Whenever I am ever stupid enough to attempt to pour boiling water directly into the sink, I incur my wife Fatima's wrath. This is a serious matter at any time, but 'inconvenient' when you are attempting to strain the greens. In Morocco, boiling water must never be poured into the sink. It must be poured into something containing cold water and although this includes the bog, it does not include the shower and never the basin.
"Why?" you may ask yourself.
For the next five years of my cross-culture existence I put up with this minor inconvenience. However, I became aware that whenever I cooked anything from a boiled egg to a four-course dinner, Fatima would appear at critical times. Whenever she thought things were cooked, she'd be there, as if by magic, just to make sure that I didn't pour boiling water down the drain.
"Why?" I asked myself.
If I hadn't taken up the teaching game, the whole thing might have remained a mystery. As it was, life changed and I found myself not trying to work out the best way to incarcerate people for the cheapest price, but discussing the necessity of spending a months food allocation on killing a sheep with one of my 'English' students, Abdelwahed. We both had the same problem – we disagreed with our wives, and the short term solution seemed to be that we should buy one sheep between the two of them and for us to go off and spend a couple of days in Marrakech.
As we were discussing the curious interpretation of Islam, the world, the flesh, the Devil and Kipling's Butterfly That Stamped, the subject of Djinns1 (a Moroccan bogey-monster of sorts) came up. Abdelwahed related a story from his youth when he was berated by an elderly relative for pouring boiling water down the drain. His argument was that it was dangerous to leave a half-full kettle of boiling water on the gas burner when there were small children about. It was explained to him that scalded children were nothing compared with the cataclysm that might be caused by pouring boiling water down the drain.
"Why?" he asked.
Well, it seems that the Djinns' children all live in the drains and scalding them is potentially far worse than scalding your own children or siblings. This belief is very firmly entrenched in Morocco, even though I have never heard of it anywhere else in the Arab world. When I got home from Marrakech I asked Fatima about it. Rather sheepishly she admitted that it was indeed the reason she berated me so for pouring surplus boiling water down the plughole. As the only living thing that I have ever seen emerge from the drains is a cockroach, I can only assume that Djinns are in fact enormous great cockroaches!