Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Very Brief Disquisition on Selected Roots: Words, Flowers and Idolatry

This much I know: it is summer. Or to be woefully imprecise, it will be in 5 hours and 47 minutes from this very moment. Or to be just precise - which is always preferable - it will at 6:06 p.m. GT this evening. Indeed today, much of the world will celebrate or at least acknowledge in some wonderfully pagan way, the summer solstice, that heliotropic moment when our planet's axis tilts the most toward the sun. And for those of you intrigued by etymologies (and I include myself foremost among you), the word 'solstice' comes from the Latin noun sol (or 'sun' for the linguistically-challenged) and the verb sistere ('to stand still') - for this day, the longest day of the year, marks the day that the sun's movement is minimal. Interesting, no?

Perhaps not.

In layman's terms, this is the first day of summer - or so my calendar says. But those in the know will tell you that the equinoxes in fact don't indicate the start of a season but rather the midpoint (i.e. midsummer), so today is actually week six of summer and doesn't really bear getting all trippy about.

But I'm not one to argue with a calendar. After all, we need a few red letter days to get us through the morass of black ones (mark your calendars: only 55 days left until the Feast of the Assumption - whoo hooo!) - so I do want to get all trippy about it - but how? Unfortunately, we have no barbecue over which to roast veggie weenies & gelatin-free marshmallows. Besides, there are no veggie weenies
& gelatin-free marshmallows in Rabat. There is no volleyball net set up in our backyard. We have no backyard. And to make matters worse, I work tonight and Mr. Cat in Rabat works this afternoon, so we are unable to head off to the beach - certainly a fitting way to inaugurate the first day (or week 6) of summer - and expose our pasty flaccid bits (Rabat's loss) to the sun's harmful carcinogenic rays. So what do people do in Morocco?

A little digging on the internet brought to light that
bonfires are lit on Midsummer Eve in both Algeria and Morocco and that the day is sometimes dedicated to the PM's daughter Fatima - she of the ubiquitous hand. The roots of both the midsummer festival and the finger-splayed hand are thought to be window-dressed remnants of a pre-Islamic mother-goddess cult which, I confess, intrigues me in no little way. So armed with this exciting piece of lore, I asked my class of adult students last night about these midsummer rituals. They blinked at me like deer in the headlights and then, regaining their composure, tried to reason with me (in a tone that clearly indicated that they thought I was a retard), professing no knowledge of moonlight dances around a burning pyre and reminding me that the khamsa hand of Fatima represented the 5 Pillars of Islam.

Killjoys! I screamed in my head I thought. I was crushed.

Nonetheless, I am inclined to do something to mark this, the first day of summer (or week 6) so I have decided to brew a thoroughly un-Moroccan batch of karkaday - the thirst-quenching tart tea made from hibisicus flowers which for me, many years ago, made sufferable many an afternoon in Upper Egypt. These grizzled and gnarly bits of purple twigs and petals were generously schlepped back from Cairo by friend and fellow gin & tonic poker-aficionado Mr. N and have been growing mouldy in my fridge waiting for that fateful day (today! - day 1 or week 6 of summer) when I would get off my ass and do something with them.

By late afternoon, I shall have iced hibiscus tea.

By late evening, I shall have iced hibiscus tea and gin.

In either case, I raise a glass of good cheer to summer. And to Morocco's glorious cherries which have just come into season, making both me and Mr. CinR - erstwhile cherry-haters - into prunus avium addicts.
And to Morocco's mosquitoes who are late arriving this season and are graciously allowing me a few extra nights of drone-free sleep. And to the eight people I saw this morning who are still wearing winter coats. And to the little crimson sparrows and snowy doves which are pecking at the bird seed from my living room window sill as I type. And to Rabat's cats who manage - sometimes with my help and more often without - to eke out an existence. And to the city of Assilah, where I found this fanciful mural on a winter's day and where you can quaff a bottle of Moroccan rosé and nibble a trozo of manchego cheese from Spain while sitting in a café. On the street. Outside. Where others can see you.

Cheers! Happy first day (or sixth week) of summer!


Okie said...

Cat, what exactly does hibicus tea do for you? I use a lot of herbs for various treatments....

Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

I read that hibiscus tea - served hot or cold - is high in vitamin C and can aid in lowering your blood pressure. To be honest, I drink it cold because it's really refreshing.

Me and my camera said...

One can get (not in Rabat, I know) gelatine-free marshmallows?

Who knew?

How are they compared to "regular" ones?

Happy summer, BTW.

Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Don't know ... never tried them. But at least I know that I can make vegetarian Rice Krispies squares if I so wish ... although not in Rabat.

Me and my camera said...

What about Madrid?


Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

In sh'allah.

Me and my camera said...

"Can you say it in English?"

-Joe Jackson

Jillian said...

Dear Cat,

I'm fairly certain that Haribo marshmallows, bought from Label'Vie, do not contain animal products. I'd double check their website, of course.

Happy solstice!

Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Oh thanks for thinking of my dietary needs Taar but Haribo uses animal-based gelatin.

cory said...

so that's what all those bonfires were for last night...

maybe a dar al siba sort of thing?

Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Cory - seriously? There were bonfired?

cory said...

absolutely! and song and dance too! too bad i had no idea what they were saying.