October 15, 1998: A chorus of cheering men, ululating trills of joy, violin, flutes, tambours and drums accompanied the wedding caravan on the old road to R’hamna.
'Here he is coming slowly with a dark eye and golden color.
On a white stallion, Radouan sang as he rode along.
'What happened to those beautiful eyes?
The morning was clear and cool. Proud camels carried the wedding party to R’hamna and Sidi Maklouf; carrying Hafida with her mother; her sisters, her aunts and cousins; carrying Toni and Delphine, Francesco Monte and Nicholas K Brady III - proud camels, their liquid, lash-veiled eyes glancing disdainfully from side to side, their elegant gait in time to the music of the Haouz - Omar and his brother Mahjoub the spy; Houcein, J.W. and Mokhtar with the brothers of Radouan and Hafida, all walking along beside them on the old road to R’hamna.
Radouan and Prospero, nimble outriders, smiled at the world, their horses prancing up and down the line which stretched to the horizon.
'Oh my gazelle, come let us go,' he sang.
Within their curtained haoudaj Hafida’s sisters ululated in reply. Passers-by stopped and stared, crowds gathered at cross the roads, children ran along beside them and hovering above; a Press helicopter was transmitting the event to the world. Now that Radouan was a rich man the world was interested - the irony, the hypocrisy, of it all was not lost on him. Shaking his fist at the chopper, he reached Pero on his cell phone: ‘Tell them to take that fuckin’ machine away, it's cuttin' all the good vibrations. Tell them to join the party... not to break our mood.’
'Oh say to my mother, and say to my father, be tender with
The party had reached a small village where an advance platoon of cooks had been sent to prepare lunch. The scent of cumin, ginger, cloves, citron and burning meat rose in plumes of blue smoke across the Village Square. Two young women brought fat loaves of bread hot from the oven and bowls of olive oil to dip it in and then poured a sweet green tea, Tkhalet, of fresh Abda, Salmia, Aquatque, Fliyo, Chiba and Mardouch.
Gathering at tables on the veranda of an old cafe around the fathers of Radouan and Hafida, invited notables from the towns of the South paid their respects; offered congratulations, joked and exchanged gossip.
Meanwhile, the women had retired inside the café to loll upon soft carpets and pillows, while a young man with a falsetto voice, accompanied by a lute serenaded them.
Lunch arrived. Barefoot youngsters scampered here and there bringing tempting morsels of food to low round tables set for ten. Guests ate with their hands as was the custom, breaking bread, picking at the meat with nimblefingers, sopping up the juices with the warm bread.
Delphine, who was having a problem managing her food, speculated about what the Moroccan women would be thinking of them.
‘Not to worry,’ Toni whispered confidently, ‘that’s all been arranged. They’ve been told you are Francesco’s wife and I’m married to Nicholas. Harmless deception, darling, otherwise I’m afraid we couldn’t have come. You wouldn’t have wanted to miss this, would you?’
Delphine gazed at her grimly, ‘Perhaps I should have.’ She examined her food stained hands ‘Where do we wash up... do you see a toilet anywhere?’
‘Over there,’ Toni gestured, ‘but don’t worry, when they realize I speak their language, you’ll see we’ll all be great friends.’
After lunch they rested under feather light white wool blankets from the village of Bzu, and were awakened at four as tea and steaming cups of coffee, sweets and fresh majoun were passed around. Outside, the ratcheting of helicopters announced the arrival of more guests and later a line of European sports vehicles pulled up in the village square with Rupert and friends who had driven down from Zaragoza in Northern Spain. Everyone waved enthusiastically.
Toni glanced at Delphine, ‘My ex-husband... late as usual.’
Then an announcement from a bull horn in several languages: Everyone must now please leave their vehicles and mount camels for the last three kilometers to R’hamna. There was no choice. The road ended here where they had stopped and only a sandy path lay ahead. After some problems with guests who thought they could make it with their four-wheel drives, the party set off again in high spirits.
A chorus of mounted horseman shaking tam tams, trotted along beside them...
'From where am I,' they sang. 'From where are you?
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006