When I first met my new mom, we could not communicate in words at all. She doesn’t know one word of English and I know about two words in Arabic, which at the time, I had forgotten. The language barrier wasn’t important though because she kissed me and held my hand the whole taxi ride home. After the taxi passed through the gates into the Medina of Fez, the old part of the city, it stopped and let us out. My mom paid a small, very old man wearing a fez to push a cart with my luggage to the house. There are no cars in most of this part of the city. The streets are way too narrow and crazy. It is supposedly the biggest car-free urban area in the world. The Medina was founded in 789 AD. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is most famous for having the oldest university in the world, which I actually saw today. The streets (more like sidewalks) are literally a maze. They make absolutely no sense and twist and turn in every direction up and down, with high building walls on each side. It is like nothing I have ever seen. If you get claustrophobic, don’t live in the Medina.
So, we followed the small man in the fez as he pushed my bag around corners and up hills. We had to press ourselves against the wall whenever a donkey or motorcycle wanted to pass because it’s too narrow. We walked by leather tanneries, meat markets, naked children kicking soccer balls, mosques and craftsmen. After a long time of walking, we finally stopped at a little red door. It looked like it was meant for hobbits. It was set against a super tall cement wall. This was my new home. The thing about Fez is it looks so old, run down and poor from the outside. I was told that people here believe a house is like a person- it’s the inside that counts. So, they do not worry about what the outside of buildings look like. Inside, Moroccan houses are beautiful with courtyards and beautiful tile work. When I walked into my house, my host sister was waiting. Her first words to me were “Welcome to your home. I am so excited to now have a sister.” She speaks a good amount of English, in addition to being fluent in Standard Modern Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, and French. She later told me how her dad had died a few years ago and she and her mom were lonely and bored living alone. They were so happy to have me join their family.
My house has two floors but the bottom floor is completely empty and unused. I am a little confused about why. I guess there’s just no need for so many rooms for so few people. When we go into the house we immediately go up the stairs. The whole house is open. It’s basically like we live outside because the middle of the house has no ceiling. If it rains outside, it rains inside. There are drains on the bottom floor. If it’s hot and humid outside, it’s hot and humid inside. If there are birds flying around outside, there are birds flying around inside. As I write this, I can see directly to the stars from the couch I’m lying on.
My mom is a wonderful cook. Today for lunch we ate bird. I’m not sure which kind of bird, but they looked like tiny chickens and when I asked what it was, my sister pointed to the pigeon-like birds outside. Onions and raisins and a green sauce were on the bird. We eat all our meals without silverware. Three fingers are used to scoop the food into pieces of bread. On the side we ate olives and beets. In Morocco the main meal of the day is lunch. Breakfast and dinner are small, very similar meals. They are usually bread with cheeses, jellies and other things to dip, with sweet mint tea and pastries. Apparently every Friday, everyone in Morocco eats couscous covered in vegetable stew for lunch.