journal entry Jan 15 Culture Vultures

The group had a tour of the village this morning but left before I was out of my room so I missed a visit to the hot spring. Instead I recorded the call to prayer that you can here by clicking “call to prayer” and scanned some of the prints I’ve made this week. After a beautiful lunch of artichokes, peas and lamb we spent the afternoon in sidi ali enjoying new parts of town during sun set which ignited passages of the architecture in deep reds and pinks set on pastel purples and grey. We came around a corner to look across onto a mossy hill dotted with children playing and groups of women taking in the last drops of sun. It looked like a dark green velvet flag with gold embroidery from one of the shops. Below the hill were patch work houses that reminded me of a childhood book, but on revisiting the book, I see that sidi ali is much more colorful.

We climbed down passed unfamiliar thistles and over a trickling stream to a cave where Aisha had lived. A procession of noisy merry makers lead three sheep to slaughter. We lit candles. Back in the market we found tea and met some musicians. I made friends with some friendly boys from the music school in Fez who impressed me with their silver smiting abilities, senses of humor and manners.

I had a wonderful time applying flowers of life on my palms in black henna only to be surprised and a bit frightened by how quickly and how well the dye worked. Back in Sidi Ali Ramia seemed sick of being sick and was in a great mood. She told us jokes, sang us songs and danced us dances. We found a lila and made ourselves comfortable in a plounge printed with gnomes. Again the people sitting around us were welcoming and made friends. Most of the women are dressed in what looks to me like PJs. Not the sexy kind but baggy, thick synthetic fleece with teddy bears and cartoons printed on them, but most were adorned with subtle details. One woman had peculiar contact lenses that exaggerated the size and color of her irises. Another let a few coins from a charm bracelet hang out of her pocket. All the women are tidy and clean and have smoky eyes and black liner and manicures. We peeked round the corner from our spot to watch the women dance, one head banged until her scarf fell off, her friend picked it up and tied it around the trancing woman’s waist and held on to so keep the girl from falling down. The gesture was made so casually and thoughtlessly the move must be drilled in from in trance 101. A man lit a fat candle of oil so the flame was big and hot. It took me a few minutes to recognize the smell of burning hair. He was leaning over the flame so the heat was burning his face. Woman on all fours undulated and threw their hair over billows of intoxicating incense beneath him. A dancer balanced a bowl on his head and gracefully rolled around the floor, turning round and round without it dropping. He inhaled incense on all fours from the four directions. I don’t remember ever having seen some one take medicine as a performance apart from a side show in Montreal where a man drank pitchers of tequila and live fish on stage.
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I took a break from the music and made a graphite rubbing of the tiles in the entrance.
A woman near us hid her face under a scarf and sobbed loudly. The lila offers a safe place for women to express their emotions and let out stress. The music was amplified and after several hours was too loud for us so we strolled home.

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