Dr. N.A.N.'s Blog

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Archive for Arab culture

A Circumcision Parade

While still in Marrakech, my parents and I spent several hours going through the main Souk (Arabic market). We started off in the town square (or what I think was the town square) which comes alive around 6pm every night. The square itself was congested with people selling stuff. There were snake charmers, henna artists, junk dealers, pastry makers, penny whistle musicians—you name it. And although I loved being immersed in the frenetic energy created by so many people, I was happy to enter the more organized part of the market.

I still haven’t figured out if this part of the market was part of a building or just had a tarp for a roof but merchants offered their wares from booths. Each booth was probably no more than 10 feet wide and 15 feet long so accommodations were cramped. It seemed that each vendor specialized in one product or variations on a product. One gentleman was selling dates and raisins and dried figs –apparently, there are many varieties of dates and thus many different “price points”. I’m not a big fan of dates so I wasn’t overcome with emotion at the sight of them. However, when we came upon a booth selling Arabic pastries. I sensed a quiver of excitement emanate from my father. He had discovered a booth selling a rich selection of pastries (mostly fried, light dough, sweetened with honey) similar to the ones he used to eat as a little boy while living in Constantine, Algeria.

Between the two of us, I think we picked out one of each kind! What makes these pastries so unique is that they are made with no preservatives and sweetened only with honey. Some of them have nuts, others just fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar. A lot of them have sesame seed paste or marzipan fillings. (My mouth is watering as I write this.) Typical of my father, he carefully doled these confections out over the next several days, not wanting them to disappear at the hands of others.
OK, so we finally made it through the Souk (not before we were given a half hour rug presentation by Mohammed, a master salesman) and found ourselves outside once again. Suddenly, we all hear this wonderful upbeat music coming from behind us accompanied by a lot of singing and clapping. We turned around to find a processional of musicians followed by a man and little boy on top of a horse that had been all decked out in equestrian finery. My mother asked our guide what was all the fuss about and Anas explained that this was a post-circumcision celebration for the little boy astride the horse. The man was his father and one of the woman on the ground was his mother. Apparently, the little boy (probably 3 years old) had been circumcised that morning and as was tradition, given his own little parade as the sun went down. Ouch.