Nathan participated in the 2013-2013 Arabic Academic Year in Morocco.
I’m still not quite sure what to call it—all I know is that I understand the Darija words for party: hefla, and marriage: zzwaj. Chronologically, the event fits nowhere into a Western context: I was informed of the marriage on Tuesday, there was a legal ceremony on Wednesday, a honeymoon from Thursday to Saturday, and finally a party on Sunday. This was definitely a party not to be missed.
My family (more accurately my extended family: myself, my host parents, my host brothers, my host aunts, my host uncle, and my host cousins) spent the morning and early afternoon preparing the home for guests. Sunday was the party intended for relatives—of which, following the Moroccan norm, there were many. The men and women remained segregated for the first half. I entered the men’s area to find a group of strangers, two of whom sported long, impressive beards and turbans. After greetings and a little less than an hour of idle chatter, we proceeded to finish off a variety of pastries, six rotisserie chickens, and two prune tajines. While the food was delicious, I couldn’t help but feel envious of the women partying below. Their drumming, clapping, and ululation drowned out what little chatter existed amongst the men. After finishing our meal, one of the men initiated a group prayer. Once finished with the prayer and with an abundant quantity of food in their bellies, most of the men left—leaving the relatives (myself included) to join the ladies below.
This is when the party got going. Actually, it already had been going; I had just been busy trying to deseed prunes with a piece of bread. The women brought in a group of all-female Mrrakchi (Marrakechi) singers. The women, obviously well versed in their art, formed a highly entertaining crew of lively performers. They banged on drums, sang, and danced—eventually, one of them spotted me and created an impromptu song in my name. My host dad handed me a twenty-dirham bill, which he instructed me to give to her. “Okay,” I think to myself, “Makayn mouchkil.” When I try to hand it to her, my host aunt Jamia shakes her head. “No, you have to put it in her dress.” After processing the fact that I had to shove a bill into a middle-aged Moroccan woman’s dress, I secured the bill in the elastic of her dress. Immediately afterwards, the woman starts yelling at everyone. “Make way,” she cries, frantically gesturing us aside. All of a sudden, she launches herself at the ground and executes a somersault.
While the surprise (at least to me) somersault wasn’t quite the grand finale, the party slowly died down from that point on. Eventually the musicians gathered their instruments and filed out, followed shortly by the horde of partygoers. This hefla was wa’ira, as they say in Darija—a nuanced word meaning both “difficult” and “super cool.” I can only hope that in the seven months that remain I’ll have the chance to attend a few more parties, and maybe witness some more somersaults.