Such as, for example, yesterday when my flatmate and I witnessed a police car chase; except that the getaway vehicle was a horse-drawn cart at full gallop. The cart and it's frenzied driver were attempting to escape down the wrong side of the road, and the police vehicle squealed its tires noisily as it sped after. They vanished around the corner and I didn't see the conclusion. But my money is on the car.
Nus-nus is the name that Casablancans give to the half-coffee, half-milk variation of their cafe espresso. In the ubiquitous cafes of this city there is only one coffee option: strong, thick espresso. There must be dozens of different ways to order your espresso though; cafe nus-nus, creme, au lait, noir, beida, and several other French or Arabic words that denote exactly this or that ratio of coffee to milk. All, of course, sweetened to unsafe levels. And all wonderful.
Anyway, this internship has now reached nus-nus: halfway finished.
I had the opportunity this past weekend to see Marrakech with some of the other staff. We spent significant time in the Djemaa El Fna, which is a large square known for its entertainments. Starting in the afternoon and going long into the night, the square becomes something straight out of The Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Monkey-handlers show off and sell their chimps, Arabic storytellers (who made me really wish I spoke Arabic) recite folklore, tumblers flip across the pavement, snake charmers play to cobras, veiled women paint henna, magicians sell medicines and reagents, and traditional musicians sip mint tea and strum their lutes. Unfortunately, everybody demands payment if you take a picture, and I was short on change!!! I did get a few pictures of the outer ring, however, where food, OJ, and spices are sold from wheeled carts. This may all sound like a tourist trap to you (and there are a growing number of tourists in Marrakech), but in fact the Djemaa El Fna has been operating in much the same way for decades, and is equally frequented by Moroccans.
My favorite part of the experience was in the evening. Wade and I were eating cous-cous at one of the carts when the Maghrib sounded (the call to prayer at the setting of the sun). Immediately the cacophony of instrument and voice stopped, perhaps for the only time all afternoon and evening. An eerie silence falls and the wail of the adhan can be heard clearly as it comes from three separate muezzins on different sides of the Djemaa El Fna. As the call comes to a close, all the carts turn on their powerful electric bulbs and the reverie explodes once again to welcome the night.
Finally, on the research side of things... the going is still very slow, but I have had some interesting interviews and talked with a growing number of people. A lot of what happens in the coming weeks is riding on meetings with the local Microfinance Institutions (MFIs). We have had to pull some strings to get an opportunity to meet with them, and I hope they'll give permission for me to observe some group lending meetings and talk with the clients. If this happens it could open up new avenues for the study; it's definitely something to think about.
Well, I'll close with some more pictures:
This is one of many tables selling fruit, spices, or olives and nuts in the Djemaa El Fna. This, obviously, is one of the latter. A man stands in the crevice at the top center on a stool, and uses a really long-handled scoop to retrieve your purchase. If you're considering buying, it's perfectly okay to just grab a few with your fingers and try the wares.
This marabout is in Casablanca near the popular beach area. A marabout, or saint's tomb, is thought to contain "baraka" (blessing). The idea isn't orthodox, but is widely held nonetheless. A witch lives in the marabout who is often sought out for problems that need a supernatural cure, especially infertility in women. If you click on the picture, you should be able to get a clearer view.