Luciana lost her wedding ring in the Sahara Desert, only to find it in Marrakesh. Not literally in the desert; we weren’t staggering through a dust storm or battling raiders when it happened. That’s just how I’ve been framing the story when I tell people – it’s a great hook, isn’t it? That we did recover it in Marrakesh is true, too, though we did not find it on the tail of a monkey in the souk. But we did find it in Marrakesh, and we did lose it in the Sahara.
In fact, our last night at the Riad Totmarroc in Merzouga, Luciana took the ring off so she could play some bongos that were sitting near the fountain in the lobby. That diversion lasted a few minutes before we were summoned for dinner. Neither of us remembered the ring until the next morning, when we were in a taxi that was speeding across the Martian-like landscape to the next town. We needed to get there in time to take cash from the ATM, pay Fouad, our riad’s concierge, and hop on the 8 a.m. bus to Kelaa Mgouna. (I hadn’t brought enough cash to pay the man, and the riad did not take credit card.)
That was when Lu, looking at her left hand, let out one of those gasps that can only mean Oh, shit, I forgotten something – and it ain’t a toothbrush. “We have to go back,” we told Fouad, explaining that we left the ring behind. “No problem,” he replied. “I will call the hotel to see if they can find it, and then I’ll have someone bring it and meet us at the bus stop.” That seemed sensible enough.
In Rissani, I got the cash to pay Fouad, the taxi, and now an extra $30 to pay the guy charged with bringing us the ring. The only problem: The bus was loading passengers, and the driver would not wait even five minutes for us. “I will have my friend follow the bus with the ring,” Fouad reassured us. “He’ll meet you in the next town.” Before we even had a chance to process whether this was, in fact, a sound plan, Lu and I were filing onto the bus, the doors were closing, and suddenly Rissani and the Sahara were in the rear view mirror. That’s when Luciana started having a minor panic attack.
“We didn’t need to get on this bus! We could have waited there and taken a later bus! Why did we do that?!” This was true. It was less important for us to get to the next town than to recover the ring. Neither Lu nor I are particularly into heirlooms, antiques, or keepsakes. When it comes to keeping vs. throwing/giving away, we’re usually on the same page. Both of us had lived adult lives that were usually ready to fold up and transport, like MASH units, on a moment’s notice. No moss on a rolling stone, etc. But this was a ring that my mother had given to Lu; it was her mother’s, in fact, and Luciana was especially happy to have been welcomed into our family with such a gesture. And although I tried reassuring Lu that my mom wasn’t much more sentimental than we, and probably would understand, I realized I might also have to restrain her from commandeering the bus and steering it back to Merzouga at 100 mph. (Even though Lu can’t drive.)
Fortunately, though, we both calmed down. “I’m sure if I email them, they’ll mail the ring to us in Brooklyn,” I told her. I’m sure they won’t pawn it off. Or would they? Fouad told us a staff member had found it while cleaning; why hadn’t they said anything? There were only four guests including us at the riad that night. Why had Fouad shooed us onto the bus so quickly? We had only been in Morocco three days, but already we were accustomed to the indefatigable hustlers and swindlers looking to pry our dollars from us. They had rugs, rugs, dammit, woven 800 years ago by Berber artisans and placed in a time capsule labeled “2011.” That was par for the course in the medina of Fes, but we soon discovered that people will approach and try to sell you something anywhere, even in the sands of the Sahara. Was everyone in on the take? Were we just rubes? Did Fouad see a good opportunity to take a ring, plus $30? That didn’t seem plausible, as he had been extraordinarily hospitable during our stay. It also seemed a foolish item for which to risk the hotel’s reputation. I was sure if I sent them our address, maybe an international reply coupon to cover postage, the ring would be in Brooklyn in a few weeks.
We put the episode in the back of our minds for the next 48 hours, as we enjoyed the Rose Valley, another bus trip – this one through the High Atlas Mountains, and finally, Marrakesh. It wasn’t until the day before we left Morocco, in Marrakesh, that we decided we’d better phone Fouad and let him know we’d still like the ring if he still had it. In a teleboutique in another dusty medina, surrounded by donkeys and mopeds, Lu and I fed coins into a pay phone and got Fouad on the line.
“I’m calling about the ring,” I said. “Do you still have it?”
He replied, “The ring is in Marrakesh.”