Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists

By Joanna Kadi | Go to book overview

Moroccan Steam

LINDA SIMON

"We are going to the hammam today," Janat said, "Bring a big towel."

I shared lodgings with Janat in Morocco. I had been looking forward to my first visit to the hammam, or steam bath, and hurried to pack. We drove to Aisha's near the old walled city, and found her loading a straw basket. We hugged and smiled and kissed each other repeatedly on both cheeks. "I can't wait to see the hammam," I enthused.

Aisha, the teacher, smiled at me and explained, "It's not a health club—and it's not a class thing," she added, anticipating one of my usual questions, "Everyone goes to the hammam."

We brought much more than towels. In fact, the preparations reminded me of going to the beach. Each of us carried a bright plastic pail filled with soaps, creams, homemade potions, pumice stones, and combs.

From the outside, the one-story building looked ordinary, just another arch off a narrow alley in the oldest part of town. We entered through two sets of swinging doors and found ourselves in a large dressing room where women were changing or, swathed in towels, sat cooling on benches that lined the walls. We paid the sixty-cent fee to a middle-aged woman staffing the counter, then removed all our clothes and left them folded on a bench with our shoes tucked underneath. This is it, I thought, and we skittled through a heavy wooden door.

The picture that greeted my eyes remains vivid. In a gray stone room with high, opaque windows, 100 nude women and children doused their bodies with bowls of water, washing hair and scrubbing skin. Vapor rose from stone walls and floors. Voices and clattering sounds echoed all around. Every size and shape of body, hue from cream to chocolate, swayed in the mist like reflections on a pool.

The hammam was a series of three progressively hotter rooms, the innermost of which held the flowing hot water supply. With our

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Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Related Titles from South End Press *
  • Food for Our Grandmothers - Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments x
  • A Note about Arabic Terms xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Food for Our Grandmothers *
  • I - Olives Our Roots Go Deep: Where We Came from *
  • Olives 3
  • Recognized Futures 5
  • Sittee (on Phantom Appearances of a Lebanese Grandmother) 7
  • Great-Grandma Michael 18
  • Longing for Winter 21
  • Battling Nationalisms to Salvage Her History 24
  • For My Son Shaadi 30
  • Crossing over to the Other Side 32
  • The Queen, Carcasses, and Other Things 39
  • One Room 48
  • Chalked out 50
  • Unpicked Fruits 56
  • II - Bread a Basic Desire : Going Home *
  • Bread 63
  • Boundaries: Arab/American 65
  • Wherever I Am 87
  • Homecoming 94
  • Banned Poem 97
  • Peace is Tossed to the Wind 101
  • Moroccan Steam 104
  • She Makes Me Tea in Cairo 107
  • III - Thyme Growing against the Odds: Surviving the Gulf War *
  • Thyme 111
  • Amara 113
  • A Woman's Place is in the Struggle - A Personal Viewpoint on Feminism, Pacifism, and the Gulf War 114
  • Offensive Art by Palestinian Children - Anti-Arab Racism and the Gulf War Fallout on Campus 120
  • Military Presences and Absences - Arab Women and the Persian Gulf War 125
  • Gulf War 133
  • IV - Laban Silent Victims and Belly Dancers: (mis) Representations of Arab Women *
  • Laban 147
  • Say French 149
  • Global Sisterhood - Where Do We Fit In? 151
  • Tear off Your Western Veil! 160
  • Arab-Americans - Living with Pride and Prejudice 165
  • Exotic 168
  • The Arab Woman and I 170
  • The Arab Woman in U.S. Popular Culture - Sex and Stereotype 173
  • Orientalism in Science Fiction 181
  • V - Grapeleaves Tangled Identities: Claiming Ourselves *
  • Grapeleaves 189
  • A Lunatic from Libya, One Generation Removed 190
  • Going Home 192
  • What's Not in a Name 197
  • Browner Shades of White 204
  • On Language and Ethnicity 206
  • Mocking Civilization 210
  • Pulled 211
  • Abyss 214
  • Two Women Drinking Coffee 217
  • In Search of Home 218
  • Hairless in Gaza (or Plucking the Lines of Gender Difference) 224
  • Blood 226
  • VI - Mint Moving beyond Survival: Celebrating Who We Are *
  • Mint 229
  • ABC 230
  • Five Steps to Creating Culture 231
  • Camel Girl 238
  • Artist 241
  • A Blessing 244
  • Armenian/Lesbian - Telling out Stories 246
  • Mint, Jomatoes, and the Grapevine 250
  • VII - Appendix Arab Resources and Organizations *
  • The Image of Arabs in Sources of U.S. Culture 259
  • Organizations with an Arab-American/Arab-Canadian Focus 273
  • About the Contributors 275
  • Permissions 283
  • Index 285
  • About the Editor 289
  • About South End Press 290
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