In Agdal, Rediscovering Creature Comforts

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | Ar-Ribat, Morocco (map)

Furnishing our new living room required several trip into the depths of Rabat's 'Akkari furniture market.
Surprisingly, all proceeded according to our plan during our last morning in Fes. Frigid cold—check. Last loaf of warm bread from the baker's next door—check. Clothes, books, kitchen supplies, and other gear bagged and heaped beside the door—check.

At 7:30, right on time, our caretaker Jawwad knocked at the door. Our carrosa was here, waiting at the end of our alleyway. The push-cart's operator helped us lug the bags to the cart and cinch them on precariously. The wheels looked like they were about to buckle under the weight, but he and Jawwad, huffing and puffing together, managed to set the cart in motion. Bent double under the weight of our backpacks, Jacqueline and I followed the cart out Derb er-Roum to Tala'a Sghira, up the long hill, and toward the medina's edge.

The driver we had arranged to drive us from Fes to Rabat arrived a few moments later in his dented
red minivan, its interior adorned with Bob Marley stickers and advertisements for a local escort service. We said our goodbyes to Jawwad, loaded the gear into the van, and hit the road.

The driver and I made small talk in the front seat as Jacqueline napped in the back. Three hours later we were cruising through the coastal fog of Rabat, down the capital's boulevards toward Agdal, our new neighborhood.

Our exit from Fes was anti-climactic, a parting long foreseen and hardly bittersweet.

* * *

More than a month after our arrival, we're still assembling our new home.

It's not the perfect "sparse apartment" I've always longed for (all wide open spaces broken only by a leather couch, sleek entertainment system, and kitchen, probably located in a converted warehouse—not that I've thought about this before). The apartment's typical French/Moroccan compartmental layout definitely prevents such elegant minimalism, so that dream will have to wait. The apartment has, however, proved sparse in other ways—the previous occupant took every light socket, shelf, wall fixture, towel rack, and the stove and fridge with them when they vacated.

So while we are quite content with the apartment's size, location, and vivid paint job, making the place livable has taken some work—particularly in a country where "livability" is determined more by the presence or not of glittery tea sets and extravagant salon decor than by a typical American practicalities like shower rods, coat hooks, and table and chairs.In recent weeks, this traveler has taken lots of trips. Unfortunately they've all been to Marjane (Moroccan WalMart), Kitea (Moroccan IKEA), the medina's knickknack shops and Agdal's high-end houseware boutiques. While not complete, our home is now functionally furnished.

In between, Jacqueline and I have taken the time to explore Agdal, which is located in the heart of Rabat and considered among the capital's more well-heeled quarters. In Agdal, we're as likely to hear pedestrians chattering in French as in Arabic, as likely to find baguettes as loaves of traditional Moroccan khobz. On most days we can pick up wireless internet from any of several networks floating through our window from neighboring apartments. Each new discovery of another local gourmet food shop, French wine seller, or fresh produce or flower market reaffirms that, after our five months of daily setbacks and endless hassle in Fes, the move to Rabat has meant a return to many of the comforts of home.

2 comments:

Line from Denmark said...

Well, who needs a stove, when you have tea sets:-D??

Andrew Farrand said...

Spoken like somebody who has lived for too long in the Arab world ;)
Hope all is well with you!

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