Zohra's Ladder & Other Moroccan Tales

Zohra's Ladder & Other Moroccan Tales

by Pamela Windo


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781903070406
Publisher: Eye Books
Publication date: 05/28/2005
Pages: 200
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Pamela Windo has contributed to British Conde Nast Traveller, Departures, National Geographic Traveler, and New York Daily News.

Read an Excerpt

It was March, the end of my first week in Morocco. The air was damp and I was chilled to the bone because after the first few days of hot sunshine, the spring rains had come and hadn't stopped for four whole days. I lay curled up under a blanket in my little room off the courtyard, listening to the monotonous rhythmic splashing on the ceramic tiles, disappointed that I couldn't go out to explore Marrakesh. Fatima had offered me a larger room with stained glass windows on the upper floor, but I'd preferred to stay in the courtyard, in the heart of the house, to observe the comings and goings.

Fatima lived deep within the massive ramparts, in the labyrinth of the Medina. Najib, the elder brother, had accompanied me as he doubted I'd ever find the house on my own. A petit taxi dropped us as close as it could get to a narrow sandy alley, lined on either side with high salmon-pink windowless walls. It was hard to imagine that homes lay behind them; the only sign of this were the doors, low and solid, with great iron hinges, knockers and bolts. The walls protect the inner life as veils protect the features of the face. We wove our way along the teeming thoroughfare, among women in rainbow-colored djellabas, men in more somber turbans, boisterous children, mopeds, mules and bicycles.

The sun beat down, intensifying everything, casting dark shadows beside brilliant bursts of sunlight, and the heady scents of musk, amber and incense mingled with the stench of animal and vegetable waste.
We stopped at a door and Najib rapped loudly. A young girl of about ten-years-old wearing an apron led us through a cool dark passageway that brought us suddenly into a wide sun-drenched courtyard. At its center stood a marble fountain surrounded by bitter orange and lemon trees, and above it was a broad square of dazzling blue sky, framed by luminous sea-green roof tiles. It was an old house - perhaps a hundred years or more - and in need of repair, but the electric-blue doors and arabesque window grilles, the whitewashed walls, and the colorful ceramic tiles shone with freshness and gave it an aura of timelessness. I had stepped out of reality into a dream. I fell in love with Morocco in that moment.

Fatima had been widowed some ten years before and had two sons and two daughters, all of them grown up and living away from home. She lived alone now, with a young orphan girl she'd taken in to train as a maid. An Arab from F�s, known for its fair-skinned people, Fatima was a small and delicate woman with short wavy chestnut-hair. She wore layers of pink gauze, and reminded me of Bette Davis, having a similar petulant look about her eyes and mouth.

Now, suddenly, the door of my room opened wide. It was Fatima: "Toi veux aller hammam?" she asked in broken French, grinning shyly at me. She was offering to take me to the communal baths. Not only did the house have no heating, there was no hot water either. The thought of steaming and soaking for hours sounded like heaven. Poor heat and air-conditioned brat, I admitted to myself, sitting up quickly and nodding to my thoughtful host.

While I got dressed, Fatima busied herself with gathering buckets, pots, towels and sundry items from a storeroom in the courtyard and before we left the house, she handed me a djellaba to wear, arranging the hood deeply over my forehead, like her own. We scurried along the crowded derbs, muddy and waterlogged from all the rain, looking like monks in our all-concealing habits. We passed the local mosque, tucked between two grocers' stalls; a Muslim has to eat to live, and be clean to pray. Interdit aux non-Musulmanes, forbidden to non-Muslims a sign read; the result of French soldiers' misuse during the Protection. And then we came to the neighborhood hammam, with its two blue-tiled doorways set in rough ocher walls.

What People are Saying About This

Hamish M. Brown

"I'm in Essaouira, where I've just happily devoured "Zohra's Ladder."
Scottish writer, June 2005

Mohammed VI

"Your works give readers fascinating insights into life in Morocco and attest to your deep passion for my country."
His Majesty, the King of Morocco

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