Back at the hotel Radouan was so keyed up he couldn’t sleep and spent the better part of the night in Delphine’s arms trying to explain him self.
‘You can’t imagine what it is like being an Arab guy these days...’ he said soberly after a long silence.
‘I can imagine but I probably wouldn’t get it straight.’ Delphine sighed.
‘From our fathers, our teachers, our Imams, our Muftis and their books we are taught we are worth thirty percent more than woman. Thirty percent! Yet we feel helpless, cornered, surrounded, hounded and under attack from all sides.’
‘You have to do something about your paranoia,’ Delphine said, ‘there are certain things you can take... Surrounded and hounded by whom?’
‘By these beards, who want to take us back to the dark ages,’ he replied with a kind of stubborn sincerity, 'by powerful rulers whom we never choose and by their deputies who try to cheat us at every turn. By selfish shopkeepers and businessmen... all these people harassin’ us. Yes... and now by our women, from every side, attacking us... even in the house!’
‘Attacking you in the house...’ Delphine sneered, ‘attacking YOU? Impossible!’
He kissed her hands and laid his head on her breast, his voice barely audible. ‘Maybe harasser, harass, would be a better word. Here in Morocco we know all about the toughness of women... that beneath their smiles and their laughter our women are aggressive and powerful…like crocodiles. We think we know how to handle them but now something new is happening: Television. TV is replacing the Muezzins.’
She stroked his forehead. ‘You must give us women more freedom, more choices... then we’ll stop being so aggressive… whoever says woman is worth only thirty percent of man is not very observant.'
He smiled up at her. ‘I’m not talking about you and me; I’m talkin’ about Moroccan Life. Not long ago, our houses were like oases in the desert. Twenty years ago we men, we had our own spaces where we could meet and talk, where we could be peaceful together, discuss and joke without women constantly invading. Now everywhere on the streets, in the cafes, these women are passing by and even sitting in offices staring at us like we are nothing - upsetting our tranquility and tempting us at the same time.’
‘When you finally stop separating girls from boys at the age of six, later in life they will feel more comfortable with women.’
‘But we have no money to attract them! This is the big problem for us: women are not... you must know one thing... most women are NOT interested in sex for pleasure, but for money, security and for having children, as many as possible, to keep the man down.’
Delphine laughed and cuffed him lightly. ‘You like being my slave, admit it.’
‘Thas’ different... you are my Goddess. What can I do but worship you... What I’m talking about is something different. Except for men of the cities whose families have lived there for centuries, many of us have grandfathers who were mounted warriors. Now what are we supposed to do? Our minds are sharp; as children we must memorize Qur’an, and hope to recite the whole of it. But our resources are limited because exclusive networks that don’t care about us anymore control everything. Before, we protected these people. Now they don't need us, they have robots, rockets and helicopter warships so they reject us and don't want to see our faces...’
‘Somebody has to run those warships and fire those rockets, why not you guys.’
‘Any moron can be taught to push buttons, anyone who can play these video games, but to fight, to be a fighter is another thing. Mounted warriors have been replaced by men in tanks and planes, by missiles...by computers. In the past our cry was, WITH THE PLOUGH COMES DISHONOUR... we rejected settled life and boundaries... Believe me; our traditions are very antique, older than all the religions. But now because of this past we are left, most of us, with nothin’ but history and a big bag of tricks. Believe me; nowadays the most educated among us are often the worse off and under attack by the world media who portray us as potential terrorists...which is a very wrong idea because the terrorists are animals. And they exist in every country, not only in Arab countries. Really, it’s a very difficult thing to make people understand that more than anything we want peace and happiness.’
Delphine massaged his forehead: ‘what turns the world against you is your attitude toward us. In the foreign media, women hold many important positions. They decide what gets on the radio and TV and what doesn’t. They don't like your treatment of women; your ideas that we are less than men, that we are semi-human beings fit only for pleasure or slaves called wives, who must spend their lives bearing children and working hard in the house.’
‘In Morocco our treatment of women is not so bad as you make out, but what you say is true, we are kept separate from them from childhood so we don't understand them and often we are afraid of them.’
‘That’s so ridiculous!’ Delphine laughed and thumped his head playfully.
‘You think so?’ Radouan sat up. ‘I am afraid of my own mother. Jus’ you don't know, tha's all… and our lives are changing too fast... it should happen slowly else the men become frightened and grow beards and the women cover their faces because they are frightened too. My father for example, nowadays he’s afraid to go out on the street. Of course he’s sick so he can’t, but part of his illness is that he’s afraid to go out because things have changed so much. When he was eighteen there were not more than fifty cars in all of Marrakech. Now look... thousands of cars and taxis and suddenly our Medina is filled with foreigners taking pictures of us because they think we are quaint. What we are is very POOR ... and because of that our world is dangerous... maybe not for you, but for our own women believe me, the streets here are dangerous. We don't want them out there at all. We must protect them and believe me we do!’
Delphine starred grimly at him: ‘Mmm... By beating them when they talk back to you, I suppose. By not speaking to them for months... locking them up when you go out...’
‘It’s important they remain pure. They are the foundation. We must have them, but their power must be expressed in a private way... not on the streets and in offices. It’s a shame for us to see them in these offices because it means we men are unable to provide for them and they must go outside to make money.’
‘That’s ridiculous!’ Delphine gazed at him in disbelief. ‘I go outside. I make money. As the world has changed, don’t you think you should give up these traditions?’
Radouan sighed. ‘Listen to me. You come from Europe, which is a very new culture... our traditions come from thousands of years’ experience. These new attitudes of yours toward women are less than three hundred years old - only a moment in history. Maybe we’re waitin’ to see what will happen next. Our culture is very conservative; we don't accept new things easily. And believe me WE KNOW WOMEN. In times past our women have fought alongside us in battle... the wives of the Prophet himself, for example. We know the woman inside and out. If left to her self, we know she is far more ruthless and unforgiving than the man. These traditions and beliefs are imbedded in the structure of our Arabi language. You can’t change them by making’ laws, but television is! You don’t have to be literate to watch TV and the women are watching. Not the stories or the news, but the clothes, the cars, the jewelry, the villas and they want it all… this luxe life... they want it and are furious with us when we can’t give it to them - which makes us very angry and leads to violence. It is the Arab women watching TV and harassing their men that causes the men, since they can’t progress, to regress into Fundamentalism… It’s like THAT.’ He kissed her hands, ‘What do you think?’
‘Maybe you should have been a professor,’ she said, ‘my father was a school master.’
‘Yeah. I was supposed to... but after graduating university with honors I found I had to pay reshwa, a bribe equal to five years salary... just to get a posting as an Instructor in one of our universities! My family is naive, we had never heard of these things... suddenly I was blocked because I hadn’t the money to pay.’
‘It’s a shame you couldn’t teach... ’
‘Thas’ life... Macha’allah! At certain coffee shops here they still call me The Teacher.’
‘Have they seen you dance?’ she asked mischievously.
‘Who?’ Radouan asked irritably.
‘These guys who call you Teacher, dancing is a great art.’
Radouan laughed. ‘Sometimes we go out in the woods together and get drunk, someone plays a flute or a drum and I dance... and sing too. Before I went to university I had my own small orchestra and sang. We made good money singing forchestra and sang. We made good money singing for parties, but my mother and father insisted I go on to University. Huge mistake! Still I love them - when I was young my father was one of the strongest men in the Medina. Tha's why I feel bad about him now. When I reach forty, maybe I’ll begin to sing again; Inch Allah.’ After that you will find me with my friends who now sit in the cafes.... We’ll be old men then and you will find us in the mosque prayin’. Tha’s the way life ends here... for a thousand years or more. Our lives - only moments in history.’
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006