The longest lunch ever

When a nomadic family comes for lunch, don’t be surprised if they show up before noon and leave after sunset, taking time for a little nap in the meantime

The longest
lunch ever

This is how it goes: straight after breakfast the family comes from the village. A colourful, singing group approaching, heard from the distance. We call them La Familia. They are like a Swiss clockwork; everyone has its role to fulfill. Mama Khadija prepares her tea setup – on a small table she puts tray, teapot, 10 tiny simple glasses, water and a cloth to clean them after each serving; from now on she will be making and pouring “atay” for everyone every 30 minutes on average. Sugar. Sugar is essential in traditional Moroccan tea. I don’t try to ask for tea without it anymore for it’s basically not possible to get one. Moroccan tea is brewed three times in the same pot; and in the same pot every time lands loads of sugar that just stays there.

Sisters Soukaina and Omayma slowly start to organize things in the kitchen: wash vegetables, prepare meat for delicious cous-cous. Believe me, this is not the same cous-cous known in Europe – instant porridge ready in 3 minutes, oh it’s far from it! When I told how we make it in Europe, Familia couldn’t catch breath from laughter. Now I know why. It takes at least 3 hours to make Moroccan cous-cous. It’s steam-cooked three times before it’s ready, every time spread on the chopping board and dotted with new portion of olive oil and water, and put back to the basket sitting on the pot. When sisters are cooking, the kitchen is full of music and laughter. Little Shih, Soukaina’s son, is running around, playing volleyball or just sprinting in the dunes. Mama left her tea stand for a while to look for a shoe that, she guesses, has been taken by stray dogs. The searching for the shoe continues until it’s finally found before dusk.

Brother Mustapha together with Papa Brahim walk around watering palm trees and herbs for which we fight every day in this dry climate. It takes a minimum of 5 litres for each plant every day. They also check if there is nothing that needs to be fixed in the camp and do small maintenance work.
Since the roles are so diligently divided and all tasks covered, my presence there is more of an entertainment than work. I usually stay near Mama and Sena, another sister, playing cards or other games, drinking tea, chatting in my broken Arabic/French. Or we take little Shih and go for a walk into the dunes.

After lunch we make up the space for siesta. Familia likes to stay close together and sleep in the same room (even in their spacious home where there are many big rooms, they choose to stay cuddling together in the smallest one). It is time for coffee and cookies – and this is my time! 🙂 Afternoon coffee is a new tradition, brought to Familia by me; it’s therefore the only thing I can help with. Then chatting, playing drums, walking and joking continues, for Familia is full of laughter and always happy when together.

The time to go back home comes when the sun goes down. It gets quiet so suddenly that I sit in awe wondering what to do with it.

Luckily Moha is on his way back from the village; now, after happy, but intense “lunch” with La Familia we can make a fire and enjoy our quiet time together.