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From a Café in El Jadida

Observation, 10 April, 17:00-18:30

I am situated facing a busy main road. I can hear cars passing by and can tell their size based on the rumbling they make: small motorcycles have a high-pitched rumble to them, while large buses sound like a scary monster who is very hungry. In addition to the rumbling, honking is frequent, and every so often I will hear a brake squeak, indicating its need of repair.

To my right, a café a few yards away is playing faint Arab music. I can’t make out the words, but I can tell by the beat (at 18:10, the music is definitely Khaled, as C’est La Vie and Hiya Hiya play). Also to my right, I can hear many conversations going on, mostly by men sitting at the tables outside. Since only a black metal fence separates the café I am at from the next, I can also hear what is going on in their kitchens—the rattle of silverware and the clanking of plates as they are being handled. At first, I think that the jangling metal I hear is that of coins in a waiter’s pocket, however after further observation, I realize that it is actually the sound of keys that people walk around with for apartments on rent for the night.

To my left, the noise is very loud coming from a construction site—I can hear a woodcutter that runs every ten seconds or so. There are not many cafés to my left, and so most of the noise is indeed construction.

In front of me come two teenage boys who have come to pester me for money. They try to get my attention by repeatedly calling me “my sister” in Arabic, but I don’t even look up and eventually the nice waitress comes to shoo them away after a few minutes. Also right in front of me is a pay phone. I am immediately behind it, so I can’t hear what anyone is saying very well, but there have been about five people so far (time: 17:30) coming to use it for 2-5 minutes at a time, mostly women.

I pick up on a few conversation as people walk in front of me, but very few. Most conversations are calm in nature; however, a pair of men recently walked by who were definitely arguing. Also, a small gang of boys has formed close by and I can hear their little voices chatting and joking with each other.

I am sitting in a male-dominated area, and I am the only single, stationary female as far as I can see. There are three men at my café, sitting at tables by themselves; in the café to my right, there is a group of three men, slightly older than me, sitting and eating. Actually, one is eating soup and a sandwich, while another is talking on the phone and the last is simply staring out into the street. There is a group of three women sitting by the payphone in front of me, one of them having already used it and now seem to be waiting for someone. The one who used the payphone has a little boy around the age of twelve.

Although I am not in an extremely visible spot, I have been thing of amazement in my short time here. So far, four little boys, a beggar woman, and now a man who looks to be homeless have approached me. The man did not want money from me (as he did not hold out his hand), but seemed to want to talk to me. By the tone of his voice, I feel as though he was reprimanding me for something (being by myself, not having my head covered, etc.).

And apart from those who have physically come up to me, there have been a lot of stares from men passing on the sidewalk, standing around with their friends, and even from those in the café I’m in and next to mine. It really must throw them off to see a woman sitting by herself in a café with a tea, busy writing something. I wonder what kind of reactions I would get it I weren’t busy writing this and instead were just observing them normally, enjoying my tea like all the men here seem to do. (And as I wrote that last sentence, another little boy came up to beg for money.) Perhaps I will try that someday.

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