Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

On Our Own in the Souks of Marrakesh and the Jemaa el-Fna

Free at last!

We are as giddy as children let out of school as the groups head left and we head right, going deeper into our favorite territory, the souks (small shops) in the great city of Marrakesh.

Before we ever went to Marrakesh, many years ago, we read a book by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, author of Guests of the Sheikh, called A Street in Marrakesh, talking about how her family lived in the center of Marrakesh, among Moroccans, and the adjustments they made as they grew to learn more about their environment. You know how you can read a book and feel like you had lived it? We felt we had lived in Marrakesh.

When we visited with our son, we had a car and were driving all through Morocco. We had left Ouazazarte and driven over the Atlas Mountains, stopping here and there to buy fossils and “thunderballs” which are also called geodes. It was late, and dark when we got to Marrakesh, and we had to stop and ask directions at a gas station how to find our hotel. We knew we were near, and we didn’t know how to close the distance. This was before smart phones and Google Maps.

Our son and I watched AdventureMan from the car, and as we watched him ask the two men working there, one pointed left and one pointed right. We were dying laughing. And, actually, both were right, there was an obstacle between us and the hotel and you could go right – or you could go left. At that moment, a motorcycle drove up, listened to the question and offered to guide us to our hotel. This is the essence of Morocco to us; the kindness and the hospitality of the Moroccans.

I wish I could remember the name of the hotel, but our room was huge, and full of tile work. Our son had his own area, on a separate level in the same room, and his own TV. It was a far cry from a sterile, modern hotel; this was full of color and detail, tile and wood work.

The next day, we hired a private guide for a tour of Marrakesh, and had a wonderful time exploring all kinds of wonderful places.

So now, off we go, and the smells and the feel of the souks almost make us giddy; we are back in our element.

As we wander, we can hear roosters crowing, and, in the middle of the souks, we find a souk devoted to roosters. It is the middle of the afternoon, a quiet time of day, perfect for wandering.

MarrakechRoosterSouk

 

Me and my attraction to light fixtures 🙂

 

MarrakechLamps

A mural of the Koutoubia mosque; one of the reasons we felt so secure in this souk is that if you get lost, you just look for the highest tower around, and that is the Koutoubia mosque, which takes you to Jemaa el-Fna.

MarrakechMural

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MarrakechWidowsWalk

 

HennaCafe

 

We walked to our content, and then settled in at late afternoon to a cafe with a terrace high over the Jemaa el-Fna, where we had our choice of tables and could watch the market come to life. As we sipped our mint tea, the other tables filled; Moroccan families, tourist couples, assorted characters. The day is gorgeous, we have a shaded location, life is sweet. We’ve soaked in the sights and the smells. We’ve done more than our 10,000 steps. We enjoyed this afternoon immensely.

CafeTerrace

 

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December 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Books, Cultural, Entertainment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Hot drinks, Morocco, NonFiction, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Undoing Public Disclosure, One Small Move at a Time

I am appalled. I have scoured the TV News, have looked through newspapers – not a word! I steam at corruption in Kuwait and Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and then a small NPR Report on yesterday’s news alerts me to a measure, passed in Congress, WITHOUT A WHISPER!

(oh? I was shouting? Sorry. Carried away. Outraged) You can access the NPR station and listen to the entire repulsive report by clicking here.

Congress Repeals Financial Disclosure Requirements For Senior U.S. Officials

by EYDER PERALTA

April 12, 2013 4:11 PM

A tourist takes cover underneath an umbrella while snapping a photo of the U.S. Capitol on March 6, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joining the Senate, the House of Representatives approved a measure today that repeals a requirement that top government officials post financial disclosures on the Internet.

The House, like the Senate, acted quietly without a vote. Instead, they sent the measure to the president’s desk by unanimous consent.

The provision was part of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (Stock), which became law in March of 2012. The act was intended to stop members of congress from profiting from nonpublic information.

As NPR’s Tamara Keith reported, at the time, Sen. Joe Lieberman called the law “the most significant congressional ethics reform legislation to pass Congress in at least five years.”

The Washington Post explains:

“That law mainly addressed conflict-of-interest policies for members of Congress and their staffs, but it also included a requirement that the financial disclosure forms filed by some 28,000 high-ranking federal employees be posted online.

“While those forms are public records, they must be requested individually from employing agencies. The Stock Act envisions online posting first on agency sites and later in a central, searchable database.

“The posting requirement was delayed three times out of concerns about the potential for identity theft and other crimes against career employees, as well as security risks to the government.”

The Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for a more open government,called today’s repeal an “epic failure.”

The foundation explained that instead of addressing specific security concerns, Congress has acted broadly.

For instance, they note, the president, vice president, members of Congress, congressional candidates and individuals subject to Senate confirmation are still required to make their financial disclosures public. But the change in law now makes the posting of those disclosures on the Internet optional.

Sunlight adds:

“Not only does the change undermine the intent of the original bill to ensure government insiders are not profiting from non-public information (if anyone thinks high level congressional staffers don’t have as much or more insider information than their bosses, they should spend some time on Capitol Hill) but it sets an extraordinarily dangerous precedent suggesting that any risks stem not from information being public but from public information being online.

“Are we going to return to the days when the public can use the Internet to research everything exceptwhat their government is doing? Will Congress, in its twisted wisdom, decide that information is public if journalists, academics, advocates and citizens are forced to dig through file cabinets in basements in Washington, DC to find it? And does anyone think that makes us safer?

“As my colleague Tom Lee noted, ‘This approach is known as ‘security through obscurity.’ Essentially, the idea is that rather than fixing a system’s flaws, you can just make the system opaque or unusable or unpopular enough that those flaws never surface.'”

Update at 5:35 p.m. ET. 30 Seconds:

NPR’s Tamara Keith tells us the House procedure took exactly 30 seconds.

Correction at 5:29 p.m. ET. An earlier version of his post said the House followed the Senate. In fact, the Senate voted Thursday and the House voted today.

April 14, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Crime, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Lies, Middle East, News, NonFiction, Political Issues, Statistics, Transparency, Values | , , | Leave a comment

Wealth and Inequality in America

Horrifying

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Aging, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, NonFiction, Political Issues, Social Issues | 2 Comments

Foods a la Louisiane: Jambalaya

Did I tell you I collect cookbooks? One of the guidelines I use is that the cookbook have the name of a person attached to each recipe; if your name is on a recipe going into a book, you know you are going to be very careful that this recipe is really, really good.

I don’t remember buying this cookbook, but it is a gem. On the other hand, there have been some surprises . . . there is a recipe for making boudin, that ubiquitous Cajun sausage, and it starts off with “1 large hoghead.” The directions state that you boil the hog’s head until tender, let it cool, remove meat from bones, then grind hoghead meat with heart, kidney, onions, parsley, etc. in a meat grinder.

Thank goodness boudin is not a favorite of mine. Andouille, a spicier sausage, IS a favorite of mine and if I see a recipe for andouille, I am NOT going to look at it.

I love making jambalaya – and here is a genuine Louisiana recipe:

JAMBALAYA
1/2 cup vegetable oil or drippings
2 medium onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 medium green pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped green onion tops
Water
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Red Pepper to taste
Pepper to taste
Browning agent or 2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet
2 lbs peeled raw shrimp
4 cups long grain rice

Heat oil over low heat in a heavy 6 quart Dutch oven until warmed. Add vegetables; saute until lightly browned. Add enough water to cover vegetables; add seasoning and browning agent. Bring to a boil; add shrimp. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in rice; cook 10 minutes. Cover and cook until rice is tender, stirring occasionally. Yield 10 – 12 servings.

I do jambalaya all the time (DISCLAIMER: I am neither a Louisiana native nor of Cajun descent, so what I do cannot be taken as authentic, even if it is tasty 🙂 ) and I use more spices, chopped tomatoes and I don’t add the shrimp until the rice is cooked; I add it at the end and give it five minutes for the heat of the rice and cooked ingredients to cook the shrimp. We also use andouille sausage (or a turkey sausage if we are entertaining Moslem friends) and some cut artichoke hearts, maybe a small jar of pimentos, maybe some leftover peas. Sort of like a jambalaya/paella 🙂

October 24, 2012 Posted by | Books, Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, NonFiction, Recipes | | 4 Comments

The Best Gingersnaps Ever

I knew what I was going for. Not the pallid ‘snaps’ that pass in the stores, no, the real gingery cookies, with real snap.

I went to my old faithful, a book I got back many a year ago when I was a new bride, the Joy of Cooking. It is a great edition, and you can see, it is falling apart. I can’t part with it:

Here is the Gingersnap recipe, altered slightly because I wanted guaranteed ‘snap.’

Gingersnaps

(Makes about 10 dozen 2 inch cookies)

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Cream 3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar

Stir in:

2 well beaten eggs
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vinegar

Sift and add:

3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 – 4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cloves

Mix ingredients until blended. Form dough into 3/4 inch balls. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for about 12 minutes. As the ball melts down during cooking, the cookie develops the characteristic crinkled surface. At 12 minutes, take the cookies out, sprinkle top with the decorator sugar (bigger chunky sugar that won’t melt down into the cookie) and return to the oven for 5 or 6 minutes.

Remove from oven, cool.

Mine are not the prettiest – next year I will know to leave more room between the cookies – but they are the BEST gingersnaps I have ever made. They have a little soft chewiness, and a little crispiness, around the edges. They are SPICY!

The original recipe, in the Joy of Cooking, uses a little less spice and a marshmallow topping. The Joy of Cooking is a wise investment, and if you can find one of the older ones in a used book store, you will have a treasure house of old, tried and true recipes. The authors are Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, and my edition is a Signet Special, first edition, printed in 1973.

December 19, 2011 Posted by | Books, Christmas, Cooking, Holiday, NonFiction, Tools | Leave a comment

My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme

I wish I had more self-discipline, and read more heavy weight books, but what I find is that when I read heavy non-fiction these days, it falls over when I fall asleep. Mostly, I read the New Yorker, or catch up with my news online, while listening to NPR.

I don’t know how I got My Life in France, if I ordered it or if I bought it in B&N. I’ve had it for a while. We’ve always loved Julia Child; her programs were a hoot, and she was an accomplished woman who never took herself too seriously. I will never forget one time I saw her on a Martha Stewart Christmas Special; they were doing a tall Croquembouche, and at one point, Julia was not throwing on the caramelized sugar strings the way Martha wanted her to and she grabbed the little thrower-thing out of Julia’s hand to show her how. I gasped! That is like grabbing a spoon from the Queen of England, no! No! You can’t grab a spoon from Julia Childs! You can’t show Julia Childs how to do it, Martha, you BOW to Julia Childs!

Julia Childs, classy woman that she was, just watched Martha with fascination and never showed an ounce of annoyance.

The book is hilarious. While alive, she worked with her grandson, Alex Prud-homme, gathering correspondence – she was a copious letter writer, and people in those days kept their snail mail to refer back to, the way we keep e-mails. They sat in her sunny garden, and he would ask her a few questions, and off she would go, regaling him with stories of people, places, occasions, parties, and especially FOODS.

Julia Childs worked for the OSS in World War II, the forerunner to the CIA. Stationed in India, she met her husband, and after the war ended, they married. Stifled in her California life, and and Paul jumped at a chance to live overseas. Imagine – Paris! She had to adapt to a totally different way of life, totally different living space, a totally different way of shopping for food, and she had to learn to cook. Since she was in Paris, and because she is the woman she is, she signed up for cooking classes at the Cordon Bleu, where she worked hard to master the techniques to successfully produce the sauces and delicate flavors which makes French cuisine so delicious.

She also moves to Marseilles, to post-war Germany, and to Norway, and manages to produce two books, each of which took, literally, years to finalize, because of her attention to detail, and wanting to make sure that women using her books could understand exactly what to do, and when to do it.

This is a really fun book. I would have loved to know this adventurous, courageous woman, who meticulously tested every recipe for Mastering the Art of French Cooking and changed the lives of serious cooks in America. No, I have never cooked from her book. No, I don’t have her book. I have a Larousse Gastronomique, from which she worked to get the ‘true’ Frenchness of French cooking, but I don’t have any cook books by Julia. I have put out a hint, though, and I am hoping to get one for Christmas. 🙂 Not just for me – AdventureMan is making serious inroads into adventurous cooking. He has mastered blackened fish tacos, and seared tuna, woo hoooo! He is working on the ultimate cornbread. Just wait until I get him started on the quintessential French Onion Soup, or even – maybe – French bread!

November 7, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Books, Character, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, France, Living Conditions, Moving, NonFiction, Shopping | 2 Comments

Local Man Acquitted of Abusing American Woman

Man cleared of abusing expat woman
By Nour Abuzant
From The Gulf Times Court RoundUp

A Doha court acquitted a man, for lack of evidence, of the charge of abusing an American woman on July 15, 2008.

According to the chargesheet, the 36-year-old accused entered the woman’s bedroom at night and “fondled” her while she was sleeping next to her husband.

The woman, 34, told interrogators that the accused local was a family friend and he had unsuccessfully tried to start a relationship with her.

The judges were told that the husband confronted the intruder, “who injured himself while fleeing the scene.”

The Nepali security guard at the compound where the alleged incident took place said that he saw a man trying to enter the compound and he tried to prevent him from entering the building.

However, the guard failed to identify the man at a police parade stating “it was too dark to recognise anybody.”

The defendant’s lawyer said his client had tried to call the woman on July 14 as he was a close friend of the family.

Explaining the “non guilty” verdict, the court of first instance said neither the American couple nor the security guard could recognise, beyond any reasonable doubt, the intruder. “Also no fingerprints were taken from the scene.”

The court said that the circumstantial evidence was insufficient to convict the accused.

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cultural, Doha, Law and Order, Living Conditions, News, NonFiction, Qatar, Safety, Values, Women's Issues | 7 Comments

100 Lashes Each for Illicit Relationships in Qatar

COURT ROUNDUP

100 lashes for illicit relations

By Nour Abuzant in today’s Gulf Times
Two Asians – a man and a woman – have been sentenced to 100 lashes each and subsequent deportation for maintaining illicit relations.

The father of the woman told the interrogators that he saw his 21-year-old daughter leaving the house in the morning of April 15, 2009 and boarding the car of her 26-year old lover.
The father also said he opposed their marriage and that he had planned his daughter’s marriage with another compatriot man.

The Doha court of first instance heard that the father found three mobile phones, belonging to her lover, in his daughter’s possession.

The accused Pakistani nationals confessed in the court that they were in love. The court said that the 100-lash penalty came in line with the Sharia rules, as both the accused were Muslims and unmarried.

That’s some angry father – turning in his own daughter to be jailed, humiliated in court and then subjected to the additional humiliation and pain of 100 lashes. Cannot imagine what that will do to her marriage prospects “with another compatriot man.”

Some people ask why I run these articles about expats. The truth, as I see it, is that any one of us who is not Qatari falls under these laws. We are ALL expats. The laws can be applied to any one of us at any time.

January 11, 2010 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, News, NonFiction, Pakistan | 5 Comments

Barbaric. Animals Left to Starve to Death

It’s hard to believe that this could be happening. This article is from Kuwait’s Al Watan and I learned about it from Mark, at 248am.com. Unbelievable. Unthinkable.

KUWAIT: It only happens in Kuwait. No other country would demand money from people already paying rent.

Initially, those renting stalls at the animal market in AlـRai thought it was a mistake, but when their shops were shut down “because of rent arrears,” business owners went berserk. In addition, the animals displayed in the stalls were left inside the locked stalls, with the proprietors unable to tend to or remove then, thereby what was a municipal disagreement has ballooned into an animal rights fiasco.

It remains unfathomable to many where the decision to charge a second “Municipality rent” arose from, when the proprietors were already paying rent to the owners of the commercial space, the Ministry of Finance. With the Municipality shutting down the stalls, and the Ministry of Finance staying silent ـ only to say: “this is not our issue” ـ the business owners are helpless as the animals howl and cry for food, with every passing day the stench of death growing ever stronger.

Al Watan Daily went to the animal market in Al Rai area and witnessed the disaster first hand.
Shopkeepers told Al Watan Daily that the Municipality had closed all the stalls over two weeks ago, “and they haven”t opened the doors even once till now. All the animals are inside the stalls, and most of them have died due to lack of water, food and air. These animals have been in cages within the stalls for 15 days and they have not seen any light, nor eaten anything.”

Ridha Ashkanani told Al Watan Daily: “We signed contracts with the State Properties Department; we pay them 300 Kuwaiti dinars per year, and we also have been paying KD 60 per year to the Municipality as for the cleaning of the area. We were forced to pay this sum although the Municipality is not taking care of the area and the place is not clean at all. The problem now is that the Municipality is asking us to pay another rent for the stalls themselves. They want KD 3 per every square meter within the shop per month. They also want the money to be paid in arrears from 1995. We can”t afford to pay all this, and there isn”t any law that requires us to pay a second rent to the Municipality.”

The situation is this: according to the traders, they have been paying a normal rental fee since 1997, which continued when the Ministry of Finance relocated their businesses to the current location, but in 2004, a Municipal inspector came and asked them to pay a “Municipality rent.”

The proprietors explained to the inspector that they were not aware of any second “Municipality rent,” and that according to the contract with the Ministry of Finance, the rent was to be paid to the ministry, and the ministry only.

After receipts were shown to the inspector that payments were being made to the ministry, he quietly withdrew and disappeared.

However, in 2006, another inspector came demanding “Municipality rent.” The traders explained, once again, to the new inspector the same story, to which he accepted their argument but demanded a KD five monthly surcharge for cleaning.

The traders saw no qualms with the demand and agreed to the nominal fee, but then some months later, the inspector returned, requiring that the cleaning fees be paid in lump sum six months in advance. After some grumbling, they acquiesced.

Oddly, some weeks later, traders were informed that instead of 6 months, it would have to be 12 months in advance. Again, they reluctantly agreed.

Now you have the current situation, where the Municipality has shut all the stalls with the animals locked inside, and is demanding the “Municipality rent,” in arrears as far back as 1995.

“Our major issue is that the animals are trapped inside the stalls, and most of them died. We are losing our business and losing the animals we have in the shops, and we are not allowed to open the shops at least to feed the animals, which have not eaten any food for 15 days,” explained Ashkanani
Ahmed, another proprietor, said: “I lost all the gold fish I had in the shop, worth KD 5,000. We want the animal rights societies to help us in our problem. We went to the State Properties Department and they didn”t help us, and stated that it”s not their responsibility. We then went to the Cabinet and they told us to go to the minister, and he also refused to help us. We finally went to the Municipality, (which refused to open the doors until they are paid), and now we are filing a case at the court and we are waiting to see what will happen.”
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Last updated on Monday 2/11/2009

November 2, 2009 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Entrepreneur, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, News, NonFiction, Pets, Shopping, Social Issues | 20 Comments

A Headline, and Your Challenge

This headline caught my eye in today’s Peninsula:

US HOUSING SECTOR LOOKS UP

Why did it catch my eye? I know, I know, I am an unnatural woman. I shouldn’t bother my pretty little head with these things too great for me, but I find the financial pages interesting. You would be amazed at what you can learn in the small print.

So when I saw that headline, I was intrigued, because yesterday the reports coming out remained bleak. Key phrases like “less than expected” jumped out at me.

So here is my challenge to you. Please. Read through this article and tell me if you can find one single fact that supports the promising headline. Honestly, this gave me one of my best laughs of the day.

Get ready. Get set. GO!

US housing sector looks up
Web posted at: 10/21/2009 8:50:58
Source ::: REUTERS

WASHINGTON: New construction of US homes rose less than expected in September as ground-breaking activity for multi-family dwellings fell sharply, highlighting the economy’s uneven recovery path.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday housing starts rose 0.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 590,000 units, below market expectations for 610,000. August’s housing starts were revised down to 587,000 units.

A separate report from the Labor Department showed producer prices dropped an unexpected 0.6 percent in September. Analysts had anticipated prices would remain unchanged after rising 1.7 percent in August.

“The housing numbers still look somewhat soft and that’s a reflection of weakness in the consumer. The low PPI numbers mean that the Fed is in a position to keep rates unchanged for a while,” said Subodh Kumar, chief investment strategist at Subodh Kumar & Associates in Toronto.

US stock futures, which were lifted earlier after strong quarterly results from bellwethers Apple and Caterpillar, trimmed their gains on the soft housing and price data.

New construction activity in the volatile multifamily segment dropped 15.2 percent to an annual pace of 89,000 units. Groundbreaking for single-family homes, the largest component of the housing market, rose 3.9 percent in September to an annual rate of 501,000 units.

Compared to September last year, housing starts were down 28.2 percent.

The housing market, the main catalyst of the worst US recession since the 1930s, is crawling out of a three-year slump and residential investment probably contributed to economic growth in the third quarter, according to analysts.

New building permits, which give a sense of future home construction, unexpectedly fell 1.2 percent to an annual pace of 573,000 units in September, the Commerce Department said. That was the biggest percentage decline since April.

Analysts had forecast permits at 600,000 units. Building permits were down 28.9 percent compared to September last year.

A survey on Monday showed confidence among US home builders edged down in October amid worries over the expiration of a $8,000 government tax credit for first-time buyers.

The incentive, which ends next month, has been widely cited as the main force behind the housing market’s steady recovery.

Separately, prices paid at the farm and factory gate fell 4.8 percent on the year, which was steeper than forecasts for a 4.2 percent drop. Excluding food and energy, prices declined by 0.1 percent in September from the prior month, and were up 1.8 percent on the year.

“The headline PPI numbers fuel the deflationary fears,” said Doug Bender, managing director at McQueen, Ball & Associates in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

October 21, 2009 Posted by | Financial Issues, Humor, News, NonFiction | 6 Comments