Saturday, November 21, 2009

On Teeth

Whoever said that Britons have bad teeth clearly had never journeyed to Morocco. For whatever reason, be it a diet with a high sugar content, or the sensibility not to blow tones of money and waste years of smiles on orthodontia, there is a noticeably high percentage of crooked, decaying or missing teeth. It serves as a reminder of that cute poster in your stateside dentist’s office, ‘you don’t have to floss all your teeth, just the ones you want to keep.’   


The flipside to having a public ‘manland’ is that there is a ‘womanland’ that exists behind closed doors. This makes Morocco actually seem like a woman’s country. Men’s lives are lived in a flash, a blur of interaction under the sun, and then they are over. There are a lot more ways to die young when your days are not spent mostly in the home. So while men die younger, their women live on. They maintain the households, carry on the job of raising the children and do what is necessary to keep life going. So while the public day to day is mostly the man’s land, the continuity, the private year to year, is woman’s land.


Manland is the term for nearly all public places in the non-metropolitan areas of Morocco. Manland is the impression one gets when walking through town that of all the people you see, drinking coffee at a café, or talking to friends in the street not one of them is female. Except it is more then impression, it is fact. It makes you think that an entire village is comprised totally of men and they have somehow learned how to procreate in what appears to be the total absence of women.
Of course there are women, they are just not publicly visible. Their lives are much more private.

The Souq

A Souq is a weekly market held in nearly every town with more then a thousand people in which all the accoutrements necessary for Moroccan life are on sale, from tomatoes to ducks and from skis to TVs. The Souq is the all-purpose mall of Morocco.

What is most interesting about the Souq is that it is a storyland. Whereas the American consumer can surmise that they are the first person to own a product and before they bought it from wherever, it was on a container ship from China where it was made, the Moroccan merchandise gives no such sterile story. You wander from mountain to mountain wondering how these jackets came to be here and what country these brand names are from. It seems as though once a week, a magical American landfill, not used since the 80’s is unearthed and put on display, enticing customers with dusty GameBoys, Plastation 2’s, faux impressionist paintings, random car parts and mountains of clothes waiting to be dug through before unearthing their discount treasures, dusty jellaba and ten matching red laCoste sweat suits.

It is important to note that everything on sale and some foreigners who have only been studying the language for one month may have made some incorrect comments, which may have given the wrong impression that, rather then liking FC Barcelona, led one vendor in particular to think that we wanted to buy the shirt off his back… At least he quoted a good price on account of it being sweaty.

That brings us to another subject, which is that all Souq items must be bargained for. It is a truly foolish person who agrees to pay either the first or second price quoted, or who believes a vendor when they declare, ‘But I bought it for Dh 9.50, if I sell it for less then Dh 10 I’ll lose money’ about a Dh 2 bar of soap.

Bargaining, it seems, is no small skill to master.