Friday, May 02, 2008

Au Maroc

Its hard to try and decribe Morocco and not render the place a complete injustice. The sights, sounds, tastes, and not to mention the deluge of konichiwas and hoi jackie chans doesn't so much take your breath away as knock it clean out of you with a kick to the guts.

The taxi driver who took me down to la place Djemma el Fna from the Marrakech airport had a few words for me, "Go straight until you see the fountain, turn right and you'll find the hostel. Do NOT let anyone guide you no matter what!"; words that I fully intended to heed to the last detail. Unfortunately, it turned out that my understanding of la fontagne (read ornate water spewing fixture occassionally shaped like a ludicrous half-lion half-fish) was wholly different from the Moroccan one (read rather drab cast iron faucet in the wall) and i of course ended up spectacularly lost. I did eventually find the hostel but at the expense of 2 euros to see off the self appointed guide who'd jumped on me the second he'd caught the bewildered expression on my face.

The days that followed were a whirlwind of immensely beautiful landscapes, the sights sounds and (not always pleasant) smells of medinas, a smorgasbord of food, and of course more konichiwas and derisory remarks than you can shake a stick at. Djemma el Fna was everything that the guide books said it would be...and more! Tajines, salted aubergines, brochettes, snail soup, orange juice and even sheep heads all for one's culinary delight. Traditional dancers beating drums all night and dragging reluctant tourists to join in their revelry; snake charmers pretty much chucking their snakes every which way on the ground and scaring the hell out of some people (including a certain Singaporean :p); and story tellers drawing huge crowds of locals and leaving the rest of us wishing we knew what they were saying. Then there are the hamams, the public baths where for 50 dirhams you get a bath and a massage. For me that was basically a bucket of hot water dumped on my head and a funny smelling brown paste rubbed all over my body before a gnarly old Arab man came and scrubbed the living daylights out of me. And then just as I was feeling nicely cleansed and ready to go, another Arab guy comes up and says its time for the massage. Definitely worth trying, if not for the faint of heart

But the best part of Marrakech was the people. A great big shoutout to Youssef and Zak at Equity Point! Without a doubt the best, most beautiful hostel I have ever stayed in! We also met Tariq, a Moroccan who took it upon himself to show us the absolute best of Arab hospitality and proceeded to bring us around the city for the next few days. When Jh was due to fly back to Barca he insisted on going all the way to the airport to see him off, and when he missed his flight, offered us the services of his internet cafe free of charge to book another flight. When he realised we weren't going to let him pay for his meal, he excused himself to go to the loo, settled the bill, and came back to the table with a wide smile on his face. Say what you will about the way this world is going but there are still some people out there who make it that much brighter. Salam alaykum Tariq. And thank you very very much.

Fes and Sahara soon!


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