It's the way to do business, speak with friends, catch up with family, work out life stuff. The Moroccans drink on average 10-15 glasses of tea per day. Sweet mint tea mixed with other fragrant herbs, sometimes rosebuds and ginger - delicious! - they call it their Moroccan whiskey.
Our friend Salah told me that psychologists are very rare in Morocco because if you have a problem, feel sad or angry there is always someone to have tea with and talk it all out. And there is always time taken to do so. Time literally stops when the tea comes out on the silver platters. Tea is taken as seriously as the conversation that goes with it. Business stops, no one goes near their phone while the tea is poured into the delicate little glasses, then poured back into the shiny silver pot and poured again from high in the air three times in total - for flavour, to aerate the tea and most importantly theatrics.
Tajine is a ceremonial feast. We have been spoilt this trip with various invites into homes of Moroccan friend's mothers, grandmothers, fathers, aunts, brothers, sisters! We have been welcomed, fed, drank so much tea, fed more. The end of Ramadan has been a big celebration of food and culture - I've learnt so much more on this trip about the culture, the people, the Islamic religion. I've learnt that the people are very kind to their poor and homeless always giving 5% of their earnings at the end of Ramadam go to the poor. Often when dining out with our Moroccan friends, whatever is left over gets wrapped up and taken with us, but instead of having leftover snacks later, its handed to a homeless person in the street. Amazing. I've learnt that the people I've been lucky to spend time with who've welcomed us into their homes will give you gifts and insist you take the gifts and it's expected that you always bring a gift to their home even if it's a rose from the garden, they are delighted! My friend's grandmother gave me the ring off her finger after I complemented her on it and simply would not hear of taking it back even after my protests, and asking Salah to translate to her that I can't possibly take her ring. She simply refused and even said she would be angry at me if I refused. I didn't want to upset this well loved woman in her 80's and now I have this most beautiful antique silver and emerald ring! Time for some mint tea.
It's impossible to be skinny in Morocco - the people love to eat as much as they love to drink tea and will insist you eat more and more. The bigger the woman the more attractive and I was told some women even take a tablet to put weight on! The meals begin with delicious Moroccon soup (lentil and spiced tomato), dates, a ground almond spice mix like dukka but sweet. Followed by tajine and hand ground bread which you break and scoop up the delicious food with your hand - no cutlery. We're getting so used to eating this way without slopping food all over ourselves. Ade found out last night the etiquette of only eating from your area of the tajine where you are sitting as he bent forward and scooped from across the other end of the tajine when he'd finished devouring his area - grandmother saw and shook her head disapprovingly and Salah told him off. We all laughed!
The tajine is cleared away and the most delicious sweets come out - little almond pastries and biscuits, spiced orange cake followed by a big plate of freshly cut melon the best tasting melon in the world and then of course a round of mint tea for digestion. And occasionally the sweet fruit shisha pipe will appear for a relaxing after dinner smoke.
Family is the most important thing, children are well loved and free spirited, the women are treated with so much respect - in the home they are the queens, they rule the house make all the decisions and are very proud of their culture. The men love the women of their family, adore their grandmothers, aunties, sisters, mother, wife who often all live together in the same home. Village child rearing mentality, something we sorely miss in our culture. And if there is ever a family drama, out comes the mint tea, and they gather around this wonderful refreshing drink, and soon all the problems have been washed away.