On Saturday, Khadija told me that we were going to go to her sister’s house that evening. I asked what was going on, and with our language barrier, her daughter, Ahelam, had to pantomime that it was for a circumcision celebration (you can imagine the pantomime!). All boys before they are 1 year old are circumcised (now done in a clinic or hospital).
All the family gathered-and I’m talking about at least 80 people-for the celebration. So picture this; we walk about a mile to Khadija’s folk’s house (next door to the party) to change-they dress me in a very pretty yellow caftan (that’s a jelaba minus the hood, and for indoor wear only-can be very fancy)-and we head off to the party around 9:30. We sit in a room w/about a dozen women-the men and women are separated the entire night-where we stay for the next 2 hours. They're talking some; me-listening and observing and trying to answer an occasional question.
I so wish I could paint a picture of the faces of some of the older female relatives-with their wrinkled and aged faces, strong Berber tattoo markings down their faces, strong noses and cheekbones, probably no teeth, with gold dangle earrings, white headscarves, sitting on the floor leaning against the yellow walls w/blankets in their laps, holding prayer beads. Amazing!
Around 11:30 or 12:00 (after of course the men have eaten), we move into another room w/about 40 women and 3 large round tables. Two women come in w/water and a towel to wash our hands. The food starts coming out-and I mean food! Huge platters for each table with 3-4 chickens. That was plenty. But wait-there’s more! Then come the huge platters of couscous with beef, chickpeas and caramelized onions. Mind you, they’ve already served this to all the men, and now we’re eating. I can’t imagine how and where all this cooking took place-no one has a kitchen large enough to cook a fraction of this food!
Shortly after the food is cleared, the electricity (and the water it turns out) goes out due to a storm passing thru. Within minutes we’ve got candles on each table (a water glass turned over w/a drip of wax holds a candle nicely) and a buta gas cylinder lit up like a big lantern. OK, keep the party going! The women start singing, with the older women on one end of the room starting the songs and clapping while the younger women chime in. Not much dancing-no room w/the tables.
So around 2am, we finally get a glimpse of the boy for whom all of this is happening. (As it turns out, the men never even saw the baby-apparently all evening the mom and dad are in a separate room for everyone to take turns going in and giving money and congratulating them on the big day). He’s brought in all dressed up with his mom, with a tray of incense, lemons and cloth swatches. This is for the women’s celebration which includes tucking money into his hat, more singing and ululating, and putting henna on his hands and feet (the cloth is to wrap them up afterward).
Around 2:30 the rain stopped (Hamdullah!) and we walked home in the pitch dark. Fortunately Idriss beat us home and had a candle going and I had a flashlight in my room. Both the electricity and water were off throughout Ain Leuh until around 5pm on Sunday.
Sunday went walking w/another trainee-we went south from town to check out the views and take some photos. When I got back, the PCV who lived w/Khadija and her family 2 years ago for CBT here in Ain Leuh came by to visit on her way back to her site from Rabat. It was good to talk w/her-get her insight and tips and practice some Darija. She and the rest of the family went down to Khadija’s folk’s home for Rachel to say hi-I stayed home, wrapped myself up in a blanket-I couldn’t warm up-to study and take care of the nasty cold I finally succumbed to.