Integration Part 2: annual festival and Monday souk

The first week I arrived in my site there was an annual festival that lasted for three days. It was held in a park near the highway that has an abandoned phosphate factory from the French protectorate. During the day there were tents selling food, candy, clothes, kitchenware, toiletries, etc. as well as a couple games and rides for children like a mini Ferris wheel, duck pond, and shooting range. My host mother’s women’s association had a large tent at the festival where members were selling sold traditional Moroccan clothing (jellabas, caftans, etc.), baskets, tablecloths, sheets, and blankets that they had made themselves! They were beautiful! There were also carts with icecream, cotton candy, lots of types of nuts and dried fruits, and special type of candy called girmilu that is made of peanuts, almonds, and cashews or artificial fruit flavors like strawberry, banana, and apple. Almost everyone was eating girmulu.

My host mom Nadia and her friend Fatima in front of the their tent

In the evenings, groups played traditional Moroccan music on a stage and there were presentations by the associations in the town. The parent’s association at the school presented songs and poetry and an association at the dar shebab presented some funny theatre. I enjoyed the festival because I made connections with people running associations in town and met shabab that I will hopefully work with at the dar shebab. Almost everyone came out for the festival though some of the shabab I talked to said they didn’t really like it. They said it was boring because the stands weren’t different from the souk and the music wasn’t that good. They also disliked that some people smoked (hashish) and drank alcohol. Drinking is prohibited in Islam, although it does happen, even in socially conservative communities like my site.

Stage at the festival

I’ve also been able to experience the souk a couple times. As I explained in my posts from CBT, a souk is a North African and Middle Eastern open-air market. It happens everyday in some towns or cities or only once or twice a week in others. I’m not sure if it has to do with the size of the town or city because I have heard of villages having souk twice a week. In my town, it happens on Mondays. The town has a walled area for the souk, which is actually near my host family’s house. It has stalls and stands where sellers set up.

Host Grandma at entrance to the souk

The souk in my town is enormous! It has sections for food (vegetables, meat, spices, sweets), housewares, kitchenware, toiletries, etc! There are fifteen duars (small farming villages) around my town and on Mondays everyone comes into town for the souk and to do other errands. Some people even come from Marrakesh for the souk!

Going to the souk is super fun! I’ve never seen anything like it in my travels in Turkey and Palestine and definitely not in the US and Europe. I find it chaotic with all the things, people, and unclear entrances and passage ways but it makes for an exciting feast for the senses. Vendors shout the prices of items being sold. Butchers carve meat next to live animals. Women wearing colorful jellabas and hijabs pick through dirt-covered vegetables on the ground. Spices and dried fruits stand in beautiful arrangements. Some sellers even sleep! …I am sure I will do detailed photographic report on the souk during my two years of service here!

empty souk entrance

The other day I went to visit the souk when it was empty. The contrast was spectacular, because a couple of days earlier I saw it bustling. My neighbor Fatima Zahara was watching her uncle’s sheep and goats as they ate dropped fruits and vegetables, while my host sisters and I played tag there. We normally play tic-tac-toe or ride bikes on the street near their house. The backdrop was the beautiful mountains and trees in the distance and the sun setting. It was a nice way to end a busy day meeting people and observing activities and clubs at the dar shebab.

Other neighbor Ayman in empty souk
Other neighbor Ayman in empty souk

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