Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5





A trip to Morocco

Part 1: Through the window we see a mosque

The southbound plane descends through clouds. The ground looks red and rocky. It is at an odd angle. The plane banks steeply left. It turns in a semicircle. We see palmtrees. We land. The pilot taxis to park close to the terminal. We descend on foot. The air is warmer than in Paris.

We give immigration staff the forms filled out in the plane. They give back forms to return when leaving. We collect our baggage. We pass through the green channel without incident. A crowd is waiting at the exit. Taxi drivers importune us. A man with a broken tooth holds a sign saying "La famille HOLMES". He takes us past more taxi drivers. He puts our bags and us in a minibus.As he drives, he jokes with us. His name is, predictably, Abdul. The drive to the three star hotel in l'Hivernage is short. Abdul unloads our baggage and takes us into the Akabar hotel. He smiles and says goodbye. I would tip him, but I have no money, only a creditcard.

We fill in forms. We go to our topfloor rooms. We unpack. Through the window we see a mosque. Everywhere there are palmtrees and foliage. I walk about a hundred yards to a cash distributor. I return to the hotel. We go to eat. The food is "western". It is mediocre. We are tired despite the short flight. There is a two hour time difference. A last minute flight change meant we spent five hours at the Paris airport. We go to bed.

We wake up. Was it the muezzin from the mosque? We see small groups of birds flying and wheeling together. A stork flaps slowly across the sky in front of the mosque. Everything is very green. We go down to breakfast. We are in a courtyard with a corrugated plastic roof. It is hot. Flies buzz around. We are seated by the smiling black waitress. She disappears. We wait. Everybody else waits. We wait. It is waitress service. An Arab boy of twelve or thirteen dressed as a waiter smiles at us. He does nothing. Finally a man serves himself. Then everyone serves themselves. Henry James wrote that society is like a sheep crossed with a parrot. There are miniature croissants, bread, butter and jam, orange juice, tea and coffee.

Rain drums the roof. It leaks over one of the tables. The cloudburst ends. Water lies in pools outside. We have no raincoats, no umbrellas. We decide to risk it.

We walk out and take a taxi to the huge central square - Jamaa el-Fna. We enter the pinkish city walls by a large gate. We go past the Koutoubiya mosque we saw from our hotel window. It is surrounded by formal gardens. The minaret is a high pink tower.

Jamaa el-Fna swarms with snakecharmers, acrobats, musicians, fortunetellers, storytellers, hennapainters, monkeycarriers, watersellers with bright costumes. There are lines and lines of orangejuice stalls, street restaurants. We walk north to the Koranic school. The pink streets are too narrow for cars. There are bikes, scooters, and donkeycarts carrying building materials.

We hesitate. Would-be guides press themselves on us. We refuse politely. We were warned. We are asked "How many camels for the gazelle?" by passers-by. The gazelle is my daughter. The passers-by are too poor to have camels. The gazelle is fourteen. She is not for sale.

We pay to go in to the pink Koranic school, Ben Youssef Madrasa. There are intricately patterned ceilings. There is a courtyard with fountains. There are elaborately tiled rooms and recesses.

All the rooms are bare. The school has an austere beauty. The Ben Youssef Madrasa school is near the Ben Youssef mosque. The Museum of Marrakesh is next to the mosque. We are hungry. We decide to visit the Museum after lunch. We walk back to Jamaa el-Fna. We are assailed by offers for the gazelle. One hundred camels, two hundred, a thousand, three thousand, they shout.

We eat at Chez Chegrouni overlooking the square. It serves Moroccan food. It is crowded and cheap. It is full of tourists. There are two couples from our hotel. It rains heavily while we eat. The rain ceases. We walk back to the Museum. It starts to rain.

The Museum houses contemporary Moroccan art. It is linked to traditional Moroccan culture. There are paintings with the Hand of Fatima. I learn that it wards off the evil eye. There are paintings with Arabic script traversing half the surface. The Museum building is a former raid, a rich man's townhouse.

There are intricately patterned ceilings, elaborately tiled rooms and recesses, a courtyard with fountains. There is a hammam with an exhibition of photos. Explanatory panels give narratives by former hammam employees. They explain the place of the hammam in Moroccan everyday life. The rain has stopped when we leave.

Part 2: Some things never change

this travelogue is part of the subside travelzine
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