Thursday, 11 September 2008

The Road to Morocco.. part two

The summer has ended but for me, what a summer it has been, lit as it was ,with the light of foreign skies and heated by the sun.It is raining and cold here, so I sit huddled in the damp of a dull day and remember Morocco to keep myself warm.

Our first resting place in Morocco was down on the Atlantic coast in Essaoira, staying in a restored Dal inside the walls of the Medina. Hidden up a dark and unlit alley it was like many Moroccan houses a jewel secreted behind blank walls.Once inside the Ancient wooden door the house went up and up again to a sun filled roof terrace with views across rooftops to the sea. From there we moved north to Marrakesh to another Riad down an equally anonymous alley near the famous Djemaa el Fna square, the sounds and smells of which hung in the air all night.

Djemaa el Fnasquare at night

Marrakesh , which means in Berber "Land of God",was intoxicating, all the colours of the souks,the myriad shops, some smaller than a phone box selling so many enticing things to temp the palate of a jaded refugee of western conspicious consumption. Each trade has its own area of the Medina, the metal workers at Souk Hadaddine, clothes sellers at Souk Smarine, carpets at Souk Zrabia, slippers adn belts at Souk Smata and of course the tanners with their foul smelling vats of animal hides curing in chicken excrement confined to the very outskirts of the city walls, some hidden in streets so narrow two people could barely pass. Then in the main square itself the snake charmers adn story tellers adn acrobats and dancers and the purveyors of black magic with their dried hedgehogs, very useful for expelling jinns from houses. Jinns being apparently always female and prone to wreak havoc about the house ,upsetting the servants, causing strife amongst the children .If you upset a jinn they might do anything from giving you a small dose of gippy tummy to full grown manic climbing the walls madness, bit like mother in laws really except they can be 15 metres high and have breathe that would singe your nostril hairs.Don't fancy a mother in law like that thank you.

There is so much to see and do in Marrakesh that its hard to know where to start. I wanted to show the children something of a world that is fast disappearing so we went to the Debbaghine tanneries to see how the leather was cured and dyed. The place was off a large empty square covered with what looked like grey rags but turned out to be hides left to dry in the sun.

We arrived by horse drawn calleche and were greeted by a man thrusting great clumps of fresh mint leaves into our hands . We declined, he insisted, we declined, he insisted ,we smiled and took the mint bouquets. Strange man we thought. He led us through an arch between the city wall and a house and down a short alley in to the vast open space filled row upon row of concrete vats amongst which men worked .
The vats
It stinks, here, which explained the mint, not like something has crawled under the floorboards and died , imagine the stench of urine, chicken and pigeon shit and rotting flesh all fermented under a blazing sky at 55 degrees then left to moulder. Right in the middle sat a group of small boys dangling their legs chatting as kids in a playground do, we didn't stay long but we were lucky as it was a quiet day and early in the morning so stench had not yet reached asphyxiating levels. They say the kids get used to the smell very quickly. Id rather not. Its enough to put you offer leather handbags for life.

Little Tanners "faite-ing a petite pause"

Next stop the carpet weavers. The men do the simple flat weaving the women do the embroidered patterns and complex ones, can't imagine why...

Happy little weaver folk

As well as rugs they weave shawls, throws and stunning fabrics out of a cactus fibre...AND its fire retardant. I know this with certainty as every fabric stall owner attempted top set light to them by way of demonstration..mind you I suppose they could all just be failed pyromaniacs..

and what they were weaving..

After all that we needed some fresh air so we did what all the locals do if they can .

we went in a Taxi to the 1oom high waterfalls at Ouzoud to cool off, a day of pootling by the river, lunch at a Berber restaurant ......

and an amble through the olive groves to meet the locals...


What better way to spend your day ...


.....................................................


Ah well next stop Greece...

10 comments:

Frances said...

Oh, thank you for taking me far away from a place I know so well, to a place that beckons with all that I do not know.

I'm looking forward to the next chapter!

Great to have you back.
xo

Hannah Velten said...

Think you needed more than mint to stuff up your nostrils...

HER ON THE HILL said...

Bonjour encore, Un Peu. Have already left comment on your Glazed Expressions blog, and am adding another here.

Have read previous post too and thrilled you had such a fab time. We were less lucky with the weather when we went in October - but perhaps 55 degrees is pushing it a bit, even for me!! Like ChrisH, I had a less fab experience in Morocco (I nearly fell out with my brother on this subject as he'd had an amazing time a few years back). I haven't written about it yet, but will, no doubt, in due course. I would like to go back to try again - sometimes the cards just don't fall right, eh? Essaouira was on my hit list, as were the falls - so I hope to get there one day. Thanks for showing and telling us all about it.
x

HER ON THE HILL said...

PS, we were advised not to bother with the tanneries for all the reasons you found out! Thank God for mint...

Fennie said...

Well, I never knew jinns were female!
Ha! Loved your descriptions - and the tannery. So that is where my Moroccan leather comes from - but I agree horrid places. I worked for one once briefly in Northants - Dickensian - dark, wet, smelly, endless repetive work, evil vats of this and that. Luckily I was only trying to get them some Euro-backed finance (and succeeded)not making leather myself. There ought to be a word - corresponding to inferno but meaning a cold damp grotty hell.
Great pics as always. Good to have you back.

Grouse said...

Fantastic memory for detail as always...fantastic- hurrying on to the next.........

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Ahhhh, Greece. My favourite country.

Milla said...

Great stuff, Un Peu, you convey a wonderful sense of sprawl and I can almost (luckily it's only almost) smell that smell. Particularly liked the weaving pic (am a bit of a fabric bore) and the waterfalls and the monkey thing (which doubtless has its own name)

ChrisH said...

Wonderful, riveting accounts of a place you obviously enjoyed so much... but I won't be following you there!

ChrisH said...

Wonderful, riveting accounts of a place you obviously enjoyed so much... but I won't be following you there!