Road to Marrakech - part three.

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 16 July 2008

Morrocco is full of colour.

Pink Earth.

Blue and White Walls.

Terracotta Tagines

Black skins.

Lemon lemons.

Orange oranges.

Ochre Mosques.

Azure skies.

Red Tomatoes.

Golden brown dates.

Pink and yellow leather slippers.

Deep Royal Blue of the Tuareg Tribesmen, otherwise known as the Blue Men....

All bashing along with each other in the Souks of the city.

The heat shimmers, by 3pm even the bees have buzzed off.

Live chickens cluck around their pens. Sparrows fly around the tiny kiosks picking their way through sacks of legumes.

Men in fezzes lie over the sacks as the women work.

The women look after their children. Carry the twigs on their bent shoulders, then they look after their men.

The men drink coffee. Talk. Drive their donkeys. Push their carts. drink more coffee then lie over the sacks in their fezzes.

We left the windy city of Essaouira at 3.00pm on Sunday July 6th. We'd spent the morning buying a sting-ray skin drum, having lunch next to a really dour family from France and then tea in the garden with the two tortoises.

We'd bought the tickets days before so we had no waiting time. An old man, with his cart, sat outside our Riad from 8.30 in the morning until we left at three. He led, and we followed, through the souk finally arriving at 'Supratour' bus station. We bought tickets for our bags gave our lovely old man a tip then climbed aboard. It was Hot.

What am I saying it was friggin' boiling.

We had seats 3&4 which meant we were up front with the driver. We left Essaouira at precisely 20 minutes late.

We had met Will and Marnie at this stage, delightful young companions, who were in the cheap seats mid-bus. Everybody paid the same 6.50, they just happened to pull the short straw over the wheels.

Ten minutes later, whilst steering the bus with one hand, our driver took out his mobile, tapped in a number and started having a heated debate with somebody, somewhere out there in Morrocco.

The bus trundled along on the dusty road.

We drove past a lonely sheep-herder.

We stopped. I woke up.

The driver hung up his mobile and climbed off the bus with a young man who was fully clothed. They came back and the young man had ditched his shirt. He had on a very white singlet. He looked like the Levi advert with smudges of grease smeared tastefully over his tasteful body. The driver sat down. I handed the young man a tissue out of my packet of 'Wet- Wipes'. He rubbed the baby oil over his greasy fingers, I gave him another one.

Was it the Levi ad. or the Coca Cola ad? Which ever one it was I was like the woman with her nose pressed up against the laundrette window. He even turned Jim's head....

The bus set off on the now tarmacked road.

We drove past a lonely goat-herder.

We stopped. I woke up.

The driver got off, Jim got off, three men and a French woman with arms covered in Henna, got off.

The driver made another phone call.

Finally we lurched into a cafe 65 kilometres from Marrakech. It wasn't a million miles away from travelling on British Rail. Nobody told us what the problem was. Nobody told us when we would get rescued. Nobody said anything, the only difference from Crewe was that it was hot....

What am I saying it was friggin' boiling. .

We all dismounted and sat in a cafe with Coca-Cola, crisps and very bad 70's disco spilling out of a speaker.

I sat with a French woman who is about to take a position at Marrakech University. She is doing a study on the Americanisation of Morrocco. Starting, I wondered, with Coke?

She told us that the bus was normally very reliable and that it would get done in Morroccan time.

An hour and a half later a man in overalls, and a look of authority took over the driving. He was pushing knobs and pulling levers. he was the mechanic, We were in good hands, allbeit a little dirty. We all climbed aboard.

When I woke up I expected to pass Julie Andrews with the lonley goatherd but at this stage we were too far from the Atlas montains.

We arrived in Marrakech 3 hours later than we should have.

Still, a lovely taxi driver had been supplied, he took us, Will and Marnie to the main square - Jemma el Fna. Said better if you've just had three teeth removed under anaesthetic.

It was dark, humid and very different from Essaouira.

Our taxi man went off with his tip and we were handed over to a man with a moped and a man without. They took our cases and balanced them on top of the bike. Jims ruck-sack was slung onto the back of the man without the moped.

We followed as they led us past horses and carriages, smelling of stables, through Bedlam, a Breughal painting, Lowrie on Acid. Past snake charmers, dancing men dressed as women. Past story tellers, smoke belching food stalls, orange juicing stands, monkeys on chains, mothers on edge, tourists on dope, spinning musicians, which is what my head was doing. As the crowds grew thicker the man and his moped dissappeared and the other guide put our cases in a cart then led us into the heart of the Souk.

It was crowded.

To say it was crowded is a bit of an understatement. Imagine Wembly Stadium, Knebworth and Oxford Street all jammed into a tea shop in Rhyll.

It was the most people I had ever seen in my life. So many people jostling Jim nearly got his pocket picked. So many people you could see the whites of their eyes, smell their under garments, hear their teeth clicking. People held onto each others shoulders. Children strapped onto their mothers backs. Robes, veils, motor bikes, mopeds, bicycles, street vendors shouting, music blaring, and all of us holding onto the shoulder of the stranger in front.

'Ooh! La La Dimanche.' said our man without the moped. So this was Sunday Trading I thought. Then we swung left past the Mosque and into a smooth passage.

Somebody had turned off the sound track it was dead quiet.

Number 63.

We gave our man without the moped a tip and off he went.

The door opened into the Riad. Trees growing, a fountain trying to play and a dog. Mohammed said that when a dog entered a house the angels flew out. Islam doesn't like dogs. Our dog barked. She was a little worse for wear but she couldn't have frightened away the angels if she'd tried. Although there was an uncommon stillness.

Back in the day Jemma el Fna had been used for be-headings, sometimes as many as 45 rolled in one day. The heads were then stuck on spikes to be leered at. Given the atmosphere in our Riad I was convinced it was the B&B for the executioners.

It was shady.

It was quiet.

It was empty.

The dogs name was Coca Cola, so called because she was the colour of a fizzy bottle of coke. The night watchman was called Rachid. He showed us to our room.

We went up one flight of stairs, another flight of stairs, past a roof terrace, another flight of stairs another roof terrace, some more stairs, a little blue door and there was our room.

Long, narrow with a firm bed, shower room and a vase into which Rachid slid a bunch of wilted roses - well they had been waiting for us all night.

Without unpacking we took to our beds.

At 4.20 I was awoken by the call to prayer. The disembodied caller was so out of tune, so close and so forceful that I nearly threw my guidebook at him. I nearly jumped out of the bed to go to Mosque only I am neither a man nor a Muslim so it would have been fruitless.

Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday Night and off. It's not that I was counting the days but at midnight on Dimanche, Juillet 6th I was missing my bed, my daughters, my cat, my bath, my mother, my television, my radio, my kitchen get the picture.

When I awoke on Monday morning I was determined to enjoy the last few days of our vacation. The question was how?

To be cont......

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At July 17, 2008 12:45 AM Pauline J wrote:

Oh Jeni welcome back. We missed you but you were well worth the wait, these last entries are wonderful. Thanks for taking us there!

2. At July 17, 2008 6:57 AM chrissie wrote:

Continue, CONTINUE!!
Chrissie x x

3. At July 17, 2008 9:26 AM June wrote:

Hi Jeni
Welcome home.
I feel I've visted Morrocco! Your holiday blog has been SO descriptive, SO enjoyable, thanks.
Love June

4. At July 17, 2008 5:43 PM mrs jones wrote:

Went to Morrocco, Marrakech,
The Atlas Mountains and Ouzerwaite during the height of the Gulf War - in fact we watched the Sadaam Hussein monument being pulled down on BBC World whilst there! My advice would be - fantastic country but not in the height of summer!!!!! I hate heat, intense sun etc! Or rather, I used to think that I loved it but discovered many years ago that it did not like me! So not surprised by your experiences! Home is good!

5. At July 17, 2008 6:13 PM Kirsten wrote:

Jeni, these entries are a joy to read, thank you so much for sharing your Moroccan experience with us. I'm very much looking forward to Part 4! It's also wonderful having you back on the radio. Love, Kirsten.

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.