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Meknes Medina

Sep 4

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9/4/2010 1:16 PM  RssIcon

Meknes Medina by Kathryn Nevels

I have started going to the medina in Meknès most nights.
In Morocco, every town or city has a medina. This is the old part of town (or perhaps, the whole town, depending on its size) where crooked, aging buildings dating back centuries are built right up next to each other with only enough room in between them for pedestrians to squeeze through. The entire spiderweb network that connects the houses within the medina is obviously and solely made for pedestrians and donkeys.. and perhaps a small motorbike aswell. Within the walls of the medina, women still weave colorful rugs and blankets, and men sew tunics or perform various blacksmithing tasks, and the smell of bread from the communal bread oven permeates the air.
Surrounding the walls of the medina, however, a bustling, bonified city rises up. Cars honk and talegate each other, pharmacies flash their neon green signs, billboards leer from tall apartment buildings, and McDonald's rests comfortable amidst it all.
The divide between the dusty pathways of the medina and the noisy city surrounding it is only a single crumbling bullet-pocketed fortress wall, through which both djellabas, hijabs, and Abercrombie & Fitch pass within inches of each other.
Navigating a medina is a feat only readily accomplished by a native of the city.
The paths and walkways between and in front of its buildings are all part of an intricate spiderweb that can turn a newcomer, such as myself, completely around. When in the medina, one loses all sense of direction - unless you are able to make your way to the top of a roof, you cannot tell how deep into the medina you might have gone, which direction you are now facing, or how on earth to simply go back the way you came. 
However, while there are winding paths that lead through and around the residential area of the medina, there is also the populated market area towards the outer walls of the medina, and, in the Meknès medina, a huge open plaza in front where musicians and magicians perform, and the entire population of Meknès loves to socialize every night. This is the section that I've started going to most nights. 
One night in particular was extremely fun and educational...
In frequenting the medina, I have taken a fancy to a local banjo player and his posse of drummers. They play in the plaza every night for hours and hours with a large circle of people surrounding them, singing and clapping and dancing along to the music. Because I am obviously not Moroccan, and perhaps on account of me being female, I am usually offered a seated spot on the inner ring of observers, along with all the children who are too short to be anywhere else and still see the musicians. 
One child in particular, a girl about 6 years old named Aia (pronounced EYE-yah), has become my new bestfriend. 
The first night that Aia sat next to me, she would not speak a single word to me, and settled instead on playing various hand-clap games with me. (this seems to be a universal bond among girls of all nationalities)
The second night, however, was very different. We started off again by playing hand-clap games, but this time I made the mistake of trying to count in Arabic. 
This immediately launched Aia into an Arabic tirade and she began fervently lecturing me on my pronunciation. 
She was so adamant about making me pronounce everything correctly that we repeated the numbers one through ten at least twenty times each, going slowly over each sound first, and then attempting them at regular speed. However, Aia spoke with a child's dialectical accent which made it very hard for me to pick up on everything she was saying, thus resulting in mumbling and unintelligible sounds on my part.
Her solution to that was to write everything out in Arabic for me, in the hopes of making it clear as to what exactly she wanted me to say. She would write the word, point to it emphatically with her grimy little pencil, and wait. The problem was, however, that I don't understand written Arabic either!
Eventually a guy about my age who was sitting just behind us took pity on me and wrote out the English letters for pronunciation purposes. This was an initial success, but soon Aia and Anwar (the benevolent linguist) began arguing about dialectical pronunciations vs. Modern Standard Arabic pronunciations and which I should be learning. Every time Anwar would try to give me a dialectical pronunciation, Aia would shake her little finger in his face and say adamantly, "Arabia! Arabia!"
Since coming to Morocco, I have never laughed so hard.
And so, this is my preferred form of evening amusement in Meknès - bargain shopping and exploring around the medina, enjoying Moroccan banjo/drum music, and learning the local language while watching the locals themselves argue about it.
Who could ask for more?
Who could ask for more?

4 comment(s) so far...


Re: Meknes Medina

Great blog article ;)
I've just included it in a quick post about Meknes blogs :

Please let me know if you have any objections.

By Lionel on   9/29/2010 8:36 PM

Re: Meknes Medina

We have no objection!

By admin on   9/29/2010 8:40 PM

Re: Meknes Medina

Enjoyed reading the article about the Medina. I love Meknes and I am in love with someone who lives in the town. I have just sadly returned home to England again from another visit to Meknes. It is such a magical place. I am seriously considering moving and settling there.

By DENISE CLARK on   3/24/2011 6:38 PM

Re: Meknes Medina

Hi Denise,

Good luck with your move to the city of Meknes!

By admin on   3/24/2011 6:43 PM

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