Moroccan Country Market

The sun is beaming down, turning the sky a strange sort of blueish brown. When you go out into the direct beam of light, the heat radiates through your very bones. People still venture out, in their colourful overclothes and highly patterned scarves. Their faces are scrunched from the sunlight, but their spirits are high.

The little country market squats in the wide expanse of sand, stones, and dusty desert bushes;sparse, small and set close to the ground. Stalls are wagons, held up on one end by wheels and on the other by wooden beams and bricks. The cloths which cover them are faded and worn from dust and the pure dirt of the earth, and on top they have their vegetables piled high. This is what a country market looks like in Morocco.

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Have you ever seen so very many tomatoes? I haven’t. A woman shouted at me when I tried to take photos of the tomatoes, and other vegetables.

‘Eeh, shoofo, ‘and-hal mobile! Esh ket-filmy!?’ she waved her hands at me and thrust her chin out, confrontational. Eh! Look at her, she has a phone! What are you filming? Everybody turned to look at me, suspicious and curious. My neck prickled with shame and confusion, but I also felt annoyed. I gestured towards the fruit, ‘El-Fawakih!’ I exclaimed, trying to defend myself.  The fruit! I understood then that they were worried I was filming their women and would spread their images on Youtube. She stared at me suspiciously as I walked away, and I hid my phone sharpish. They found it offensive that I was taking pictures of their wares, because the area I was walking in never saw any tourists and to take photos of an ordinary food market was unusual activity.

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I saw a withered old man in a colourful turban and wide pantaloons sprawled on a mountain of clothes, next to his empty cart, snoozing as the flies buzzed around his head and the sun clothes which draped from the wooden beams overhead fluttered gently in the breeze. The very sight of him was a vibrant photograph, just begging to be taken, but I dared not take that risk.

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As we walked away from the market, a fishmonger, standing on the outskirts of the market and well away from the vegetables with all the other fishmongers, shoved a dead, open fish in the face of my relative. She reeled, pushing it back towards him, exclaiming that she didn’t want it.

‘Smell it, smell it. It’s fresh, caught this morning.’

She sniffed it tentatively then told him she wanted a kilo of the little fish.

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This little kitten was hanging about on the verges of the market, sniffing eagerly for food. We gave it a square of cream cheese.

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Munch munch. Little creature was as big as the shadow of my phone!

 

On Language

The word “bombdiggity” is such an American word, isn’t it?

Well I like it.

So I talk with an English accent, more Southern than Northern. I was born in London, in the same hospital my mother was born in. She has had the monopoly of the influence on my speech patterns as I grew up, so I speak more like her than my father.

My father taught himself English; he is a studious man. When people hear him speak, they think he must be a newscaster or something of that ilk. He is very meticulous and such a perfectionist when it comes to his speech and his work. In both Arabic and English, he will correct my grammar and sentences, even in speech! He maintains it is for my own benefit, since I am studying Language at university. I think he just likes to have people speak well.

He isn’t a newscaster, though. He is a professor of Linguistics and Phonetics, has published many books and is a renowned translator in his career circles. He was born in the mountains of North Morocco, and grew up on olive oil, mint tea, pomegranates and oranges, as he keeps telling us. As a child he was poor, and spent whatever money he earned on books. His clothing suffered as a result, but who wants a nice new shirt when you can have books? My father was always knowledge hungry. He would go to bed with a massive book on Biology one week and the next he would have a small booklet about the politics of language. His bookshelves contained a wild plethora of books on all subjects. I attribute much of my childhood learning to my father’s books. His love of books has translated on to his children, and we are all avid book collectors.

I did most of my growing up in a desert city on the Arabian peninsula. It was hot and humid, and in some places hot and dry. I knew only sunshine, dust and curly heat waves. And books, of course. I devoured books because there was precious little else to do, other than shop, and what child likes to shop? My parents tried their best to make our lives more eventful. We had seven bookshelves in our house, all crammed with books. The books we couldn’t fit onto the shelves were tucked away under beds and on top of wardrobes and in stacked on bedside tables. We had swimming lessons, we went to many events, my mother created a club in which a group of people like us did activities together, cooking, sewing, swimming (lots of swimming in the heat), day trips to the desert, renting out villas where lots of families would just hang out and swim and barbecue, day trips to the beach). We had quite the community of friends, and thus we did have a great time.

However, my linguistic experience was mostly pushed forward by my love of words. Growing up, I mispronounced a lot of words. I tended to use words I came across in books, and when I pronounced them, I would misjudge where the stress on the word would lie, and so it would sound funny. My parents would laugh at us, and other people would look at us funny. I do it to this day, folks. So do most of my siblings.

I don’t really know why. So I think I talk funny. I pronounce all my letters, except sometimes for the ‘t’ in water. I sometimes make the word ‘food’ sound like ‘feud’. I talk very fast so sometimes my words run into each other. I think that is the influence of speaking Arabic with my father. Being bilingual is fantastic, but sometimes if I forget a word in either language I will substitute it with a word from the other language.

For example, the Arabic word for ‘stick’ is ‘lasaq’ (in some dialects), and I might say, “It’s not lassiq-ing!” if the word ‘stick’ doesn’t come into my head fast enough. Similarly, I might say to my father “Al-miftah laysa fee al–cabinet!” (The key isn’t in the cabinet)

How do you speak? And how has your language been influenced as you have grown up?

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