There are whole shops that sell tassels. Whole shops. Only tassels. Throw me a headscarf—Marrakech could be my spiritual home.
The city is noisy of course, but in a good-tempered way. Children walking home from school call across the street to older women and young men, and run to them for kisses. In the souk, traders invite tourists to “look only” and shrug a “maybe later” as westerners keep walking. There are mopeds everywhere. “At TENNTTS see yon” shout their riders. Donkeys (who can’t be bothered to bray) wait by the side of stalls, ready to pull home swaying piles of rugs, sticky steppes of dates, and a tonne or two of firewood. The only place I found really hard to pass was a shop selling green pottery made from Saharan sand. Well, some of the rag rugs were tempting too, and then there were the tuffets covered in orange and cobalt carpet… Sigh. One of the downsides of having no fixed abode is that, without a home, there can be no shopping for home goods. I miss it. I stopped for mint tea and chatted to the café owner, a Berber in his thirties. “I was born in the desert. I came here to run my restaurant. Easier, but the city is busy.” More shrugging. Outside the mosque two women in neon pink and fluorescent green hijabs invited me for a rickshaw ride. An elderly man guided a blind friend across the square. A fifty-something with a red velvet fez and luxuriant moustache wished me Bon soir and another in a floor length brown hoodie gestured to my hair. “Beautiful” he said. They can see me, they can actually see me. No wonder I like it here.
In the souk, there was a call to prayer. Some men kicked off their shoes and kneeled in line on a rug outside a carpet shop. I hung back, fearful of getting in the way of their absolutions. “Sit with them” said a man selling slippers. Surely that wasn’t what he meant? I couldn’t imagine such a thing—there were no woman in sight and no one prostrate who looked remotely Presbyterian. I noticed that, beyond the ranks of the worshipful, commerce continued. Following others, Arab and otherwise, I walked behind the raised behinds of the faithful to carry on business as usual.
Couscous for dinner with chickpeas, aubergines, courgettes, potatoes, celery and carrot and a lovely oniony goo. I asked for chili paste and also got some gravy—perhaps mutton broth? Delicious. Just the right sort of vegetarian meal.
I got lost on the way back to Riad Nabila. A young man in a glittered bomber jacket offered to show me where I could find a taxi. “I have no money” I warned him “I cannot pay a guide”.
“I am not a guide” he said. “I do it to help you”. I was sceptical. Every corner in Marrakech has young men standing on it. They do not seem to have anything else to do, which must make paying the bills difficult.I asked him to call a taxi driver recommended by Said at the Riad. He made the call, negotiated the best place for the pick-up, walked me there, shook my hand and left. The cab driver charged me 20dh to deliver me to the door—about $2.
My room has a burnt ochre silk bed spread. The black, white and bread-crust-coloured tiled floor is warmed by kilims in blue, sand gold, new-baked-biscuit gold, and orange. The bathroom shower surround is made of soapstone I think, and is the colour of topaz. God is indeed good.