Published: March 17th 2009March 17th 2009
I was so tired last night that I simply walked down into the Place Jemaa El Fna, paid little attention to the sound of the drums, wailing pipes, dancers and storytellers and had something to eat. Traditional Moroccan fare ensued at a street stall, spicy tomatoes, onion, lamb tagine, bread, a (large) bottle of water and all finished off with very sweet mint tea. All for 50dh (about £4.00). Back at the Riad, I was asleep before I could finish this sente ...
Bites and Bites
I didn't realise that Moroccans were so short. Although I slept well, I had to sleep diagonally across the bed - which, incidently, had been taken from a Girl's Boarding School owing to the fact that the slightest movement caused some bit of its construction to hit against another part of its construction and make a loud ringing noise! I was expecting Matron to burst through the door at any moment in a vain attempt to discover the identity of my room mate!
For those back home, I am merely illustrating a point and not suggesting I had a room mate. Unless, that is, you count the solitary mosquito that seemed to have
found its way in before I closed the window. Occasionally throughout the night, I'd hear a high pitched drone in my ear and my reflexes would brush it away. Sadly, this morning, I am the clear victim of a feast, with little bite marks over my upper body. I assure you it was the mosquito and no other room mate.
08h00. It's already hot and I bounce out of bed; I don't actually - it just sounds better than writing the truth! Washed and dressed, I head up to the roof where I am greeted by the sight of a Bedouin tent! I would have liked to have had my breakfast in the sun but all the tables (4 of them) were taken (by the Dutch and French) so I sat indoors and satiated myself with fresh orange juice, strong coffee, fresh dates, coconut, raisins, bread, something that looked like thin sheets of bread put together but was very sweet and more coffee.
Donning my hat, I disappeared into the sun for a day around town.
In which I see that life is cheap
I've no idea what the temperature is but bearing in mind that it's
only 09h30, it already feels like high 20s! This morning's plan is to walk around the city walls. Unlike those of York, one can't walk around the top but around the outside for inside, houses, etc., are built right up to the walls.
I reached the Place de la Liberté where the main road passes through the walls and, rather than heading straight through towards the Place Jemaa El Fna, I decided to follow the walls in an anticlockwise direction.
This first part was quite picturesque, being the more upmarket part of town. Little gardens hugged the walls and local elderly gentlemen sat in their shade. Across the road, the signs of everyday life were evident - petrol stations, garages, ironmongers, etc. Soon, they gave way to wasteland and a new friend
. I'd collected an elderly Berber on a bicycle who just wouldn't go away and insisted on showing me the city! I repeatedly told him that I wasn't lost but he stuck by.
I went past numerous cemeteries as I kept the walls to my right. Sadly there wasn't much to see, just apparent wasteland. Every now and again, I came across gates in the walls,
through which locals streamed. By this time, there were virtually no Europeans around - just how I like it (except for my little Berber!)
Suddenly, there was a squeal of brakes and a young man in a Citroen skidded into an elderly gentleman and his donkey. The donkey lay there silently. The elderly gentleman lay there silently. The young man sat still in his car. No one moved. Everyone just stood and looked. Moments later a cacophony of horns filled the air as motorbikes, scooters, cars and lorries jostled to get by the carnage in the road. At this point, a small crowd began to gather around the broken bodies in the middle of the road. One moment, this poor old man with his little donkey pulling a trailer containing his worldly belongings was eking his meagre existence alone and the next, he's the centre of attention. Sadly, he'd probably never had so much attention paid to him and sadly he probably didn't even know.
Three and a half hours after having started my walk around the walls, I came to an abrupt end at the Bab Ghemat gate. For it was here that the walls stop and
I now needed to navigate my way back. With my 'trusty' Berber still cycling beside me (just couldn't get rid of him!) I wandered through the old Jewish Quarter and into the Place Jemaa El Fna. After taking an orange juice at my little stall, I wandered back towards the city walls.
My little Berber had by now got the message and bid me farewell, holding his hand out for a donation. I took it, shook his hand and left. If only he'd have listened! Refreshed with water and coffee, I headed towards the Medina.
Sun, dust, thunder, rain ... more death ... and sun
With temperatures in the low thirties only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. Come to think of it, I've seen no dogs - only the mad Englishmen!
I made my way towards the Jemaa El Fna and, on the far side, left the square through a small arch. Heading down a colourful road I passed small shops selling anything from bits of old metal to broken light switches. Maybe I should bring the contents of my garage here and set up business! Walking under a second arch, I
Farther around the walls ...
Neat lines of cups for sale ...
turned left and left the main route, following little alleys towards the Dar Si Said Museum. The alleys were deserted although I could hear the sounds of families in the houses past which I was going. I came out on a main thoroughfare and, rather like the football supporters and their Land Rover in The Italian job, went straight across down another little alley. Soon, I arrived at the Mellah and disappeared down yet more alleys into the heart of the old Jewish Quarter. Tiny streets with little shops hugged the walls of the Bahia Palace - storks roosting on the tops of the walls, long since deciding not to migrate.
All the time, thunder was rumbling overhead and the sky was getting darker. Dust devils swept along the road and before long, the first drops of rain began to fall. Soon, the dust was beginning to lose its battle with the rain and a steady stream of water fell from the sky. In the heat of the day, this was very refreshing!
Through the rain, I walked past the Royal Palace and eventually found myself at Bab Agnaou, named after the gateway through which the black slaves
More walls ...
The little tents turned out to be the beginnings of a fun fair!
from sub-Saharan Africa were brought into the city. Passing through the gate, I made my way towards the Saadian Tombs. These were “discovered” by the French in the early twentieth century after an official forced his way down a “secret” alley and found himself in a hidden garden. It was here that 18th century Sultans were buried. Whilst the identity of those buried here is lost, the gardens are simple, understated relaxation in the busyness of the city. Several buildings can be entered, the ornate Islamic carvings glistening from the moisture of the now drying rain. Little kittens play amongst the bushes and tourists from all parts of the globe snap away with their cameras - usually straight into the sun!
With the sun now back out, I left the tombs and made my way back to the Jemaa El Fna, a glass of orange juice and a slow walk back to my Riad.
There are more photos below