two miles

Origin: my apartment
Destination: the medina
Distance: 2 miles

Go down two flights of stairs, out into the dust covered street, construction work still at that point in which you would rather it had never even started, the fruit of the future site not important at this time. We walk past the bakery, a bakery with real french baguettes for 75 cents sold to you by Lubna, a sweet gentle woman that ends every one of her sentences with Inshallah. Walk past groups of men sitting on the steps of different buildings doing who knows what, some are security gards, some are car washers and some, I am sure, have long ago quit their boring jobs and now spend their days sitting idly drinking overly sweet mint tea.

A block away we can see tea lights hanging from the ceiling of a small pizza joint, with 5 tables and a huge wide screen TV – many nights were spent there having dinner while enjoying a world cup game. We walk past Elite, a restarant that is usually overcrowded regardless of the high prices in the menu and the poor service of the waiters, you can feel the soft shower on your arms and face from the humedifiers that sprinkle water over everyone in a futile attempt to fight the 110 degree weather.

Next, we walk past one of our favorite spots, Zara with its doors wide open, provides us with the 2 seconds of real cool air as the AC blasts from the inside. Thismarketing technique, I am willing to admit, has made us enter the store more than once seeking to escape the heat and finding ourselves entrapped in this hip/cool world without leaving it empty handed.

It is amazing how Moroccan people love McDonalds, every time we walk past it and no matter what time of the day it is, McDee’s is packed with people fighting to get closer to the counters to order a big mac or a McArab Sandwich (I am not kidding). We walk past the most modern plaza in the city, with shiny clothing stores and huge water fountains, groups of giggling girls coyly looking at boys wearing tight shirts and faded jeans.

I know that the hardest stretch is about to start – at least 15 to 20 blocks of concrete sidewalks with no cover to protect you from the unforgiving sun, a few small orange trees line the streets, every once in a while we get a wift from a fig tree, and this I love, love, love, love. I love the smells of these 20 blocks…. yasmin, orange and fig trees mix together and in the heat of the day, when a car drives too quickly or the air stirs in the right direction, you smell the heavy and sweet smell of these flowers and leaves, it ALMOST makes the pain of the heat worth it. Almost.

In the middle of the day the streets are nearly empty, young men sit under the few trees as if waiting for the sun to set so that they can then begin their day. I don’t blame them. I feel the same way.

We keep walking through the Old City walls, sometimes walking amongst other tourists, sometimes following a family, but never alone. I smile to myself as I see a woman dressed in full hijab, with her young daughters wearing ruffles and tights and a pink shirt that might say something like “spank me” or “sexy”. Or a teenage girl wearing a headscarf, and also a tight shirt revealing some cleavage… interesting…

There is always an old woman sitting against a wall begging you in a foreign language to give her something (food, money?) sometimes they send their kids to do the work for them. We come across the first few boys trying to sell us hats, or fans, or tissue paper… we know that we are close. Traffic becomes jerkier, honking a more prominent sound, but above all, the smell of horse manure impregnates our nostrils, which not only gives us a gagging reflex, it almost pushes us through the last 200 feet to the main square, where snake charmers play their high pitched flutes and henna artists try to grab your hand, and above all else, the stalls that sell cold freshly squeezed orange juice for 40cents – this is our first stop as we arrive, we drink it and walk to whatever food stall you want, maybe attracted by the luring smell of grilled meats, or by a funny waiter greeting you in 5 or 6 different languages and inviting you to their table by jokingly adverticing that their particular stall has AC. Dine for 8usd if you are feeling vivacious and wanting to spend money, you get kababs, salads, bread, olives and sauce, or settling for something quick and cheap like a soup or bread and hard boiled eggs, or snail soup, or goat tongue and bread… each one of these for no more than 30 or 50 cents. Soon, we know, we will have to get up and start our 2mile walk back home.