.


But beyond the Qu’ran, there are many local customs.  Every business, government office and school has altered hours.  Most start later and end earlier.  People are up all night, socializing and eating, in addition to the extra mosque time.  The meals are heavily laden with honeyed sweets, juices and the traditional soup, harira.  At the announcement of the sunset prayer, all break-fast with dates and usually milk.  Then the meal described above.  All attend another, longer prayer session around 9 pm.  Afterwards, some go to bed, some go out, some eat another meal around 11 or 12.  The last chance to eat again is around 3 am, before the call to the sunrise prayer.  Most sleep during the day.  I am not sure how I will do with all that.  I think the night time activities will be harder than the daytime fasting.  I already eat too many sweets here, but it sounds even more prevalent during this month.  I think after a few days I will try to revert to a healthy night time meal at home.  The Youth Center will only be open from 1 to 6 pm.  Stay tuned as anticipation hits reality in my next post.