We are sitting at breakfast and get “asked” if we would like to go to Ouarzazate for the night for a family wedding. This is the first we have heard of it, and we can’t figure out what time we are going to leave.
For many reasons, not wanting to stay up until god knows how late, sleep at a random Moroccan house in Ouarzazate, and miss the Michigan-Louisville game among them, we don’t want to go. Melissa begins to exaggerate her sickness. It’s only a little white lie, as we have both been sick on and off since arriving in Skoura. I hope to tell them I can stay and take care of her, though I don’t have much faith that will work. At the very least, we are hoping we both won’t have to go.
Not much else has been mentioned of the wedding as we sit down for lunch. Melissa continues to explain to them how her head and stomach are sick. We finish eating chicken and bread, and the father announces we are going to leave. He asks us multiple times if we would like to go, and we waver, and say Melissa is feeling sick, but it isn’t working.
We finally seem to convince them Melissa can just stay home will everyone else goes to the wedding. I stand in the driveway with the host father waiting for everyone else. As we begin to load into the tiny car I notice the host mother is not with us. I ask one of the host sisters if she is staying because of Melissa and she says yes. I go inside and try to convince the host mother I can just stay with Melissa, but it doesn’t work. Finally, after her repeatedly telling us it’s no problem to stay, we convince her that Melissa isn’t going to stay if it makes it so she has to miss the wedding.
We all pile into the car. In the back seat there is four women and a 3 month old, one of the cutest and smiliest 3 month olds I’ve ever met. I am riding shotgun by myself because I’m not allowed to sit next to girls. The father asks me if I have our passports, and I do.
We reach a spot in the highway where two state police officers appear to be pulling over cars. The father begins repeating some mantra under his breath, and all his daughters laugh at him. We don’t get pulled over.
As we are passing a gas station, the father suddenly pulls over. He realizes he has forgotten his driver’s license back at the house. He backs up into the gas station and we all get out of the car. He asks around for a few minutes until he gets a ride from someone. The rest of us wait in the café at the gas station and drink Coke.
We arrive in Ouarzazate and pull up next to one of the many three floor cinder block apartment buildings on the edge of town. Behind it is a very large tent set up with about 40 tables under it. Ouarzazate’s population is about 80,000. It is the cleanest city I have been to in Morocco, and one of the most modern too, in large part due to the film industry there. There are many streets with wide, well-constructed brick sidewalks.
We are served lunch again. Chicken and bread.
Melissa stays inside and I go outside. I won’t talk to her again for the rest of the night.
People continue to mill about with nothing in particular to do except shake hands repeatedly with everyone and ask if you’re good, if everything’s good, if everything’s OK, if everything’s good, good. Across the street there is an empty lot with a full dumpster. Five or six goats trot around the corner, followed by an old woman. The goats run to the dumpster and the woman begins emptying its contents on to the ground for them to eat.
My five-year-old host sister, who is one of the cutest and chattiest five year olds I have ever met, runs up to her father pointing at her shoe. The sole has peeled back. He takes her to the car, where he pulls out a plastic bottle of shoe glue from the trunk. We sit inside and glue the sole together. My head is spinning for a while from the fumes, but I figure I might as well get some kind of buzz. I am at a wedding, after all. And it’s my birthday. I should be blacked out by now.
7:00 PM (Melissa)
She sits down with some of the women at one of the tables under the tent.
My host father takes me on a short walk around the neighborhood. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to my host family. They are all very nice, and have been nothing but nice to us since arriving.
My host father summons me to the car, and we get in with an older man who walks with a crutch. He directs my host father and we drive for about 20 minutes until we reach what I assume is his house. My host father turns down an invitation to come inside for tea.
The man with the crutch emerges from his house with another man. My host father again refutes multiple invitations from them both to come inside for tea. After we all shake hands and ask if you’re good, everything’s good, good, everything’s good, the man with the crutch gets back inside and the three of us return to the wedding.
As the three of us get out of the car, my host father notices something on the front seat. He shows it to the man with the crutch and they examine his crutch to see if it is a missing piece. It’s not, and they look confused, so I take a look at the object. It’s a tube of lipstick.
More woman have sat at the tables, but the men continue to mill about outside. There are still no refreshments of any kind available and I am beginning to get very thirsty.
Here the timeline gets a little fuzzy, so don’t hold me to it. The band begins playing. Small groups of women get up and dance under the tent intermittently. I sit down next to my host father on a plastic stool outside of the tent on a tiny mound of gravel, which causes my seat to tilt. The tables are almost full with woman, and I realize that the men will not be sitting under the tent. They will be sitting outside the ceremony in the dark, or in the street not even watching. My particular seat is about 40 feet behind the band next to a speaker that those around me objected to when it was recently placed there.
The bride arrives with a big group of people singing and dancing. They lift her up on a platform and dance her around for a while under the tent.
Signs of refreshments emerge, as trays of cookies and tea are placed on a long table in front of us on the ready. I then proceed to watch a staff of six serve the cookies and pour a glass of tea to all 200 or so of the women sitting at the tables. Then they give a tray of cookies and a pot of tea to the band. The men get nothing, until some guy comes over with his own personal tea stash or something and everyone around me gets about an ounce of tea and a tiny biscuit. I think to myself how it might be the best metaphor for my experience so far in Morocco; it’s the only time I haven’t had excessive amounts of food around, and I’m at a wedding. Maybe that’s not really a metaphor, or maybe that makes no sense to you. Actually, if it makes no sense, all the better, maybe I’ve gotten my point across.
I finally decide to find a bathroom, something I have been holding off because I have no idea where to go and nobody has shown me because Moroccans don’t ever seem to pee. I go inside the apartment and up the stairs, where servants and people are flowing in and out of. I see no signs of a bathroom except a couple girls standing by a closed door. I decide it’s my best bet. However, after a minute of standing there the girls are looking increasingly weirded out by presence so I decide to just pee outside. I go down the street into the dark. As I am zipping up I notice a teenage boy squeezing himself into the space between the tent and the apartment building, but I don’t think much of it.
The women are served dinner. The men continue to sit in the dark and watch.
My host mother stands up at her table at the edge of the tent and gets my host father’s attention. She signals for him to go outside. A woman next to her bangs a spot in the tent just about where I saw the teenager squeezing in. My host father jogs outside, and suddenly about 30 of the men are running in that direction. I follow them because I am bored out of my mind. I get to the spot where I saw the teenager earlier and people are running around everywhere, but I can’t tell what’s going on. After a couple minutes of this it dies down and everyone seems nonplussed by the situation. Back at the entrance to the party, my host father has disappeared, but I see his brother and ask him if there was a problem. He says a word I don’t know and sniffs his pinky with his nose, in a gesture I take as meaning kids were sniffing glue or coke or something. A couple minutes later, related or unrelated I can’t be sure, a young man comes running up, fills a small bottle with water, and sprints off down the street into the night. I don’t see my host father again for nearly an hour.
Melissa gets up from her table with a couple of our host sisters. She walks by me and signals she is going to sleep. They go inside the apartment. I continue standing by the door. At this point I am very dehydrated and freezing cold. I was not told I would be standing out in the Saharan night for six hours so I did not dress accordingly, and my light button-up has long since failed me.
I run into my host dad out front of the house. He laughs and says something about it being very late and that we should go sleep for a bit in the car. Instead of reclining the front seats, we awkwardly hunch against the windows in the backseat. We both laugh some more, and sort of fall asleep.
3:15 AM (Melissa)
Melissa is woken from her comfortable slumber on a couch in the apartment by a grandma telling her and our host sisters to move because the men are going to eat in the living room. A host sister leads her to a hot, crowded room where they curl up on a cement floor.
Someone knocks on the car window and tells us its time for dinner.
We eat chicken and bread for the third time that day, with an orange for dessert. I still don’t drink any water because I don’t feel like sharing a glass with ten people I don’t know and I’m still bitter I didn’t get any fucking cookies.
4:00 AM (Melissa)
The room continues to get more hot and crowded as more women file in. The women talk loudly, turn the lights on, sort their luggage, and generally make it impossible for Melissa to fall asleep. One woman begins folding her clothes on top of Melissa. When Melissa sticks her feet out the bottom of her blanket because she is hot they re-cover them and tell her she will be cold. Finally, Melissa decides to leave the room because it is so miserable and they all yell after he she must sleep.
We start standing and watching the music and dancing again after dinner, and I begin to worry we are never going to sleep, but finally my host father leads me down the street to another apartment that has a room with a few mattresses on the floor. I collapse on to one of them, and pass out to the sounds of the music 100 yards away, loud as ever.
4:30 AM (Melissa)
After sitting on the stairs for a while, Melissa goes back outside, where she is summoned by a woman from the window to return to sleep. The room is even more hot and crowded. One woman closes the window to keep the cold out. Melissa finds a spot on the floor and sleeps, woken frequently by everyone who continues to loudly talk in the room.
Dawn breaks, and our host father wakes me and tells me we are going home. Not everyone is leaving right away so the car isn’t as crowded on the way back. I ride shotgun again, completely incapable of appreciating the sun rising on the Sahara, only thinking how, without having to do any of the fun part, Moroccans have managed to recreate the feeling of being hungover as shit after a wedding.
We get online and see Michigan lost, then go to sleep.
We have leftover chicken and bread for lunch.