L’Observateur : Middle Atlas Edition

I have become a connoisseur of the truck stop tajine. It comes cheap, hot, and ready, and is much better than anything you can imagine at an American truck stop. At one particular truck stop, I ordered lamb kefta, and watched the butcher grind the lamb, make meatballs out of it, and grill it with onions and tomatoes. It was one of the best things I have ever tasted.

The very same small-town truck stop was broadcasting Al-Jazeera. I was standing at the counter drinking a coffee with about 20 Moroccans when they showed a clip of George W. Bush (dated August 2008) saying something about how America and Israel would do whatever they needed to do “achieve their objectives” against Hamas. Then they cut to footage of the recent Israeli bombardment. I was little bit uncomfortable. The next day I was in a grande taxi with six other people and the cabbie was listening to news reports from Gaza in Arabic on the radio, which left me feeling even more uncomfortable.

On the bus from Boulmane and Tenerhir I met a teenaged boy on the bus. He spoke serviceable English and we got to talking. He showed me his notebook of calculus calculations and I was impressed. He asked me if I would like to have lunch with him in his village. I told him that I had a long travel day ahead of me, and that it was not possible, but thanks anyway. Then I asked him what he was going to eat for lunch. He said “tajine.” I asked him what was for dinner. He said “couscous.” He eats the same two meals in that order every single day.

That night there was a beautiful crescent moon and I stayed in an $8 hotel in Azrou with no heat, no hot water, no in-room toilet, no toilet paper in the out-room toilet, and no windows. The room was like a cell. It was so small that I could not straighten my legs when I was in bed. It was so cold that I could see my breath. It was that or sleep outside, so I took it. In the morning, I posted bail and got the hell out of there.

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