Once upon a time, I lived in Rabat, one of Morocco’s four imperial cities, an ancient place with origins dating to at least the 12th century.

The old city – the medina – perches on a rocky point, sided by the Wadi Bou Regreg and the Atlantic Ocean. Across a bridge sits Salé, settled first as a trading city by the Phoenicians and later the Romans as Sala (or Chella). Silt has closed the river’s mouth to the point where Rabat no longer functions as a thriving port, but it remains an imperial city and the Moroccan capital.

Why Morocco? Why am I thinking of that magical place? Right now, the future seems so uncertain, but the past is still there, filled with all its richness and memories, both good and bad.

Thanks to the isolation wrought by COVID-19, I miss grocery shopping. A lot.

There’s only so much reading, TV viewing, walking that a person can do at this time.

And so I’ve pulled out eight – count ’em! – large boxes of photos and mementos from the past. Most of my photos still sit in tiny yellow boxes in the form of 35mm slides, and I will be scanning those later. For the moment I am wading through the prints I do have.

Such as the following photo.

That’s me in the sunglasses, clutching my dog-eared green guide to Morocco, my old camera slung around my neck.

Street market in Chefchaouen, Morocco (Photo: Marion Morgan, my aunt)

You might be wondering why Jane and I are wearing dresses. Why not pants? First of all, local women generally did not wear pants in public. And – this is a delicate subject – wearing pants would make using restrooms very difficult for women, as most toilets consisted of two places for your feet on either side of a hole in the floor … .

Getting back to photography, the problem with photography in those days – or at least with my photography – was the cost of film and developing of said film. Unlike today, when I would be shooting thousands of photos of everything under the sun, I didn’t take 25% of of the photos I could have. So, until I scan all my slides, many of my memory-related posts will include photos like the following. Mind you, these are similar to what I would have taken, had I otherwise been able to.

Seagulls and Old Rabat (Dreamstime photo)

Old Rabat, especially the Oudaias (Kasbah of the Udayas) was often off limits to us, because of unrest and some crime. However, when my brother and his then-wife Gita, who grew up in Iran, came to visit, we made the rounds of several gold merchants in the Old City. Gita bought dozens of gold bracelets, all which she took when she divorced my brother, since a woman’s jewelry traditionally belongs only to her.

Early Morning, Kasbah, Old Rabat, View from Salé Side (Dreamstime photo)

Shopping for food in Morocco proved to be one of the most glorious culinary experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. Wearing my long skirts and jersey shirts with wrist-length sleeves, and in the company of my fellow expats Jane and Cynthia, I’d drive to the fish and vegetable market near the river, maybe three times a week.

Market, Rabat Medina (Dreamstime photo)

On the other hand, the open-air market in Salé offered the best choices for chicken. Plump chickens, their white feathers sparkling clean in the morning light, clucked contentedly in their little pens. All one had to do was point, and the vendor would grab the victim by the neck, dispatching the creature into the darkness with a sharp knife. Although Jane and Cynthia swore by the flavor of freshly slaughtered chicken, I – wimp that I am – could not bring myself to point. So a few stalls away, vendors sold chicken ready to cook, and that’s where I bought my chickens.

Freshly slaughtered chicken, Morocco (Dreamstime photo)

 

As I said, I miss grocery shopping. I’m missing a lot of things, but for a cook, food shopping is akin to breathing.

Thinking of Morocco takes me away the four walls of my office, and off I go to a time and place when the future promised only more adventures and discoveries and interesting places. When I climbed dunes in the Sahara and looked up at the stars, their light shining in the pure blackness of the desert night. When the Blue Men rode their camels past me on a road near Erfoud. And when I ate the marvelous treats made at Ramadan

I am crossing my fingers and hoping that such will be the situation for people once again.

Stay safe. Stay well. And STAY HOME, if you can. Thank you.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks, Cynthia, for focusing on Rabat, one of my favorites towns in Morocco (even though I was born in Casablanca!) I love the Salé medina–where they manufacture unique Salé-style rugs and weavings. Indeed, my first cookbook, Come with me to the Kasbah: a cook’s tour of Morocco, was printed in salé. You wouldn’t recognize it at present. Rabat and Salé have merged into one large metropolis..

    Hope confinement isn’t too hard on you! Keep on sorting slides! I did that too..
    Best,
    Kitty

    Like

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