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Bahloul, a short, roundish figure who wears a sprig of myrtle in his curly hair, will ensure that you are provided with room, board and hashish straight from the Atlas Mountains. He will characterize your lodgings as an "art house." Don't be fooled. Although Moroccans regard themselves as worldly and generous, it is prudent to agree on prices beforehand. Be prepared to haggle.
      Don't be alarmed if representatives of the police stop by from time to time as Bahloul is related to the Minister of Culture. Do be sure to avail yourself of the terrace, which provides dazzling views of the medina and the ocean beyond, and overlooks the old insane asylum, where, Bahloul will tell you, it was once thought evil spirits could be expelled by strapping one's head in a bag of sand. In spite of the occasional piercing shriek that may rise up from the old quarter, the terrace is a pleasant place to take the sandalwood-scented air while enjoying a glass of overwhelmingly sweet mint tea.
      Bahloul is prone to fits of paranoia. He may require reassurance that you are not one of his father's spies or an emissary from his many enemies and former lovers. Tell him you're in "real estate" (preferably in German) and nod knowingly. Placated, he may invite you to the Turkish Bath House; decline this invitation firmly. Remember that most Muslims regard Westerners as moral degenerates, and are not easily dissuaded of this notion.
      You will be taken on tours of the city to visit various friends and associates. You will be abandoned in a rug seller's shop for the better part of an afternoon. Here you will be encouraged to buy tiny, overpriced rugs depicting rifle-toting horseman spiriting women away from a walled city (either a dramatic rescue or a prelude to sodomy, depending on your point-of-view) and drink more of the minty tooth rot you can no longer do without.
      Bahloul will throw a lavish party to celebrate your departure. Keep a close watch on what you imbibe for should you disappoint Bahloul you will be presented with an exorbitant bill in the morning. Moroccans respect poets and holy men, making the correct answer to any question you don't understand: "When the moon comes dancing on the table." You should know, however, and know well, that this incantation will only get you so far, for this is not the same pallid rind that shone through your bedroom window as a child, driving the dark things into their hiding places. No. The moon over Magreb is a deranged ghost scaling your Andalusian ramparts, a sickle of bone at your naked throat.




bag of sand