Four not-so-tiny women and I (also not-so-tiny) piled into a small Honda hatchback yesterday to climb up and out of Ain Leuh into the surrounding countryside to a tiny rural village called Bou Harsh. Khadija wanted to pay her respects to the family of a man who passed away two days ago. The man’s daughter, Halima and sister, Mehma both work at the cooperative.
The men were gathered in the graveyard burying the body when we arrived, positioning the body toward Mecca according to Islamic custom. We hiked up a steep graveled path to join the women on a neighboring hillside. There must have been hundreds of women milling about the hill, some crying and wailing, letting out their grief as other women physically held them up to prevent them from toppling down the hill.
By Islamic tradition, a body must be buried as soon as possible. The family then observes a three day mourning peroid, which in Ain Leuh means the house will be full of visitors eating and drinking tea with the family for 72 hours. The widow will dress in white and stay confined to her home for four months and four days.
After standing on the hill with Mehma for about an hour, we all packed into the back of a pickup and drove further up the unpaved road to eat lunch with the grieving family. It was a meal of beef stew with olives and home-baked bread, completely silent. I’ve never experienced such silence surrounded by so many Moroccan women, and probably never will again.