Rooftop Scenes 2, Fez

Windows (View from a rooftop) 25.06.10 Fez, Morocco (Café rooftop, near Bab Boujaloud)

I. Morning clouds are burning off. Or perhaps they aren't, perhaps they'll stay all day. But at any rate something's burning - plumes of white smoke coming from a small chimney, a smell which reminds me of London. I have to reach for the memory, but slowly, through the Moroccan morning, it comes: I'm 12, it's my first time in England, we're at the Imperial War Museum, moving through artificial First World War trenches. They have replicated (and softened) the moans of wounded men and the boom of guns; it's dark, there are flickering lights that illuminate plastic statues of officers bent over their plans, casualties lying still on stretchers, rats at the feet of a nervous recruit. But mostly the have put a smell into the room - a smell of soft, warm burning. A smell like this smell here, now, in the medina.

Three years ago we came to this same café and sat just as we are today, on the rooftop, with our tea. He made a sketch of an elaborate iron lampshade, which took him nearly two hours to complete, and I mostly watched him, occasionally making notes of my own. It was hot, I wore a veil of sweat over my face, large black sunglasses obscured my eyes.

Now the mint tea is finally cool enough to sip. Sunglasses? I can't decide. On, off, on, off, oh, well. Maybe it's better to squint anyway - to meet the haze with half-closed eyes. Alice says it gets cold here in winter. Today I'm willing to believe that; it's so cool, with the overcast sky and the breeze and the soft air. I see it's not all dry dusty heat. Nowhere, not even England or Africa, can be defined by weather alone.

II. There are cats on the rooftop (a cool tin roof!). Mean, skinny strays - a whole pack of them, moving towards us as a hungry phalanx.

III. Bab Boujloud was only built in 1913. And the cherry festival, at Sefrou, is the oldest festival in Morocco after only 90 years. So you see, it's strange that what seemed so old can be so new and yet things here - or at least the outline of things, the basis for them - are ancient. Medieval and often seemingly frozen in time.