The Interior Designer

Meknes, Morocco
September 2014

At breakfast I meet the American woman who arrived last night with two young men. She is an interior designer from California, who is now living in Austin, Texas — tall and lean, with long, blonde hair in a Hollywood Hills in the seventies kind of way. She is traveling with her grown sons as a college graduation gift to her youngest. As a surprise to her, the eldest son met them in London. Together, they’ve been driving from Marrakech to Erg Chebbi to Fes and now Meknes, stopping at various villages along the way to buy carpets. She says she’s bought 24 of them so far. She plans to have a big sale for her clients when she gets back to Austin.

She warns me about fly-by-night camel treks.She tells me about the trip so far, warns me about fly-by-night camel treks — hers turned out to be horrible. They got lost trying to find the place, and then there was a sandstorm during the trek, and they had to stay in the big communal tourist camp with no blankets. “But yours will be better, I’m sure,” she says.

She recommends I try a hamann, then tells me about her time in Marrakech. In the guidebooks they warn women that men roam around the Jemaa el-Fna at night and grope women who are gathered in the crowd. After several days there, she hadn’t been groped. “I was beginning to become self-conscious about it,” she says. “I didn’t want it to happen, right? But it was like why aren’t they groping me?”

Finally, on their last night, she and her sons were among the crowd watching some dancers. And that’s when it happened. Someone came up behind her and grabbed her butt and rubbed up against her. “You finally got groped, mom!” her sons exclaimed. “You got groped!”

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