It’s not my ceremony, but a ceremony for all Moroccans, King Hassan Two
New York – When it comes to big fat weddings I tend to have but a frail memory, except perhaps for the very few. The truth is that I was in so many big fat weddings that I couldn’t even remember which of which was the most impressive.
I still remember, years ago, when I was a poor miserable lad in Fez, in the suffocating heat of summer I would be lying on an edge-chipped slab of concrete gazing at the moon and the stars that quiver around it in the intense bleak sky. It seems to me like yesterday. I would be bored to death for having nowhere to go spend my summer vacation like kids whose parents were rich and could afford trips from Agadir to as far as Walt Disney Park. So I would be chilling in the spirit of the night when all of sudden I would prickle my ears like a bat and try to detect the noise that the night breeze brings undulating in my direction. It was always music to my ear to hear such a thing, the very boastful harsh noise of some man screaming at the top of his lungs in a microphone:
Ahh! Ahh! Ahh! Wajini! Wajini! Ah! Ah! Ah! Wajini! Wajini!
And not having much time to squander, I would jump to my feet like an Olympian gymnast and go carry out the set of steps which I considered a routine every summer. I would sneak into my older brother’s armoire and get my hand on his well-ironed white shirt and black trousers that he used but rarely. I would also steal his brand new shoes that he wore never for walking. I would afterward sneak to the scented room, not the toilet, where my mother kept rosewater and a paraphernalia of old cheap perfumes smuggled to the country via Sebta or Mellilia, and which all smelled the same to me. I would lavishly drizzle some of that unusual stuff on myself before living to my zinc-roof and cardboard-made Shaboula (shack) and grasp a box of empty Marlboro package, which I Kept for this sole purpose. I would also grasp a huge set of keys, always meant to open nothing, with a large key holder showing the brightly well-designed logo of BMW before finally hitting the road in the direction of where the noise emanated. Ahh! Ahhhhh! Waaaaj!
After a fine and swift dust-kicking-steady-walk, I would often find my self in front of a vast blazing gate of some palatial villa where a Big Fat Wedding of some sort was taking place. Now one must bear in mind that a stranger should never dare get near the shimmering gate let alone break through it. And for the daredevils who might do that there is always a human obstacle in the way, the gatekeepers per se. The gatekeepers consisted of a pair of two scrawny men who wore uniforms, one gray, and one cumin-colored. My only way of avoiding their eagle-eye caption was by going around the block and coming back from the corner where their blind spot was. I would walk afterward to the sidewalk where luxurious cars parked and I would lean on the door of one of them. When I made sure that the eagle-eyed gatekeepers spot me, I usually turn my back to them and take out a large handkerchief which I inherited from my Amazigh Grandpa Moh, and which I kept dearly for its blessing power. And then without the slightest gesture invoking suspicion I would start cleaning the windshield glass as though the car was my own.
BMW was always my car of choice because of the key holder that matches its logo. After I make sure that the two guards saw me, I would walk leisurely toward them and stand still. Soon after I would fetch the Marlboro package, which by now I had already stocked in a very efficient matter with 12 cigarettes of Marquise and 20 of Casa Sport, black tobacco, though I am a non-smoker. I would simply pull one filtered cigarette and thrust it into my mouth, letting it dangle unlit a la great Serge Gainsbourg. I would remain calm for a while and stare with the corner of my eye like some nasty bird to the guards. When I would make sure that they craved the cigarette that was in my mouth, I would take it and start to tap its butt with my hand as though I was just compacting it. Soon I judge immediately that one of the guards would ask me if I wanted matches, which usually I answer with, “ Yes, Lahaafou Alik!”
As soon as I lit my cigarette, I quickly offer the two miserable guards each a cigarette. We would smoke together chitchatting about nonsense and stuff. Then when I finished the cigarette, I would ask them to pay attention to my BMW, because I inform them that it had cost my Papa a fortune to buy. Often they would nod their heads in confirmation and I always feel as though they were about to knock the face of the sidewalk with their foreheads from the tremendous bobbing. They are nice people those gatekeepers. But before I know it, I find myself in the heart of the Big Fat Wedding sharing into Kaab l’ghazal, Pistachio drinks and other rare delicacies such as dancing with the most gorgeous women in the world. So creative and eventful, my life. I was so happy with it.
Still, it happened that only one exceptionally Big Fat Wedding, which left sweet thoughts in my memory, a wedding that impacted me quiet socio-economically more than any other Big Fat Wedding.
It the month of August 1984, I was so moist with sweat in a day, so hot that only Maskhout Waladinel would dare roaming the streets. I took upon my self to face the heat openly instead of facing it under the zinc-roofed Shaboola where the breathing was hard. I was basking in the sun fully engaged in fighting nasty horseflies that want to taste my sun-tanning homemade product, tomato juice and vinaigrette, which glazed my body. And when my older brother, Keoma (nickname), came to talk to me, he found me already knocking out most of the buzzing horseflies, they were punched down on their backs like spilled beans and shaking their legs in the air as though they were in a Pilates class.
“Listen up, Neil Young (He likes to call me Neil Young, for I sing a song of his using my nasal canal)” my brother’s vibrant serious voice said, “ There is a possibility that you would get some work to do and stop wasting time fighting noisome horseflies. If you just go and see Mr. Bin in his office. He is going to ask you few questions, but if you answered them right you could get the job.”
My job was incredibly simple; it consisted of soaking a sponge in a bucket of water then damp the wooden surface of a metal-framed advertisement pole that sat on four legs like a prostitute about to be laid. The surface of this thing was layered with a variety of promotional material from past elections, meetings, or whatever activity undertaken by the City Hall. The upright support’s facade was so encrusted with paint and paper that it took time to scrape it.
I scratched, scrubbed and rubbed but nobody wanted to tell us why we were doing the scraping. When we were done with a dozen or more of the poles, few workers showed up and painted the boards in either bleu-ciel, pink or faded blue. And each time I asked again why they were painting those boards, for there was always someone to tell me that it was a top-secret matter and that if I want to keep earning my bread I better keep my mouth shut. But I was curious, and I never want to keep my mouth shut for the sole goddamn sake of bread alone.
When we reached the amount of 100 boards or more, we were surprised to see two spray-paint calligraphers join us working in the atelier. What those two new workers did was fast and cool. They layered large layers of stencil on those previously ugly boards that we scraped and painted, and then they sprayed the whole thing with an array of paint, the outcome was the following: We Wish Our Glorious Princess Lala Meriyem Happy Wedding, or All Of The City Of Fez Wishes Our Dear Princess and Our majesty the King a Joyful Wedding, and other cute stuff like that. The Puzzle was solved.
Finally, I knew where we were going. I was playing a big part in the preparation of one of the greatest Weddings in the History of humankind. Actually, I was getting things ready for one of the loveliest, dared-by-all-Moroccans, princess. I was contributing for the big fat wedding of the first daughters of our king HassanII, the beautiful Lala Meriyem.
I understood afterward why the matter was kept top-secret, at least for us the workers in the garage. Mind you that that princess was also my favorite princess, not only because she was beautiful but also because she was very kind and generous. I remember her in a big ceremony in Fez where she handed keys of nice houses to the widows of some soldiers who died in some war, and also to those who remained alive but without limbs. It was then when I discovered how compassionate and how beautifully glorious under the sun she was.
To Be Continued …