Souks & the happening

November 11, 2010 in MOROCCO | Comments (0)

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We saw them. Or should I say got saturated by the overwhelming experience of the Square and the souks. The square, the people, the haggling, the demand for money after a snap of the camera. The man in the corner of this pic circled in like the advance guard when I aimed my camera at the snake charmer in the serene afternoon before arrival of the crowds.

Another man appeared somehow to protect us from him and shouted louder. So we tell him that no, we don’t want to go to the leather souk just now – have no money just now – will come back tomorrow. Wander over the serene square. And then in great libertarian folly, take another snap of a very jolly dancing man in red – he is so happily smiling and dancing and his son joins…and then comes the demand for money again. But we have come unprepared. Smallest note 100, in my budget too much for a photo… so try to drift off but are pursued by angry man and pleading child, fixing me with accusing sad eyes and quivering lip. Suddenly our savior appears again and shouts them off.

Now he owns us, he is sure. He wants to show us his Berber treasures. We saw the Berber exhibition we say (which ended also with a very stiff and disappointed man when we said we have no money to buy). The word buy is starting to feel like a button for bile release or HCl upsurge. But our savior wants to show us something or anything. I would like to have a cup of coffee and study my map, I say – point at Arcana café (which had been ringed on my map by the hotel) more as a landmark than a suggestion. I think Café de France was more of a suggestion but couldn’t see it.

No said our new man – you must come to drink tea (pronounced French way) in a tea salon – (that’s authentic his tone said, and he was no doubt right). However we felt the need to escape and waved our way into café Arcana. We were not allowed to sit on the balcony which was reserved for meals – but were waved up into a rather second rate room with plastic chairs – nevertheless fine view of the square. Coffee only 13 dirham (one third of the cost at our hotel).

Via the toilet and now armed with some change we dared into the market, still feeling the opposite of buying mania. Up comes another man. Very nice face…I can’t be nasty, and I answer his questions though Pelle is showing the stiff lip that is necessary to move an inch through this terrain. Turns out the man can speak some Swedish…who knows the history of that….but now he wants to take us on a tour to see various souks he thinks we want to see (or where he has contacts, who knows). We manage to get out of that, though he has made his tour sound more exciting than the previous man and his easier tone is less frightening…

But Pelle’s frozen lip gives a faint smile and we manage to part with our new friend reminding him we cannot buy today – we have no money (in fact we have only altogether 300 MAD, not planning to shop at all really) (in fact longing just to go back to our hotel)

But no we should at least see the souks.

And then they start to weave their spell…

Immediately on entering a narrow passage, there is a new mood, lavish, vibrant, with colour and aroma, among a changing array of goods, from cloths to jewellery, mats to lanterns, people moving slowly, ladies in gowns, scarves and veils…shopping down the narrow walkways, crowded but not too crowded at 3pm.

I buy a “silk & cashmere” scarf like this for 90 dirham.

I have firm instructions from Pelle not to talk to anyone, but I cannot help it…they talk to me.

And then to escape I turn to him, knowing he will freeze them gently out and move on.

But one lady gets me. Or I get her. She is hidden behind a niqab, with dark eyes glinting over it. She offers me a bracelet for 20 MAD. No money. 5 for 100. No money. 6 for 100. I cant help smiling though Pelle is nodding at me to stop this …

I only have 20 dirham I tell her at last. Ok 2 for 20, 4 for 20….she does acrobatics among numbers till it has no sense to me. But I have a new idea. I don’t care how many bracelets. I just want to photograph her – 10 bangles for 20 dirham and I photograph you.

Ok she says: you take 3 photo and get 5 for 20 dirham. Ok, I say. Pelle is so happy this spectacle is over so he gives her the money as I snap – she is immediately gone and I miss 2 of my snaps…

Here is the one I did get.

Then we made it back to the Square.

“Just wait till 5pm – then it comes alive!” we were told. Indeed…and by 8pm it’s hard to leave the Square.  More ad more people are arriving.

It feels you have been there forever listening to drums, watching the dancers, the snake charners and the veiled ladies drifting by in all colours of the rainbow, with matching headscarves and robes, plus tourists that in November are perhaps less intrusive than in high season.

Sunset behind Katoubia mosque is part of the view.

There goes a real old style hippie, newly dusted, straight off the shelf.

Sitting right now on our wonderful rooftop garden at La Sultana. It’s so much quieter today, a public holiday. The sky is blue and the air feels light. Sun drenches the roof garden; the plants are wreathed in light. Doves are nesting in holes in the old stone turrets adjoin us. Cooing. Birds are flying. A stork sits on a chimney top – ah two of them. It is full of life up here in our castle world. We see a group of tourists down by the tombs…it is tempting never to go out again, just stay here.

Our little souk below in the Kasbah below Sultana has been cleaned after the late night chaos yesterday. Fewer wares are out.

La Sultana hotel inspection – next post

La Sultana has 28 rooms in five riads or town houses each with one or two traditional courtyards open to the sky in good weather (in bad weather plastic screens are folded out). All the rooms open into these inner courtyards.


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