Well, I made it! Despite the gloomsters and doomsayers who said I’d be ripped off in the Souk, pestered in the Medina or get a horrible bug. It was the most amazing, wonderful and ultimately educational experience I have ever had on a holiday. Not only did I get to see some fabulous sights, eat wonderful food, find out how to make mint tea properly with the locals and spend a lot of time sitting, drinking, relaxing around the pool, I also got to observe a side of life that I never noticed before …..!
But …. before we got there we had an unscheduled stop in Casablanca, despite it being a ‘direct’ flight to Marrrakesh. Bundled off the plane and into a transit lounge we spent an uncomfortable 1.5 hours waiting to be allowed to continue the journey. We came back via Casablanca on our return as well – but this time were allowed to stay on the plane while they sorted out whatever it was that needed sorting.
Sunday was hot and sultry until we had the most amazing electric thunderstorm I have ever seen – and I had been optimisitic enough not to bother with an umbrella. It was a good job that the bar was large and the drinks were all free, the mojitos’s flowed and the conversation spiralled downhill rapidly.
By Monday we were getting the hang of the place, a trip into the Souk, sans recommended guide and without hanging onto our handbags we spent a couple of hours chatting to the locals, wandering, getting lost, wandering again, finding the herbalists, looking for the bargains and generally enjoying ourselves. I wonder now what all the fuss was about – we were neither pestered nor tormented, we had nothing but smiles and genuine conversation with the people we came across.
At night Mary and I decided to head for the square to see it in all it’s glory and immediately we were there we were pounced on by a couple of the local ‘lothario’s’ as we thought. Once again, assumptions were challenged and we found ourselves guided around the the sights and smells being told what was going on, what the stories being told were, having the various herbal remedies explained and then being treated to mint tea in a little Berber cafe off the back streets – it was wonderful and humbling. Our new friends were gentlemen in every sense of the word and I found myself agreeing to meet up for mint tea with Mohammed the following day when Mary was off on a trip to the high atlas.
After a day spent by the pool, mp3 player plugged in, book in hand and avoiding eye contact with the waiters and bar staff who were all just getting a little too ‘friendly’, I headed over to the Berber cafe again – I have to say, at no point did I feel threatened or unsafe, just comfortable. We sat, drank mint tea and talked religion, politics, life in Morocco, poverty and what it means not to have the freedom of movement that I just take for granted. Every so often Mohammed would take out a notebook and write down a word I had used that he didn’t understand. He was self taught in English, a herbalist by profession, and his grasp of the language put me to shame and I realised how little effort I had to make in a foreign country simply because I spoke the universal business language. Eventually he escorted me back across the square and gentlemanly as ever kissed my hand and said goodbye.
Of course the issue of language came up time and again. We were on holiday with a french company, in a hotel where almost all the guests were french or french fluent speakers with a staff whose second language was french – it was almost ineveitable that I was going to have to speak it sooner or later, fortunately I am more fluent in french than in Spanish …..! But I do need to improve drastically so language classes could be next on my to do list.
By the end of the week, we had experienced life in many guises, observed how others behave on holiday when the shackles are removed, had lots of girlie gossip, spent a fortune, been clubbing and fallen in love with Morocco (I will be going back to Marrakesh, I haven’t seen enough of it yet)! But first we’ve decided to head to Cuba to learn Salsa – I’ll let you know when Mary and I decide to take the plunge on that one.