I woke this morning and contemplated the day ahead over some melon and strong coffee on the high terrace. Nick, the owner, sat and briefed me a little on Marrakech..easing my worry about exploring on my own. And so far he has been right.
I would try this on my own! I looked at the map carefully..straight, then right, then left, then left, then straight. Got it! On a strolled through the labarynth of vendors pitching their wares-glittering satin slippers; silver teapots; spices- women draped in linen and veils-the seemingly murderous mopeds weaving between us.
Finally I made my way to the jemaa el-fna -marrakech’s main square in the medina. Fruit and spice stands encircled the red brick sparingly occupied by green umbrellas, casting shade over the snake charmers, acrobats and henna artists. All to the orchestra of drums, flutes and the racket of horns and buzzing motorbikes.
I am deathly afraid of snakes-a full fledge phobia-exposure therapy they call it
I settled on a small cafe in the medina for lunch. The friendly waiter ushered me to the terrace overlooking the square.
I scanned the small menu indecisively-I wanted it all! In the end I chose Couscous with generous tender hunks of lamb, chickpeas, carrots and a warm mound of caramalized onion and dried grapes-threaded tastes of cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric-both sweet and spicy-this what i came for.
A man holding a tray of couscous magically disappears through the window beside me; he walks along the tin roof then slides his tray on the ledge while gesturing his offering to the birds above. Lovely.
After lunch I meandered about. The men smiled cheekily but harmlessly… I bartered… I interacted… I held my space. I was fine. My guard was half mast and my energy open to receive all the magic that surrounded me.
A women dressed in a niqab asked me where I am from. “Canada”. “Ahh canada! Try my henna”, she says gesturing her ink pen to my hand. “No thank you”. “Oh please, please you only pay what you like!” “Really” I said.”You aren’t going to tell me more after?” She gestures to her pregnant belly. “Ah no no” she says, “I like canada! let me try” She shoots ink without permission onto my hand as I pull away. Well geeze might as well finish it-looks like a bird pooped on my knuckle. She works swiftly and with precision.
When she finished, I handed her some dirham. “Oh no!”, she exclaimed, then opened her book to show the steep prices! “What!! You just told me you wouldn’t do that!” “Come on Canada” she says… ”Fine” I say, begrudgingly. I handed her a little more, then walked away tormented by flashbacks of when I was 19 backbacking in europe – a pregnant gypsy stole my fries then skipped back and forth in front of me eating them. I have no problem fighting off advances of men and I can push back harder than any hawking vendor… but to be had by a fellow mother? Well… that’s just demoralizing. I tried to shrug it off and reframe it as a little something for the little one to be… but there’s nothing like having an unfavourable moment etched in ink to remind you.
As I continued on, the men who overheard shouted “hey you canada!! Don’t go Canada!” My new name spread faster than I could walk. And so it would be for the remainder of my time.
I found my way back to the square despite the looming dusk. I couldn’t resist it. The green tents were breeding by the minute with food vendors selling unidentifiable varieties of meats and seafood. I slithered between the stalls like a curious reptile trying to remain invisible. Extraordinary. The smells… the noises… the exchanges. Finally I found an exit and took a seat on another cafe terrace overlooking it all.
I sat and enjoyed some chicken brochette, so moist it naturally fell from the skewers.
I sat in delight eating and watching the steam rise from inside the volcano of the mayhem below. Ahh.
Signing off… Tomorrow I head for the desert.