susys running away to sea

"The rigors (sic) of an expeditionary lifestyle"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Later that afternoon ...

This time, I decide to leave souks alone, and go the other way, ending up at the remparts, the pink walls that surround the old town. I've walked way out of the tourist areas, and here are where real people live and work. Here's where scooters are mended, welding is done - no Health & Safety nanny state here - goggles? You must be joking ... - wood is meticulously carved by hand, veiled women shop, buying from the heaps of fruit and vegetables lying displayed on mats on the dusty ground, chosing their meat hung above small open fronted counters. Thing is - I'm so used to buying my meat plastic wrapped, filleted, denatured from a supermarket, that seeing chunks of dismembered animal hanging up and exposed to dust, insects, traffic fumes, makes me realise how far we are removed from where our food comes from. I can smell the blood from the butchers' shops - my nose wrinkles, I don't like it very much. I'd asked S whether he'd buy and eat stuff from the open displays on the ground, and he said he would, no problem. I feel that way, too - it's not dirty, just different. Even the wasp-covered sweetmeats had held no repulsion.

Marrakesh is noisy - the roads are full of cars, scooters and bikes weaving between them, donkeys pulling little carts, tourists being paraded in caleches (open horse-drawn carriages), people walking anywhere except on the infrequent pavements, perilously crossing roads, shouting, talking, importuning, staring, jostling ... Women and men wear kaftans over trousers, and many women wear a hajib. Some, especially the older women, wear veils - from an under-the-nose job, to a full black veil, floating around the head. Given the amount of attention I receive, I could see an advantage in copying the local costume - and it would make my nosy habit easier... Morocco's quite relaxed about all this - I also see young girls with heads uncovered, wearing western-style clothes and it appears to bother no-one. Good to have the choice, I think. I wander on.

Oh, bother - or words to that effect.. I'm bloody well lost again, aren't I? I turned off the main road by the city wall, and it's that dreaded maze effect all over again ... I haven't even a clue which direction I'm walking in, and I'm not even sure that the little 'Riad Alida' pencilled cross marked on my map is actually in the right place. Which is up, which is down? It's overcast, so I've no idea which is north ... I'm really tired, my legs are grizzling, and I've now got blisters from the flipflops. Ooo poor me!

The narrow claustrophobic alleyways open out into a small square - oh, I recognise this! It's the Place d'Epices, the centre crammed with people selling piles of slippers, hats, carpets, toys - ha! One's being demonstrated - a circular plastic railtrack with two pushalongs. The one in front is Osama bin Laden on wheels. The one behind him - very close behind him! - is a Yank in a tank.

Having been unable to hesitate, let alone stop, to consult my guide book, to avoid being suffocated by potential 'guides', I fall into the Cafe d'Epices and ask directions. Oh, I give up - in the end, of course, I have to rent-a-guide - but at least he's from a relatively known source. Off we charge - he's young and very fit - and dodge and dive through such a twisting selection of alleys, it's like that childhood game of being blindfolded and twirled around - my head spins - or it would if could even think that far. Eventually, we are spat out on to a road I recognise slightly - but it's nowhere near my riad ... The chap assures me it's just down the road. I look sceptical, but he's done his job, yes, yes, this is the road, grabs his money, and vanishes. The trouble with recognising places slightly, is that you never quite know where you've seen them before, nor the context ... I set off in one direction, turn round, and set off in another. Aha! This is it! Triumph! The pink wall, of all pink walls, that leads to my riad! My blisters stop their endless moaning - the end is in sight.

No, it's not. It's a pink wall, alright, but it's not the one I thought it was...

I swear I shall never leave my riad again.


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