On Sunday, we were invited for dinner at the home of Hafida, our cook. Hafida and Fatima Zahra have made our life in Morocco a dream. We are bringing up five little kids, running two businesses and trying to get our house, which is far from finished, in order. We have quickly become friends with these wonderful women, so it was a complete honour to be invited into Hafida’s home.
In a previous video, Katy was quite emotional because she was overwhelmed with the apparent poverty that many Moroccans live in. I expected to feel the same when we were driving to this place after spending the morning at the brilliant Oasiria – le premier parc aquatique au Maroc – but instead I felt overwhelmed with love and kindness and, although the house would shock most Western sensibilities with it’s unifnished walls, it’s outdoor hole-in-the-ground toilet, it’s bamboo roof, it’s rough mud floor…it struck me that this was not much different to where I grew up in a Northamptonshire council house. Although not quite as rough, we had a very simple life where we grew our own vegetables, hung out together, were always playing outside. We had no electronic devices (in fact, Hafida’s satellite TV was far better than the small black and white I had) and we had the same sense of living in the present that these people do. My parents worked hard in a factory and my Mum was a cleaner, a cook, a village post-woman. There was little money. It was very hand-to-mouth. There were lots of laughs and, I imagine, Hafida’s kids could hear their parents having sex the same way I did when I was a kid because there was nowhere to hide!
The welcome we got, full of smiles, hugs, kisses and the man of the house holding my hand as he proudly showed off his sheep that were being ready for the kill at Eid, which is coming up soon, was wonderful, spiritual and heart-warming.
On the way, Daisy said she didn’t want to go to Hafida’s house (mainly because she was enjoying Oasiria so much, which was her birthday treat), but she and the other children very quickly felt the love and were running around all afternoon having great fun in the dust without an Xbox or iPad in sight.
One of the reasons we moved here was to give the kids an authentic experience. A view of the world which is wider than they were getting in a Cheshire suburb.
George is not sure about this sheep…
We want them to travel the world and see how other people live so they can develop a sense of perspective, compassion and understanding of other cultures. I never left the UK until I was 14 and although I have traveled extensively since, it took a long time for the country bumpkin to leave me. If you ask Katy, she’ll probably say it’s still there.
The dinner itself was a feast of Moroccan chicken (jezsh), Moroccan salad and home-made bread. Although I have been off wheat for over two years (99%), it felt rude not to eat a little and also rude to turn down the coke and fanta they laid on (which is very expensive). When in Rome…stuff your principles occasionally.
Here’s Katy introducing Hafida:
Then Hafida made some Moroccan tea outside. I have to say that I am quite aggressively against sugar – it is a terrible poison in it’s processed form that is causing havoc with our hormones, immune systems and general health – but these people consume sugar in spades, especially in their minty green tea. Of course, the kids love it because it is so sweet, but to be polite, we all drank with smiles on our faces with teeth that may not be there much longer if we had to do this every day:
After dinner and tea, came the call of the Muezzin from the tannoy on the top of the mosque, which was only a few yards away. The first time I ever heard this noise was on a trip to Cairo ten years ago. I admit it was so alien to me that it freaked me out then, but I find the sound rather lovely now. It certainly makes a change to the church bells I grew up with.
It took us a while to investigate the strange little mud-hut in the courtyard. At first, I though it was a storage area, or a dog house. Turns out it was a beldi hamman ie. their bathroom. I have talked about hammans before on this blog, and have enjoyed many a spa-hamman. This was an entirely different, home-made proposition. Beldi means “rough”, “handmade” or “organic”, dependent on what you are referring to. In the west, we might refer to this as “Eco”.
It turned out that Hafida’s husband, Abdel, was currently out of work so, in typical style, we asked him if he could build a beldi hamman for us in our garden. He agreed to start work the very next day!
The girls in the Beldi Hamman