Marjane and the Medina: Food Shopping à la Marocaine

Thursday, November 27, 2008 | Fes, Morocco (map)

Marjane's wide, glistening aisles contrast sharply with the medina shopping experience.
When I was preparing to leave for Morocco, without exception, everyone person back home who had ever visited or lived here agreed: "The food is amazing."

Here in Fes, I have stuffed myself at some of the city's finest restaurants, been force-fed by overzealous Moroccan housewives, and lunched at local bsarra soup stands beside paint-speckled laborers. I can confirm—it is all "amazing" as promised.

Buying food to cook at home, however, has revealed even more about Moroccan culture and the changes the country is undergoing. After two and a half months here in Fes, Jacqueline, our friends, and I are getting the hang of shopping à la marocaine, and have put our skills to use the last few days in preparation for a Moroccan-flavored Thanksgiving.

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Fes offers a wide spectrum of food shopping options. At the simplest, most traditional extreme are

From Morocco to Melilla: A Reeducation in Normalcy

Monday, November 17, 2008 | Melilla, Spain (map)

Ryan and I did our part to combat Spain's financial crisis, by tossing back Cruzcampos in Melilla.
The Moroccan in me could tell right away that Melilla was not normal.

With the border just a few hundred feet behind us, Jacqueline and I boarded a local bus to take us into the center of town. Surprisingly, we were not shoved, we received a printed receipt for our bus ticket, and we actually found a seat. This being Europe, of sorts, I was not surprised to see Euros exchange hands or to hear Spanish, but the rest was highly unusual.

Melilla is itself an abnormality. One of Spain's two remaining colonial outposts on the Moroccan mainland, this diverse enclave is an anomaly in the human geography of North Africa. My two-day visit in the sleepy off-season was hardly enough to make sense of it.

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Along with its fellow colony Ceuta (located further west along the Moroccan coast), Melilla is a prime

Barack Obama and the End of the American Disappointment

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 | Fes, Morocco (map)

"Moroccans vote for Obama", at least according to MarocHebdo, one of the major local weekly news magazines.
Back in the US, yesterday may have been my generation's greatest day, and I missed it. For nearly two years, I was completely immersed in the American presidential campaign while living in Washington, DC. Since moving to Morocco in September, however, I've had to settle for watching from a distance as this spectacular race finally drew to a close.

In Fes, as usual, misinformation was rampant in recent weeks, and what election-related "news" I received by word of mouth was uniformly absurd. Mostly, however, complete ignorance reigned. For instance, several weeks ago I asked a taxi driver—a self-described McCain supporter—what he thought of Sarah Palin, and received a blank stare in response. Never heard of her.

America's complex racial dynamics defied the usual Moroccan attempt to paint life in simplified, black-and-white terms. The few Moroccans who followed the campaign at all spoke in impossibly