Marrakesh Express 2: Souk.

 

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The Souk; the Sunday after, some tummies a bit tender, a bit tight, bowels a bit loose, and for kick off Mrs T takes this picture of a Moroccan lady passing between dimensions. Souks can do that to a person, they are in point of fact inter-dimensional, and as soon as the powers that be realise this then the world and its twin will be more stable, all will be fine in the multiverse.

In the James Bond and the Jason Bourne films, the Indiana Jones and the Jewel in the … films, we are led to believe that Souks are crazy bustling places where you are liable to get your pockets picked, local scamps will bump into you and swipe your wallet and passport, discarding the latter leaving the victim stranded in Marrakesh. A tedious trip to the embassy and several hours later drinking in a bar in the press club to be told by a glamorous veiled olive skinned dusky haired beauty from the embassy (allegedly) that they could not fix the problem and needed you to follow them through the backstreets to another office where the beauty would succumb to your charms and you would make love through the afternoon with the cotton curtains billowing around the shutters of the Juliette balcony before a masked assassin swings through the shutters and fabric with a knife in their teeth. This comes as no surprise and you leap up and pull the pistol from under the pillow shooting the assailant stone dead.

One thing leads to another and you escape on a scooter knocking down baskets and wooden boxes whilst being chased by a bunch of hapless individuals all wearing Fez’s and pointed slippers, spices and exotic vegetables spill everywhere and a sinister man with an eye patch and poor dental arrangement looks on, the monkey on his shoulder chuckles in that monkey way. The smell of Saffron and Cardamon, Sandalwood and cigarettes fills the air.

That is not what happened to us, I myself spent the whole morning farting in quieter alleyways trying to disperse the stench. It’s something in the cooking oil I think.

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Some tips for the amateur Souk seeker;

  • Try not to travel with 9 of you, shopping is a nightmare especially for those of us (me) who hates shopping.
  • Prepare to barter, this isn’t hard, it seems in the marketeer’s nature to try to rip you off, times are hard though and we knew, because of various chats had with the insurance company (remember the broken leg of B), that the last flights out of the country would be at midnight Monday/Tuesday. From Tuesday morning the foot traffic through the Souks would be locals and westerners trying to find the embassy (see earlier) in other words substantially less. Go to a fifth of the price and work up. If you want the product, its worth what you’ll pay for it.
  • Not so the Fucking mopeds, Jesus Christ on a Moped, they take priority because, I imagine, they are quicker than me, heavier than me, and could cause more damage than me, being made of metal, and because I lack the means to slip from one dimension to the next, like most Moroccans (see photo).
  • Walk on the right hand side, Mopeds go on the left and all the other sides.
  • Don’t expect the only record shop in Marrakech to be any good, it definitely isn’t, and his vinyl care was not up to scratch (pardon the pun) but all his records were; scratched that is.

As quiet as it was the Souks were, amazing mazes of lots of similar products, knock off football kits, wooden puzzle boxes, wooden hash boxes, wooden solitaire and chess sets, no Cribbage, which is a great way to confuse the hell out of the proprietor and make a snappy exit. Spices, Fez hats, a rubber fetishist shop, pointed slippers all the colours of the rainbow, embroidered in gold, mopeds, cakes, pastries, leather wear. There was a tanner’s market which a chap was more than happy to direct us towards, “Follow Me”. But all we found when we got within a minute or two was a bare chested man dripping in blood, caked in dust, handcuffed to a police man, and a screaming woman, being restrained by friends, surrounded by a vast crowd of people and their mopeds. It was at this point we decided to leave the Souk, for the main square and look for booze.

9D3F135E-48AC-4CCD-8BBF-00CB967D9BA0_1_201_aThis may be bullshit, but is as good a theory as any, that alcohol cannot be sold within sight of a Mosque. If i’m wrong, I apologise, it’s due to my laziness to google and is probably why I am not an investigative journalist, and cut my cloth writing this drivel when I could be staring into my work PC pretending to be busy, these are strange times indeed. As soon as the 9 of us arrived at the square just adjacent to the massive strawberry stand, it became apparent how much more chaotic the main square was. Hawkers selling watches, real Rolex, iPhone 11’s in slightly worn boxes, which i’m putting down to the climate, a desert has a very high diurnal temperature range, that is probably it. Plastic bottles sold by really drunk people filled with presumably the stuff they have been drinking, theres snakes in baskets, vicious looking hissing cobras, monkeys on chains being yanked and shouted at, there was a man who tried to sell M and C a jar of red liquid, they had no idea what it was and therefore no idea if they didn’t need it, this would have paled into insignificance because of the rules on carrying liquid in the cabin of a plane. Thinking back now, we could have split it, put it into our little bags and carried it through. We could now be showering and exfoliating the top layers of our skin every morning, Oh the benefit of hindsight, but i’m sure C or M would recognise the enterprising business man if we went back.

A man wearing the international attire of the “Roadman”, the slightly shiny and slightly worn matching track suit took it upon himself to escort us at breakout speed from the market to a bar where we could sit on the roof, a safety zone, away from the entrepreneurs and businessmen touting for coin. Fuck me, this place was obviously trying to cut down ion its lighting bills, faded glamour untouched for decades, smelt of suspicion and mistrust, there was a taxi rank opposite, the man in the tracksuit stood there telling us he didn’t want paying, and we were thoroughly sick of the place.

Back at base we’ed regaled the days tales to B, who was distinctly unimpressed until the “How many Beers do we think we’ve drunk” discussion ensued, something we could get our teeth into, something out of our control but within our control if we wanted it to be. Life in the square was tough and was going to get tougher once the tourists stopped coming, which they would the next day at midnight, Corona was on its way, and look where we are now. Some of us took orders and wondered down to the small takeaway restaurant down the road, near to the event horizon of the souk, chewing over the fat of the day, suddenly a screwed up used tissue landed onto our table. Could have been an accident, but it could have been a warning, “Fuck off, unclean, don’t bring Corona to our country”.

Later that night we discussed where we thought we’ed be this time in a week. Who knew…

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