(Thanks to Nick for creating this incredibly lifelike graphic)
Maybe I should start a dry cleaning business and start calling Hanane Weezy…
I’ve really enjoyed living in the Casbah of Sefrou. I love that I live in the heart of the oldest part of the medina, that I know all my neighbors, that the vegetable souk is nearby, and that the Oued Aggai (Aggai River) flows right outside my window and I wake to the sounds of birds and water.
What I haven’t enjoyed is the roughly two hours I spend each day crammed into a grand taxi and the fact that Hanane sometimes gets harassed by young men as she walks to our little house. I’ve missed having hot water, a real shower, and being convenient to all of the things that you don’t find in a small town in Morocco.
To top it off, when Hanane moved in after we got married, her mother came for a visit and was totally terrified of our neighbors and neighborhood. She won’t come visit us again. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like our neighbors and neighborhood. The people are poor, many of the women are prostitutes, there is a fair amount of kif smoking, kids running amuk, gambling in the narrow ways, and more, but it’s been good for me. It’s not a place for Hanane though. Moroccan society is so incredibly stratified, the harrassment of women in poor areas is atrocious, and all of this adds to a certain ‘hshuma’ or shame for her family.
So, with all of that, we decided to see if we could find a place to live in a decent neighborhood in Fez. I posted a notice that we were looking for a place in the teachers lounge of the American Language Center and several teachers offered me tips, phone numbers, the chance to rent their big apartments, and helpful advice. The problem was that most of the places we looked at were way out of our price range. Moroccans don’t typically tell you the price until they know if you like it or not and in Fez, it seemed that we would be lucky to find something for between 3000-5000 dirhams a month (about $400-$700) if we wanted to live near the ALC or in a decent place. That’s a big jump from the 700 dirhams we pay in Sefrou.
Yesterday, we had called a lady the ALC told us had apartments and she had agreed to show us a couple of them. When we arrived in Fez and met her, she told us that she had rented them out. Of course she knew this before and only wanted the chance to show us around and try to charge us a small fee for her efforts. She introduced us to a couple of landlords who assured us that we would find nothing for 3000 in Fez. Then she tried to get us to give her some money. I refused but Hanane has a soft heart and gave the lady 10 dirhams. I was annoyed that she had wasted our time.
I called my friend Omar-Sam from the ALC. He told us that a man who owned a bakery near his house had some apartments for rent. Hanane was frustrated and tired but we went and met up with Sam. It turns out he lives in the same neighborhood where big mustached coffee drinking landlords had just told us that we would find nothing under 4000 dirhams.
We went to the bakery and they showed us some very nice apartments. The owner, called The Hajj, met with us later. He was an incredibly nice man. Turns out he owns most of the block. He told us we could have the apartment we had looked at for just 2000 dirhams! Then he suggested that we look at the apartment on the top floor. It had a beautiful view, a nice balcony, and everything we were looking for. Plus it’s across the street from our friends Omar-Sam and Sarah and is near a fresh vegetable market. The elevator works, the building is secure, everything was beautiful. I expected that since he was showing us an upgrade apartment, the price would also go up.
It didn’t! In fact, he even told us that he was going to fix a couple of things before we move in. When we asked about the deposit, he told us that since we are friends of Sam-Omar and Sarah that we wouldn’t need to pay a deposit. Because his bakery is below us, the smell of fresh bread wafts into the kitchen. We agreed, of course. We hadn’t expected to find anything so quickly and we had decided to look at a bunch of places first, but this was like a gift from God.
The Hajj told us that he would give us the keys the next day, not charge us to move in for the remaining days of this month, and suggested we move right away so that I wouldn’t have to commute any longer.
It feels like we must be doing something right.
So, we’re moving on up. I suppose I’ll have to change the tagline of this blog once we move from the Casbah….any suggestions?http://www.jailguide.com/images/TheVagobonds.jpg