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  • Day5

    The craziness of the Marrakech Souk

    September 17 in Morocco ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    You probably don't wanna hear about how well I'm sleeping any more, so a slight change of pace today... After an early breakfast (I mean, 08:00 is early, right?) I'm on a shuttle bus into the heart of Marrakech by 10:00. It's a short 20 minute bus ride, replete with the driver leaning on the horn every 10 seconds, and several pedestrians literally throwing themselves into the road. Couple of things I always try and discover early on in a trip in a new country as it can vary so massively - how to cross the road, and why someone is beeping at me. (Often they go hand-in-hand.)

    Morocco seems to be similar to India on the horn use front. It's used primarily as a way to tell other people on the road that you're there - as if the spectre of an eight ton truck covered in bells and shiny baubles bearing down on you at 80 kilometres per hour wasn't enough of a sign.

    Road crossing - Morocco is a little more similar to Vietnam. They use what I like to call the, "Take your life in your hands and hope for the best" method. The trick (apparently) is to make eye contact with the car / scooter / truck driver, and maintain eye contact while you cross the road. This action allegedly means the driver can't reliably claim not to have known you were there when they mow you down. It has the ancillary challenge of meaning you can't see where you're going. There's a natural instinct to flick your eyes ahead of you to make sure you're not about to knock over a defenceless grandmother, or put your foot into a pot-hole. You must resist this instinct - lest the driver takes this lapse in judgement as reason to double down on the accelerator. Outside Koutubia Mosque, it takes me a good ten minutes to build up the confidence to cross the road, and when I do, it's not a fun experience. It's only as I walk down the road towards Jemaa El-Fnaa Square that I notice there's a proper pedestrian crossing that I completely missed.

    I'm meeting my guide, Mohammed at midday by the Souk, the complex, maze-like market that is the lifeblood of Marrakech. I head for Café De France, an institution of a bar right on the square. As I walk over, my senses are bombarded by smell, sound, sight. Here, a snake charmer with the shrill oboe-like music they use to arouse their Cobras; there, a dancing monkey with his trainer. There are horse-drawn carriages ferrying tourists around the city, countless fresh fruit stalls, and a lot of foot traffic. It's a cacophony, and an assault, and I love it. I find the Café de France, grab a seat, and spend an amazing half hour watching the world go by...

    Mohammed and I manage to find each other, and we embark on a walking tour of the Souk. He's a lovely guy, speaks great English, and gives me a deep insight into the inner workings of the Souk. I'd never find my way around it unguided.

    We visit a few different artisanal stores - one in particular sticks in my mind, where Berber leather products are crafted by hand. Mohammed and I sit for a while, chatting over a cup of tea offered by the store owner, and just watching these craftsmen (and it is all men, at least in the storefront) at work. It's mesmerising, and the quality of their product is outstanding.

    We visit a fresh orange juice stall to quench our thirst, then continue, deeper into the Souk where we come across the butchers' market - which is another fresh sensual check. We stop and watch one of the store owners butchering a lamb, and at another we find a butcher preparing offal for a local delicacy - a sausage that sounds to me to be pretty similar to Haggis.

    All too soon, our walk around the Souk comes to an end. I'll be back in a few days to take more of a look around. For now, I head back to the hotel, conscious that I've missed at least a couple of hours sleep, and need to top up.

    The rest of the day passes blissfully, peacefully, lazily. I start reading my 7th book of the trip, I revisit the rosé and immediately regret it. I settle into several vins blancs, and soon enough, it's bedtime...
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    Tim Irvine

    My lovely guide, Mohammed.

    Tim Irvine

    He thinks he looks like Thierry Henry. He really doesn't.

    Tim Irvine

    This guy was apparently stoned out his trumpet. Hash allegedly helps him concentrate?!

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