My Moroccan Neighbors Won't Stop Their Damn UlulatingCommentary • Local • Opinion • middle east • africa • immigration • ISSUE 36•33 • Sep 20, 2000 By Fred Parker Fred Parker Well, there goes the neighborhood. Last week, the moving van pulls up to the Petersens' old house and--yup, you guessed it--a bunch of Moroccans move in. I haven't even met the Aatabous yet, but already I can't stand them: All night long, they won't stop with their damn ululating! To be honest, I haven't the foggiest notion what they're even wailing about. Maybe they're lamenting a deceased relative. Or retelling the traditional Moroccan folk tale The Girl Who Lived With The Gazelles. Or maybe they're just performing some Gnawa devotional trance music. All I know is, that damn ululating of theirs is loud, it's in D-sharp, and it goes on well past 9 p.m. Next time, I'm calling the cops. Last Monday night, I'm trying to relax in my own home--which I paid for with my hard-earned American dollars, mind you, not some wad of dirham--and enjoy the big game. The whole time, the Aatabous are out on their backyard patio, ululating up a storm! They've even got the Santur dulcimer and three-stringed Berber lutes going. I try to ignore it, but, finally, I just can't take it anymore. I open my window and shout, "Hey, would you mind keeping that bendir-thumping down to a dull roar? A man can only take so much of those cylindrical, single-membrane tambourines, you know!" It usually gets better for a few days. They promise they'll try to keep it down. But like clockwork, the ululating always starts up again. And even on the days when their voices aren't raised together in a long, sorrowful cry, their teenage daughter is usually blaring that Moroccan pop singer Lem Chaheb out her bedroom window. As if that's an improvement. Isn't that always the way: You work hard to make a nice home for your family, and then, just when you're ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor, the whole neighborhood goes to the Moroccans. They move in and, just like that, braziers and woodcrafts stores start popping up on every corner. Guys are out there selling olives and pomegranates right on the street. Next thing you know, property values are plummeting. It gets worse, though--you should see what the Aatabous have done to the Petersens' front yard! They've got handmade rugs hanging out to dry and some sort of pet bird flapping around. They're laying hand-painted tiles left and right. It's an eyesore for the entire block! Then there are those horrible smells that come from their house--coriander, cumin, saffron. It's awful. Haven't these kebab-eaters ever heard of a Big Mac? Couscous marrakesh made with grilled lamb, batinjaan zalud dribbled with olive oil... I've got to smell that crap seven days a week! Then, to add insult to injury, I find out that the Aatabous come from the port city of Tétouan. Well, I don't have to tell you what those Moroccan coastal types are like, especially the men. They get all hopped up on mint tea and go out and have their way with white women. Thank God our daughters are grown up and out of the house, that's all I have to say. And I haven't even mentioned the bonfire dances. You know what I'm talking about. That guedra dance, where the woman starts out kneeling, hidden completely under a black veil. Pretty soon, her fingers are swaying to the music and, from there, it's anything goes. Before long, everyone is dancing the ahaidous, beating the ground rhythmically together in a circle. I won't have it! Not in my neighborhood, dammit! The way I see it, if you want to go bangy-bangy on your goatskin-topped wooden taarija drum, go back to Morocco. This is America, land of the Dallas Cowboys, John Wayne, and barbecued ribs. We don't cotton to that kind of stuff around here. Nothing, though, is worse than that incense wafting over the fence. When you smell that, you know exactly what's going on over there behind those walls. They're doing that crazy religious stuff, what with the dancing and the singing and the instruments. Damn Sufis. That's just what this country needs: more Gnostic sympathizers going on about tawakkul, the total reliance on God, and dhikr, the perpetual remembrance of God. We could move, I suppose, but it probably wouldn't do any good. My brother lives over on the east side of town, and he's having the same problem with the Inuits. No place is safe these days, I tell you.