It’s normally a quiet time of night. The kids are finally in bed, a mere 2 hours after official bedtime. Summer bedtimes. We’ve got all the windows still open in spite of the fact that, for some inexplicable reason, windows in Rabat don’t come with screens. As someone who has lived in many places in Rabat in the relatively short time we’ve been here, I can say this for a fact. It mystifies me, since Rabat is quite developed and civilized. Yet Nouakchott’s windows all had screens, albeit often with enormous holes in them. Now we get lots of flies and mosquitoes through our wide-open windows. I don’t care. We get the most delightful sea breezes. Plus, I’d rather be eaten than baked.

The neighbours seem to have acquired a new, extensive drum set and set it up in the garden. We are being regaled to rhythm after rhythm. Their timing seems a bit unfair, since Elliot’s dearest wish is for a drum set and his birthday is Saturday and he’s not getting one.

Yesterday afternoon, we took 2 British girls with us to the beach, both of whom have grown up here, and they announced that our normal beach is the most dangerous. It’s true that there is quite an undertow, but the beach in Nouakchott was much worse; I remember standing in water which was flowing so strongly to the south that it was like standing in a river. The children all learned to swim in strong currents. Unfortunately, I realized yesterday, this means they have no fear of the water, and Ilsa in particular had a hard time keeping to the “not past your waist unless with an adult” rule. Since Ilsa is only about 4’6”, she feels that she is being discriminated against, and constantly pushes to be allowed further out.

The beach was crowded, as usual, with parasols of all colours and people in various stages of dress and undress taking to the water. The tide was unusually high, so that we had to move our rented parasol three times. Each time the vendor came scurrying up to help. His skin was the darkest I’ve seen, a deep copper brown and crackly like ancient leather, and he had a large mole on his bare shoulder that would have set a dermatologist to screaming for joy and calculating the cost of a new addition to his summer home. The first time, I was very happy to move, since the churning tide had deposited in the sand a large, stinking dead rat. (Query: Why do dead rats always seem to be lying on their backs? Discuss in comments) I hope this is not too much information. It rather spoiled an otherwise perfect afternoon of blue sky and sparkling green sea and white waves and shrieking children. Fortunately the boys playing football around it decided to bury rather than step on it, and it was soon hidden; out of sight and out of mind.

The vendors were out in full force. I was offered cups of instant Nescafe, lollipops, little packets of chocolate biscuits labelled “mini THANKS,” ice-cream bars, and fresh, piping hot doughnuts. All these things were carried up and down the beach to cries of “BEIGNETS!” “J’AI LA GLACE!” and other, mysterious things shouted in Dareja.

Two camels with decorative saddles were being led up and down as well, usually with children swaying on top, all huge smiles and clutching hands. The vendors obviously settled on the one obviously white family as a prime retail option, as the camels always came obnoxiously near to our little red-and-white striped umbrella. Several times, I was afraid the camel was going to step on a surfboard, which would obviously have a lot of repercussions. Luckily, the huge animals always managed to sidestep the fragile boards.

I’m waiting for Donn to finish his guest post on his trip south. In the meantime, we’ve managed to make a little more progress on tackling that last pile of boxes. We bought a cedar…hutch, I would call it; what would you call it? It has two shelves and then a cabinet in the bottom. It smells heavenly, and the two knobs are crooked. I love things that are obviously hand-made without levels, just eye-balled, apparently by a hunchback.

I think hanging art work on your walls is one of the most important parts of being settled, because it’s one of the last things you do when arriving, and taking pictures down is one of the first when leaving. One of the main reasons I married Donn was because I really like his photographs, and it feels good to have them hung again on the walls of our home. (Interested? Check out his website, which needs to be redone but will at least give you an idea).