There is magic in Morocco and much mayhem. But what happens when the two collide?
The knock at the door comes at about 7.30. Miriam is on my doorstep.
‘Alice have you got the red thing? You know for the noise.’
Ahha – my blue tooth speakers.
‘Miriam, excuse me – I am so sorry, they are broken. They’ve left.’
‘What a pity. Never mind. Come, it is Khadija’s party. Come, come.’
She runs off into the night and I pause only to brush my hair and grab a bag of marshmallows. I have to wade through a sea of kittens to leave the house. They know I am a soft touch for food. The Hajj is tap tapping his way to the men’s salon, this is a women and children scenario.
Roses in her hair
We are all assembling in dribs and drabs in Hafida, Khadija’s Mum,’s salon. It is not her posh one but her family one. There are couches and cushions around the wall and a table in the middle with two cakes on it. Khadija (6) is looking angelic and slightly overwhelmed in her white princess dress but she comes up to show off the pink roses in her hair.
Miriam explains that my speakers are bust and the girls look disappointed. ‘How are we going to make enough noise?’ asks Nezha. ‘I’m ready,’ I say but honestly I know that my efforts – although doughty – will pale into significance beside those of my neighbours. It’s not my first rodeo.
The children are restless. ‘Can I have a marshmallow?’ Othman pleads. ‘We have to wait for the cake,’ I tell him. He is looking ultra dapper in a black outfit embroidered with silver with a little skull cap to match.
Rachida, his Mum, sashays into the room. She is holding an Amazigh (Berber) drum high above her head and there are screeches all round. The drums look like large tambourines and come in different sizes.
Sound the drums
Miriam grabs it and starts drumming. Bouchra has another one and does an accompaniment. Fatima Zahra takes up the spoons and uses a plate as her base. The music is like a series of questions and answers. The girls start singing and we all clap along rhythmically. The party is rocking.
Then, Fatima Zahra ups the ante. She gets an enormous pink plastic bowl that is used to wash the rugs and pounds at it with a shoe. Not satisfied with the acoustics it gets moved around the room to much deliberation and shouted advice.
A clear, strong voice cuts across the hubbub. The girls all ululate. Fadma, the gentle matriarch and mother of Miriam and Nezha (and seven others), is singing a traditional celebration song. It’s musical and full of emotion and we all join in. I kind of hum because I can’t make out the words. Note to self – do more Tachelhit homework.
You can dance
Our noise level is now entirely satisfactory and it’s time for some dancing. The girls stand up and sway gracefully, pacing forward and shrugging their shoulders looking like so many daffodils in a spring breeze. Then Hafida gets on the floor. Wow. She can move. Her hips seem entirely divorced from the rest of her body and they are going for it. Her hands extended she weaves patterns in the air. Fatima Zahra joins her and dances beautifully but there is no doubt who is Queen of this dance floor. We all whoop and the drumming becomes frenzied.
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Othman and Imran, looking naughty but smart in his white robe, are our two men and they cavort and leap violently. Imran reminds me strongly of an athletic frog.
My ears are ringing and my throat is hoarse when the music subsides and we come to the cake part. The lights go off and Khadija sits in front of the chocolate miracle in the middle. We sing happy birthday enthusiastically in several languages and then she blows out her candles, aided diligently by Othman
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As always, a fair division is vital and everyone gets an exact share. Fanta and Hawaii accompany the gooey chocolate and then we go on to cake number two, which is enormous and was baked by Hafida. The sudden silence is broken only by compliments on the sugary goodness.
Sugar and songs are making the children’s eyes droop and I say my goodbyes but not before I have had two more slices of cake pressed upon me – ‘For your children, Squeaky and Rasputim.’
I open the door to find one of the kittens has sneaked in and is being jealously surveyed by my two. There is a faint smell of burning and I rush to my chick peas which are just starting to stick to the bottom of the pan but are salvageable. A lucky end to a happy night.