Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5





A trip to Morocco

Part 5: Today the gates are open

Another day. The taxi takes us to the Menara gardens. They are just outside Marrakesh. There is a house, which I will refrain from describing. It has a first floor terrace. The terrace overlooks a rectangular lake.

We walk round the lake. We walk past earthmoving equipment. A road is being built. It goes straight as an arrow from the Menara to the Koutoubiya. We follow it in a taxi. Today the gates are open. We walk in the Koutoubiya gardens.

In the afternoon, we visit the washrooms of the Ben Youssof mosque. They are in a small separate building. Infidels cannot visit the mosque. In the garden, we see a cat with a litter of four kittens feeding. Further off, under a bush is another kitten. It does not move. It is dead.

We walk back through the Souq. We meet a man with a tiny herbal medicine shop. He seems frank and honest. He has an iguana. On top of the iguana is a chameleon. My daughter plays with the iguana.

We chat with the man. My daughter plays with the chameleon. His French is good. My daughter wants to have her hands painted with henna. The man says he has done many things. My daughter wants her hands painted. He doesn't want to work abroad. The important thing is the family. My daughter wants her hands painted. A girl explains that black henna is much more expensive than red henna. Oh please Dad. He has two gazelles himself. Sometimes he organizes trips around Marrakesh. He could take my address or give me his. Oh Dad.

The man concurs that black henna is more expensive. But it will last for two months. The girl says it will cost fifty dirhams. Red henna costs five or ten dirhams. Look it is your pocket money. If you want to spend fifty dirhams on henna, you won't be able to spend it on something else. The hands are painted. The lines are very thick. We leave with the man's address.

Next day, we pack. Our plane is in the afternoon. We go for lunch at Dar Mimoun. We take a last look at Jamaa el-Fna. The minibus driver is not Abdul. We go past the Menara gardens.

At the airport we wait. My wife and daughter sit and talk with a Moroccan woman. She lives in Paris. She has a riad in Essaouira, on the coast. She says black henna and red henna are the same price. She says henna will only last for months if mixed with chemicals. Chemicals that damage the skin.

We return the forms they gave us on arrival. We catch our plane. It's been a week, but it seems much longer. A week later, all the henna has washed off. I tear up the paper with the man's address.

CH, 2003, Paris

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