Thursday, November 23, 2006

The unexpected dangers of riads

Living in a riad can be an interesting experience. Renovating one, even more so. During renovation there are the usual dangers of walls or ceilings collapsing, falling scaffolds and the odd roofing-tile crashing down beside you. You can also slip on polished zellij. However, once the building work is done and the courtyard finally cleared of scaffolding, it is tempting to relax.

That was exactly what we were doing last night. My friends and fellow workers, Noredin, Mernessi and Mouaniss were sitting around chatting beside the fountain. It was a beautiful cool dusk in the Fez Medina. Ghengis, our chameleon, had curled up in the orange tree and was already asleep, the birds in the lemon tree were having a quiet song session in thirty-part harmony and over walls in the Medina the last notes of the call to prayer were fading into the hills. All was perfect.

Then, out of the blue (literally), came a loud crack, and a thump and we were sprayed with shrapnel. We ducked instinctively - those of us who had spent time in war zones, more than the others - as the shower of stone fragments sprayed around us. For a second there was silence. On one side of me someone swore in Darija, on the other in French. With good reason. There in front of us was length of heavy-duty reinforcing steel that had come flying over the wall from the terrace of the neighbour's house It had hit the nozzle of the fountain and ricocheted onto the tiles beside us. The lumps of cement and rock that had been attached to it now lay around our courtyard or in the fountain. That nobody was hit, killed or injured was a miracle.

Usually I am pretty mild mannered, but something in me snapped. Having a projectile landing in my courtyard was not on my list of must experience things. Up to this point I had great relations with those who lived around us and now that all our construction noise was at an end I had expected things to improve even further. A missile attack seemed out of character. Angrily I strode across the courtyard to where I could see the neighbour's terrace and called out asking what the hell did they think they were doing and was that any way to treat neighbours?

A sheepish face appeared. A woman held up a small four year old boy and pointed to him. "Sorry", she said. "He was playing."

I turned to Mouaniss and asked if he believed that a four year old could throw such a thing and score a perfect hit on the centre of our fountain.

"Yes," he replied. "Of course I believe it. Moroccan children are so strong!"

I am sure there is a moral in this story, but at the moment I am too busy inventing a restraint for four year olds to contemplate it.


1 comment:

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Yikes, glad you made it out alive. It would have been a little tricky explaining at your funeral how you had been done in by a four-year old....

PS Loved the thirty-part haromony of the birds.