The drawback of staying in a family hotel is the noise that the family makes when they get up in the morning. I was woken up by the sound of children talking and running about. Their mother shouted at them from time to time as they ran amok. It was about 7 o’clock. I got up out of bed and ate some breakfast after my rude awakening.
For the rest of the morning, we made the most of the comfortable beds and read our books. I finished reading Hemingway’s ‘Death in the afternoon’. Before lunch, Dan and I strolled into the centre of town, dodging touts and ‘guides’, who were keen to the point of desperation to show us around the medina and the other sites in Marrakech.
We went into the medina by ourselves where we bought a few cakes and carried on into the covered market. At one point, a man on a bicycle ran into the back of me. I turned around and told him to mind where he was going. He was on the wrong side of the road and retorted some bungled English back to me. We passed lots of carpet, brass and leather shops before heading out into the open air market.
We bought some delicious pears, a melon, oranges and tomatoes plus some Edam cheese before stopping in a café and sitting on its veranda for a drink with a view of the famous market square. We watched the Moroccans going about their daily business, snake charmers, men with monkeys which sat on the shoulders of the tourists, and acrobats earning their living from the visitors.
Lines of tourists poured off coaches and were led in rushed groups through the stalls in the market and its chaos of hustlers pestering them to buy their goods. Beggars walked next to the tourists pulling at them and their clothes. Some of them looked extremely flustered and bewildered by the whole, high pressure experience.
Another coach came into the square full of European holidaymakers. Some of the men in the coach were filming the scene at a safe distance from the reality of the place. “Why don’t you get out of the coach and enjoy yourselves?” I thought. Dan and I were smugly used to the hassle that we received although it still annoyed us intensely.
We couldn’t help laughing at the coach tourists who had not had the chance to gently slide into the ‘sales war zone’ of Morocco. It’s likely that they had come from a secluded holiday resort on the coast and the coach, which had been their haven, suddenly pushed them out into the throng of hustlers and beggars in Marrakech.
We returned to the hotel for lunch and a short kip. We needed money so I went to a local bank to change $100. We had been spending far more than we expected in Morocco too. The sooner we get out into the countryside, the better. I got back to the room and read (The Grapes of Wrath) and dozed again.
Dan was in bed and was not feeling too good. The Immodium tablets he had taken for his diarrhoea had not worked and he was feeling drained. We went out into the evening air to a local pharmacy to get something stronger for him, after which we went into the melee again for supper. There was a spectacular sunset over one of the mosques. There were still masses of people in the square and smoke from the cooking fires was everywhere, mixing with the aromas of the food.
We bought some doughnuts and watched a snake charmer with a black cobra and a few mean looking vipers in the foreground. Next, we went to a stall I had visited the night before (and from which I had not got the shits) and ate. Dan had brochettes and I had kefta plus a load of chips from a nearby stall.
While sitting there, a trail of tourists following one man carrying a stick in the air cruised past us like a herd of sheep. We laughed and the two men running the stall laughed with us. Then, there was a commotion as the shoe sellers next to us picked up their goods and hid them behind the stall we were sitting at. They were searching and looking into the square at something we could not see. They tottered about nervously. Were they selling goods illegally and looking for a policeman? We never found out why they were so nervous.
Meanwhile, more tourists streamed past in their groups, looking bewildered, worried and out of place, still being pestered. We ate our food and watched people go past before paying up (about £1 each) and went to a fruit juice stall where we asked for a mix of mandarin and orange juice mix. As we drank our delicious mix of juices, two female beggars approached and started to hound us.
One, in particular, caught our attention. She was small, dressed in a brown djellaba and a black veil covering her face from below her eyes. She asked Dan for some money. She had beautiful eyes and she knew it, playing up to try to get some money out of us. For the first time, we gave in and gave her one dirham. How weak! She soon left having made an impression on us.
Another woman came up to us to hustle money out of us. While she pestered us, she pinched mandarins from the stall when the owner had his back turned. She managed to pinch what looked like a dozen and then hung around us speaking in broken English. She touched Dan on his chest and said “You are good friend”. Then, “You want to go to bed?” Ha! Under her veil, we could see a row of blackened teeth. A line of tourists files past as we drank. The hustlers were forcing hats, bags, knives or jewellery to buy at them. Poor, flustered people.
It was time to go. It had been a fun evening in the Djnaa El Fnaa. As I was turning out the light, I could hear two Englishmen outside who had been guided here by a Moroccan who was negotiating a tip. Morocco really is a sales war zone.
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family, works in a technology company in London and does as many micro-adventures as he can.
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