here, there, everywhere

At long last…

In Africa, Morocco on September 1, 2013 at 11:23 am

Lantern shop at night in the Djema el-Fna, Marrakech

Lantern shop at night in the Djema el-Fna, Marrakech

Odd to think this is my first time in Africa, it feels like I’ve been before but that’s not the case. Whether it was in a past life, my dreams, or because I’ve lived in the Middle East it’s all very familiar. Fortunately there are still new things to see and experience.

Despite being told Marrakech is hectic and frenetic it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Yes the traffic is congested in the old city but the use of horns is infrequent. As everywhere else with dense population commuters jockey for position and find room to move even in the tiniest of spaces. For the most part in the medina it’s pedestrians, bicycles and scooters, but keep your eyes and ears open to avoid getting clipped. Regardless, it feels far more relaxed than anywhere else with similar traffic. What continues to impress is how the masses coexist amicably versus at home where the right to personal space is expected and taken for granted. I can’t imagine anyone allowing people to get so close without having strong words with them.

Another difference is the shopkeepers’ behaviour in the market. They do ask where you’re from, how you are, you love Marrakech, yes? But then they leave you alone if you say not interested. I spent around an hour in the carpet shop, bargained to the price I wanted, and then left without buying anything. The owner was still polite and told me if I decided I wanted it he’d put the carpet aside and give it to me for the bargained price when I come back. That is unusual.

Everyone speaks broken English and fluent French. I thought I could pull out my Arabic but that is proving almost impossible, not because I’ve forgotten most of it (which is true) but because it’s so incredibly different. For example, ‘beautiful’ is ‘jamil’ in the Middle East regardless of country, but here it’s ‘z’wain’. In comparison French is French and if they speak slowly I can figure most of it out.

The heat is dry and heavy so during the day the shade of the souqs (markets) is welcome. I spent most of the afternoon in there looking for the ultimate lamp and then ended it with about 30 minutes in the exposed square before calling it with 90 cents for fresh squeezed orange juice. I was too tired to keep going so I headed back to the hostel and watched a Turkish soap opera dubbed in ‘normal’ Arabic with one of the young guys who works there during the day. I’ll head out again after the sun sets and the temperature drops.

Lantern Shop, Marrakech

Oooooo, another lantern shop! Marrakech

It was too hot in my room last night so I slept on the roof under the stars. It’s cool listening to the day wind down, traditional drums from the square beating until after eleven, muffled voices from the street. I woke with the first call to prayer and had a chance to enjoy the stars and the moon. I know it’s the same sky everywhere but I’m convinced the crescent moon was born here, it’s so sharp and bright, it just does not look the same at home.

First impressions have been great and I’m pleased with my decision to come here, even with the slightly moronic young travelers in the hostel who are currently discussing how boy and girl cows mate because one seriously did not know. And he’s here on a break from university. Oops, I guess that attitude makes me old.  But not as old as Ill be tomorrow…

  1. Can’t wait to read about what you did on your birthday. Belated happy birthday! Hope you had a blast 😊

  2. What an amazing birthday gift to yourself! Happy Birthday, dear friend! Enjoy!

  3. I thought last year was your big trip?!? When did u decide on Marrakech? Sounds like you’re enjoying your adventure. I always love living vicariously through you. I saw Maja on Friday and we were talking about you – your ears must have been burning. I hope we can make some time to squeeze in a visit this fall – I want to hear all about your latest adventure and catch up on life. I trust that you have some special plans for yourself for Sept 2nd???? – have a very happy birthday!! -F

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