Monday, August 21, 2006

Support Our Babouches

Having just returned from a junket to the US, where there is, I believe, an unofficial contest to see whose car can boast the most red, white & blue or yellow or pink magnetic ribbons bearing such pithy exhortations as:

*Support Our Troops Our Firefighters
*POW/MIA - You Are Not Forgotten
*Keep Daddy/Mommy/My Son/My Daughter Safe
*911 Never Forget
*Freedom Isn't Free
*Autism Awareness (whose bespeckled multi-coloured ribbon I erroneously assumed was Support Our Smarties)

... I was struck (as always) with the unbelievable cheapness of food, alcoholic beverages, clothes, and more importantly, footwear in that country. Indeed, Mr. Cat in Rabat & I bagged 4 pairs of shoes for under $35.00 which, for me, is a personal best.

I like shoes.

At the risk of self-stylizing myself as the Imelda Marcos of Morocco, I will confess that I have more than my fair share of shoes ferretted away in my closet & under my bed. But to be fair, the vast majority of my footwear is a variation on a theme: the undervalued and oft-maligned flip-flop, my footwear of choice since rather excuciating painful foot surgery last summer, in spite of the fact that there is now no physical reason why I cannnot squeeze my pared down feet into a real pair of shoes. Except a psychological one. But that's another story.

And while I share my shoe fetish with a large-ish number of Moroccan women, the similarity ends there. Whereas I schlep around Rabat in my sequined flipflops, most Moroccan women walk the streets in one of two basic styles of foorwear: the babouche or the fuck-me shoe (FMS). The babouche is a soft leather (or silk or rattan) mule-like slipper available in a wide selection of colours, while the FMS is a tight pointy-toed shoe whose vertiginous heel is responsible for the majority of nose-bleeds, sprained ankles & conceptions in Morocco. One might assume that the babouche is favoured by the more conservative element of Moroccan women and the FMS by the converse - but this would be incorrect. Confirming yet again my belief that there is a deep-seated schizophrenia at play in Morocco's more urbane centres, kaftanned women can be seen in FMS's (albeit with a pair of socks) and bare-midriffed pretty young things often opt for a pair of flat mules. Go figure.

Both styles of shoe set my teeth on edge but it is the babouche which really drives me to distraction. This innocuous and seemingly sensible slipper brings out the worst in its wearer (and possibly in me). Why? - the babouche renders its wearer unable to walk without shuffling/scuffling his or her feet and scuffing up the sidewalk; indeed, he or she can be heard slap slap slapping at least a hundred meters away, and I find myself stopping dead in my tracks and shrieking (at least in my head) pick up your goddamn feet when you walk!

The more insightful reader will quickly understand that the benign little babouche has become my bête noir not because of its attendant foot-dragging but because it is incontestable proof that I have turned into my parents. When did this happen? And what's next? - will I begin stopping Rabatians at random to remind them to turn out the lights when they leave a room? Not to run with scissors? To wear clean underwear in case they get into an accident? Not to go outside with a wet head? Not to cross their eyes lest they stay that way?

O the horror.

This is clearly something I have to get over but between my mother's voice playing like a loop inside my head and the unnerving sh-sh-shuffling I hear everywhere I go, I frankly see little hope. It would serve me right if "Support Our Babouches" ribbons begin to appear on the trunks of Rabat's ubiquitous Citroëns and Fiats. Sigh.

Footnote: "Morocco will take part in the 39th MIDEC International Shoe Exhibition scheduled on Sept. 2-4 in Paris ... Morocco, which takes part since 1995 in the MIDEC, at a rate of two editions per year, exported in 2005 more than MAD 1.67 billion shoes towards its principal customers: France (40%), Spain (31%), Germany (13%) and Italy (9%)."

*Sigh* .... the slap-slap-slap heard around the world.

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