Monday, October 18, 2010

[Arabic HW:] Fez

[I had Arabic homework to watch two YouTube videos about the street food in Fez, Morocco, and comment on various things mentioned. For whatever reason, I felt like posting what I wrote up in a place that someone would actually read it... Is it strange that I do a better job on the writing for assignments like this, which assuredly isn't going to be graded on its writing quality, than on assignments like my psych paper (well, a 2-page summary & reflection) where it seems like the writing quality should actually matter?]

These two video segments introduced a number of Moroccans from every walk of life: from the professor of linguistics and gender studies (Dr. Fatima Sadiqi) to the man who started selling street food because he couldn't find any other job (Nourdine Alyazami); from the women supporting their families by working in bakeries (such as the bakery run by Soumaya Benkirane), to Jean Pierre Dehut, the largest wine-producer in Morocco; from Danielle Mamane, a Jewish woman whose family fled the Inquisition in Spain, to the Sufis who sit in a circle representing the universe, with the couscous they are all sharing placed symbolically in the center.

Each of these inhabitants of Fez showed some distinctive Moroccan dish, whether it was Lahcen Beqqi's lamb tajine (which looked delicious), the Sufi gathering's couscous, the traditional Jewish Sabbath meal (chickpeas, potatoes with eggs, two or three types of meat, rice or wheat), or the dried meat topped with grease that the rapper Adil Idrissi pointed out to the video's hostess. These diverse encountered illustrated the rich variety in history of Fez, a city where ancient and modern mingle. Fez was established at the end of the 8th c. by the great grandson of Mohammad, and it was the capital of Morocco until French colonial authorities relocated the central government to Rabat. Today, Fez is considered the "culinary capital" of Morocco, as well as its "spiritual heart," according to the video.

Despite its rich heritage, however, Fez today is economically strained, with a very high unemployment rate. Some inhabitants of Fez have found a source of income from food: they sell street-food, or they work in bakeries, or even in the incongruous wine-industry. Others work in the foul-smelling but high-paying tannery, where cow hides are softened with pidgeon dung and dyed with mint, henna, saffron.

The comment on gender-roles was very interesting to me--that women are breaking out of their traditional confinement in the home, but without breaking out of their traditional role as preparers of food, nurturers. This struck me as a graceful transition, contrasting with the aggression and discontentment that seem to me to characterize American feminism. (Granted, there wasn't an extensive discussion of this issue in the video.)

The Sufi circle around the round plate of couscous was also very interesting to me. I thought it was really poignant that they feed each other. The symbolism is its own spice and savor, I think: if I were to taste just one of the dishes in the video, I'd like to try that couscous.

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