Hijrah Diaries: Traditional Medicines of Morocco

Here is April’s Hijrah Diaries from the print edition of SISTERS Magazine:

The Hijrah Diaries

In Part Six Brooke arms herself and prepares to take on the Moroccan herbal scene but learns that there aren’t any concoctions that miraculously create extracurriculars.

Day 97 Last night I was introduced to yet another herbal concoction by the in-laws. The first Moroccan remedy I was ever introduced to was when a friend of the family wanted to give my first baby louiza tea (lemon verbena) on an especially fussy-filled evening. My gut reaction was to say “NO!” But I second-guessed myself since this woman had her five, healthy grown children, masha Allah, and I had just one newish little baby. I sheepishly agreed. He drank the tea. Loved it. And slept well and long, Alhamdulillah.

Since being in Morocco I have seen lots of cooking herbs brewed and chewed and poulticed and pumiced. Initially I tried to just politely and quietly accept the practices, but I could hear my doubtful tongue weakening and I decided it would be best to arm myself with some knowledge before I have another louiza incident. The Biologist (sister-in-law), The Husband and I all sat around the computer researching the various herbs that their family has used for generations. Cute past-times we have, eh? Most of them are common enough that we knew their names in English, so off we went on a lovely virtual flower and herb tour. This has, of course, seeded a bunch of homeschooling projects, and flower seeds for grandma have been added to the list of stuff to bring back from the states. Before this demanding study was undertaken, my conscience kept waffling – mythical old wives’ tales that are good or mythical old wives’ tales that are bad? Are there both kinds? Or only one kind? I mean, I’m as crunchy as they come. I home-birthed most of my babies and happily use homeopathic remedies straight out of their hermetically sealed packages. Still, I had nagging doubts about the validity of the remedies.

Well, it turns out that everything herbal taken by the grandparents for whatever conditions they suffer from, have been scientifically proven to actually work for those conditions. The kids, as in the hub and his sis, momentarily considered retaining this information from their parents, but ultimately it was a millisecond of pride swallowing on the kids’ part and a parental response equivalent to, “well no duh.” The parents have endured sideway glances for decades, but they always knew they were right! I’m still taking my coffee with milk and sugar, no thyme thanks.

Day 103 Finding extracurricular activities for the kids is proving to be really complicated for reasons I, once again, cannot wrap my head around. I keep having that pestering thought that maybe it is easier for wholly expat families, not one foreigner and one citizen, like us. The cultural stuff is so complicated to maneuver and as a clueless expat I could just mindlessly barrel through it all. Obnoxious little fantasy, a’udhubillah. And so much more obnoxious when compared to the experiences of immigrants to my country. I do know that many things that would be so difficult for me to accomplish as a foreigner are pieces of halawa for the husband or his family to accomplish. But then again, things which I think should be so simple to accomplish seem to need unnecessary nagging and persistence to get done, or are still not done!

Maybe one challenge is that which I can only recognize as “hang ups,” that which I know I would have if I were on my own home turf. Like, I wouldn’t take the kids to X because it has a bad reputation or if I knew of someone who went to Z once and hated it. So sometimes I am being saved from those kinds of situations.

What I think may be happening is that the husband and his family have preferences or avoid certain places and things based on their own assumptions and experiences. Some places look just dandy to me, but it’s possible that the husband or his family don’t like the neighbourhood or the street or have heard something about the owner or something. It’s the same with me at home in San Francisco, there are certain places I try to avoid or give an undeserving preference to – not necessarily based on direct experience, but just gossip or reputation. Or maybe it’s something else even. The pace is different, the priorities are different, and the urgencies are different. Different does not mean more than or less than. It means not the same. This, I must make my mantra and repeat over and over. I just don’t know what the delay is and I am frustrated that I have very active little kids and no parks and no recreational facilities, no bike paths, no yellow pages, and I need some Kung Fu or Jijitsu or something! For them, of course. For me, I have found a lovely little lady-friendly cafe with delightfully delicious petit fours and crepes and briouats and panaches. All of which I am in need of right now.

Day 105 Hassan and The Oldest Child are packing to leave tomorrow and I am being a big baby again, as per usual. I’m in here pouting while they strategically calculate how many pairs of socks to take. I am trying to hold onto the positive aspects of this trip; less people to share the bathroom with and an excellent father-son opportunity. It will probably also be easier to adjust to this extended-family living stuff. As much as I complain and fuss, it may be hardest for Hassan since he sits at the center of the spokes and he is constantly worrying about everyone’s well being. He’s like a cultural attaché 24-7, explaining me, explaining the kids, explaining the parents, explaining the cultures – and of course not getting it all right and often having to make further amends. Very confusing for me, but surely very stressful for him. A little break, a change in the programme, may do us all good, insha Allah. Although this will increase my sister-in-law’s work load (‘The Interpreter’), oh yeah and mine (‘The Primary Care Giver’)… grrr… very, very hard to remain positive and thankful right now. Alhamdulillah.

Day 107 My 12 year old baby is going to miss Ramadhan in Morocco. I didn’t point it out to him because he seems pretty excited to do some more travelling or whatever it is he’s excited about. But I am a little bummed. Not only is it going to be nice to have big suhoors in the house with a bigger family, but we will also be fasting with the ENTIRE NATION. The son is too young to know what he’ll be missing out on, but I’m stoked! Of course, never one to just accept that gift horse-thingy graciously, I am also a bit worried. Our Ramadhans in the States have evolved so much since I was first married that I currently have a bundle of persistently hungry little joys. I have learned to be a keeper of K.I.S.S. – keep it simple sister – and very fearful of what may be expected of me to contribute in the kitchen. The in-laws insist that they also keep it simple and don’t do a lot of work – but we have very different ideas about what “a lot of work” is. Well, since Ramadhan is a few more months away, I guess I can go back to worrying about other stuff, like childhood illnesses and parasites and homeland security, oh – or my deen. Think I’ll go worryfully work on that right now.


Here’s some tea recipes for using louiza (lemon verbena) and other herbs Moroccan style. The louiza is my favorite and I drink it iced all summer.