And the days go on. It’s weird how, when you do ot every day, even the most amazing routine can become mundane sometimes. This time two weeks ago, we were buzzing about getting to learn Arabic sitting in a garden, and being able to talk to taxi drivers in Arabic, and getting on with people. And yet, with just a day and a half of classes left before we leave Qalam wa Lawh school, all of this is just part of our daily ‘bornamaj’ (or ‘schedule’. It was on today’s vocab list). This made the morning fairly ordinary, except for things like a spider falling on our teacher who promptly freaked right out, and an ensuing discussion on the species of the tree it fell from (an orange tree we think. The Lime school of thought was overruled.), as well as repremanding a classmate for talking about the spider getting up our teacher’s hijaab and the damage it could do, all whilst she was still recovering. Timing! Also, we had Ken (remember him?), confident in his philosophical ideas and his grasp on the Arabic language, tell us that “we sit on people’s lives” and “we sit on animals and other people” before realising that he wanted to say “we stand on the shoulders of giants”. You can’t knock his ambition anyway.
The afternoon was more fun, because of our trip to the challa! I can now tell you that it’s more than the “ruins of something old”, and the story is actually quite lovely, and how I understand it is this. Grab a cup of tea and a sponge finger, and I’ll begin.
A long time ago, there lived one of the Sultans of Morocco. He was married to the daughter of the current Sultan of Tunisia, but it was for political purposes alone, and held no affection. The Sultan of Morocco happened to travel to Europe and England, and whilst there, he heard about the beauty and intelligence of an English princess. Through all the stories about her, he fell in love with her, even before he saw her. He desired to marry her, but his father would not allow it, and he was forced to return to Morocco. After a period of time, his father died, as well as the father of his current wife. He decided to divorce her, and return for his English princess. The challa is the ruins of the palace that they lived in together during his reign, and they are buried side by side, with their son, who died when he was still a child. The palace must have been vast, yet all the rooms are roofless, the stones crumble under the sun, and every high place has atop it an enormous stork’s nest, with two of these massive birds in each one, the males clacking their beaks and trying to impress their wives. Yet, the gardens are still kept lush and green, and it’s a beautifully pleasant place. If you’re ever in Rabat, it’s worth an hour or two to visit.
Anyway, the remainder of the day has been much as normal, except the thrill of learning how to tell the time. It reminds me of learning that lesson for the first time. I remember sitting at a round table in primary school, in a group with Josie Atherton and Georgia Barron, with a yellow, red and blue plastic clock. Following the initial explanation, we had to write down the time on our clock. We wrote the number, and the o’, but we couldn’t spell “clock”. Those where the days. The same ones as when I simply had to correct my teacher because “magic” couldn’t possibly be spelled without a ‘j’, and when being told off for not being able to tie my own shoelaces by year 3, justified it by pointing out that Claire Lunnun still couldn’t say “yellow” properly. I find myself thinking a lot about the first stages of my learning as a kid, since I’m basically going through the same process again now. It’s a different language, yes, but somehow it still manages to take us all straight back to basics. And the smell of Play-Doh.
We are still adjusting to the Ramadan norms here, and are winding down to go home. But we’re excited for the prospect of cooking club again tomorrow (apparently pastry sweets are on the menu!), and for some final good memories and effective lessons, in language and otherwise, before we wend our way back to overcast and gravy-coated Englishness.
Thanks for sticking with us this far – you’re all troopers.