Sunday, November 6, 2011

Every Sunday is souq,

or market day, in Midelt.  In a dusty field on the edge of town, vendors set up stands of local goods.  Under canopies of improvised tents lay piles of fresh green peppers, onions, carrots and artichokes waiting to be purchased by the kilo.  Entire stands are stocked with canvas bags of cumin, ginger, pepper, cinnamon, saffron, and garlic which fills the entire market with subtle hints of spice.  Shop keepers patiently wait to make a sale, with golden pyramids of the seasons first oranges and stacks of pomegranates at their feet. 

People meander the makeshift aisles, in-between tents and stands, bargaining for the best prices on vegetables and fruits.  Vendors yell out advertisements of new serving trays and coffee pots, to anyone who might listen. Patrons quickly convert the prices from ryals to dirhams before placing fruit on shops brass scales.  Little boys, as young as six, run on expert feet, through the narrow and crowded lanes, selling plastic grocery bags for one dirham a piece.

From eight am until two pm ingredients for every Moroccan dish will find its way into those plastic bags, bound for kitchens throughout the region.

Booths, functioning as cafes, sit on the edge of the market serving pots of mint tea and fresh grilled chicken kabobs. The rusted tables are full of men smoking cigarettes, laughing and catching up with friends.  Women in bright headscarves, move between the mismatched chairs clearing tea cups and settling tabs with regulars.  Laughter from those tents is often as thick as the smoke wafting off the grills.

The streets surrounding the market play host to peddlers and their second hand goods. There, blankets holding everything from: frying pans, carpets, ancient singer sewing machines and car parts, cover the curbs.  Crowds of people peruse the available possibilities before breaking off to purchase vegetables across the way.  

Everything you could possibly want or need you can find, hidden or tucked away in some pile or another at the market.

Towns in the bled (rural villages) do not have markets.  Small villages have only hanutes, which carry staples such as: tea, sugar, flour and soap.  Residents of these towns must travel to Midelt in order to purchase any fruits and vegetables not grown in family gardens.  This makes Sunday a very busy day.  On busy days, transportation is often difficult to find.

In order to obtain transportation to Midelt you must sit on the edge of the road and wait. It is not unusual to be on the side of that road, for multiple hours, just waiting.  Luckily, there is a nice collection of rocks available to sit on.

What are you waiting for? 

Anything that will stop.  Sometimes its a taxi, of which there are two in my town.  Other times it is any driver willing to pick up extra passengers.  Some might call this hitchhiking.  I call it making new friends.  Moroccans call it normal.

After a morning of shopping, with bags full of market goodness such as pasta, popcorn and dried white beans, the search for transportation home begins.  On a small side street, next to a fruit stand, is a makeshift taxi stop.  There, people make themselves as comfortable as possible, on the stoop of a money wiring service.  When a taxi does arrive, six lucky individuals pile in and begin for home.  The rest wait. 

Waiting isn’t as bad as it seems.  It may not be the most convenient way to spend your time, but it can be enjoyable. It gives the option of being outside and doing whatever it is one wants.  You can read, chat, write letters or just watch daily life being lived.

It is from that stoop, that I have seen fruit farmers, selling fresh quinces and pears from wooden crates.   Kids chasing each other, getting into five different kids of trouble.  Men pushing carts through the crowd, selling newly burned cd’s, a sampling of which is blaring through a small speaker near the wheel.  Stray cats romping around after a meal of donated mackerel from the fish stand up the block.  And one troubling day, I was serenaded on that stoop, by a fedora wearing teenager.  Unfortunately for him, off-key replicas of The Doors isn’t really my style. 

By whatever means available, I am eventually, able to leave that stoop, destined for home. 

I return to my house, inevitably exhausted.  I unpack my groceries and organize my kitchen before I break into the fresh apples or oranges I purchased. It is satisfying to stand there, with a piece of fruit in my hand and know that I can get everything I need.  Sometimes my life feels so simple that I cannot help, but be overwhelmed with gratitude. 

The next Sunday, I gather my grocery bags and walk to the road, ready to do it all over again.

all of my market day love love love,


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