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The Leaving Journal

Moroccan Hospitality

MOROCCO | Saturday, 18 January 2014 | Views [257]

"Emma, you come help," says Ezzhora, assertive but smiling. I had asked to help with the cooking before lunch, but she insisted I join her son Mohamed for a walk around their neighborhood. Eager to contribute, I jumped from my seat at the table and followed her into the kitchen. She handed me a tray and pointed me back to the table, covered in the leftovers of our devoured meal: the bones of three savory, slow-roasted chickens, glass bowls of potato salad scraped clean with warm bread, orange and banana peels, crumpled napkins. I stack the tray high and return to the kitchen.

After cleaning, Ezzhora shows me to the small pantry off the dim living room where my father is chatting with Mohamed and his father, Abdoul. She arranges several plastic containers of cookies and chocolates next to a three-tiered, porcelain serving platter. She points from the containers to the platter and smiles, squeezing my arm before returning to the kitchen. I arrange the delicate pastries as she instructed, knowing she'll chastise me for not piling on enough sweets just as she chastised me for not eating enough at lunch. I carry the platter to the living room coffee table where sunlight filters through the gossamer curtains. Mohamed leans over my father's shoulder, admiring photos of my neices on his iPhone while Abdoul reclines on the adjoining sofa, sated after the large lunch.

 

Ezzhora swishes through the beaded curtain separating the kitchen from the living area. She is carrying a traditional silver tea tray holding five small glasses and a squat teapot. She pours one glass and returns it into the pot before serving each of us. As we sip, Mohamed translates between the four of us - from mine and my father's English to his mother and father's beautifully melded Arabic and French - as we discuss politics, culture and language. I grin uncontrollably, awash with the abundance of affection and warmth possible between mere strangers.

My father met Mohamed at the Casablanca train station on his first day in Morocco. Dad had plans to meet me when he arrived in Marrakech, but he was running late and couldn't connect to the wifi to email me about the change. After a long, fruitless search for an English speaker to send the email in his stead, Mohamed came to the rescue, saving me several hours of waiting and worry. In their 5-minute interaction, Mohamed not only sent the email for my dad, but also ensured my father had adequate food for the 4-hour ride to Marrakech, helped him find his train, and extended a heartfelt invitation for us to meet his family and see his home in Sidi Kacem. He reiterated this invitation by email and when dad and I started planning our spontaneous, Moroccan road trip route, Sidi Kacem appeared delightfully and conveniently on our path.

So we found ourselves sitting in a beautifully decorated, spacious Moroccan home, stuffed full of a delicious, home-cooked meal, enjoying the company of a well-educated, generous and cheerful family of three. Piled high with our gifts - a blanket, a jellaba and an array of sweets lovingly foil-wrapped for our journey - we departed against vehement insistence that we stay the night and promises of a future, longer, visit. Mohamed led us through the maze of his city to our proper highway, giving me the opportunity for a classic (albeit somewhat nerve-racking) Moroccan motor bike ride, much to my father's chagrin.
As I munch my favorite chocolate cookies from Ezzhora's foil packet, the lush green farmland rolling by my window, coated in the bizarre, orange light of sunset, I marvel at the unconditional hospitality we just experienced. This country is rife with good, honest, genuine people. For every person that wants to do you harm, there are fifty who want to protect you and help you. And it occurs to me suddenly, the most non-cynical thought I might have ever had: perhaps it's not just Morocco. Maybe - just maybe - the world is mostly good.

Tags: cultural exchange, food, goodness, hospitality

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