It is night, and the city sighs just before erupting. The close pressed houses lining the alley contain the inner glow and clamor of women preparing dinner. Children, unwatched, run and shout down the street. The sound of tarijas fill the space in between the shouts and the laughs and the crackle of fireworks. It is Ashura, two days of fasting and celebration. The sounds bring me out of my book, and I go watch from my host mom’s doorway. A little boy with short curly hair walks by beating on a drum. Sirens sound further down the alley, and the group of boys yell, “bolis!” They bolt in three different directions.
It is eleven o’clock at night. The drums and the fireworks and the shouts of children has yet to end. I am waiting to eat dinner with my host family, the food sizzling in the background. All I want right now is sleep.
I am walking to ddar dyal jdda. The souq street is busy. There are mothers with big-eyed children and boys piled on bikes and men crowded on the sides of the street selling clothes, olives, bread, phones, and various other things. I arrive at jdda’s house only to be quickly served coffee and then whisked away to a birthday party. Women surround me, some in their pajamas and others in colorful jalabas and dresses. All of them have their dark hair falling down their backs. At first, I feel like an interloper. I shouldn’t be here, I think.
The night continues on. It is eleven o’clock, and we haven’t touched the cake and other sweets surrounding it. Everyone is dancing to the loud, rhythmic Moroccan music. One of the women gestures to me to dance. She tries to show me how to shake my shoulders and then my hips. My attempt only elicits laughter, and I laugh along with them. I look around. No one seems to be tired, even the young boy belonging to one of the women in attendance.
It is midnight, and we finally crowd around the cake to sing three versions of Happy Birthday: first in English, then French, and finally Darija. At this point, I am falling asleep where I am standing, and my host mom laughs every time I say, “ana 3yyan.”
On no particular night, I sit in the salon of my host mom’s house watching television late into the night. It is eleven thirty. I turn to my host mom and ask, “wesh nti 3yyana?” She laughs at my pronunciation, corrects me, and responds, “shwiya.” I am stunned. Across from me on the other ponj, my host dad yawns. Believing he is an ally, I turn to him and ask, “nta 3yyan?” Again, laughter is the response and he says, “la, shwiya.”
Morocco is the country that doesn’t sleep. Granted, they do like to sleep. I take up to two naps a day, and if I didn’t have language class in the morning I would be expected to sleep in til ten. They talk and party well into the night. As an American, this culture of late dinners and late nights is completely foreign. I am use to early dinners and getting to bed by ten at the latest on most nights. In the eyes of my Moroccan family, I must seem like an old man.
I am going to a dinner tonight at one of the host parents’ homes. Hope: I get back to my house at ten and go to sleep. Expectation: I get back to my house at eleven, watch some tv with my host family, and go to sleep around midnight. Reality: I get home at midnight, watch some tv with the host family, and get to bed around one.
So here is to late nights and Moroccan parties. The rule of hospitality runs deep in this country. It demands friendliness, lots of food and coffee and tea, and music. What’s a little exhaustion when you get to spend evenings with such great people?
Keep on keeping on,