Thursday, April 15, 2010

Final night in Morocco heading for barcelona

4 14 10 Marrakech




I slept in this morning a little later, most of my clothes are disgusting now. Tonite I figure out what to throw away and what to keep. I go up to breakfast and meet Jamila’s French friend who is a travel agent in Belgium Francesca, and who wil accompany Jamila on her caravan du livre on the 21st. Francesca speaks English pretty good. She helps me communicate with Roselyne about getting to the airport in the morning. They will knock to wake me up at 6:30 and we leave for the airport at 7. My flight is at 9am to Barcelona. Francesca tells me that we (the Italians, the proprietors of the riad, and me will go to Jamila’s mothers home for dinner tonite at half past six. The Italians will bring gifts of sweets, the riad people flowers, and I will bring good cream for her mothers face and hands made from arjan oil. I assume I can find this in a pharmacie which are very easy to find, but close down mid day. I carry the item Malika gave me upstairs to see if Francesca knows what it is. She does not, she suggests I bring it with me tonite so Jamila or perhaps her mother can identify. I make one more trip upstairs to the terrace interrupting everyone to get a bottle of water before I leave for the medina.


I walk about 8 blocks then catch a cab to the djemina al fna. The price ranges from 30 to 50 dirhams one way. I am now pretty comfortable with the souks after being a bit overwhelmed yesterday, and I look I the lonely planet guide for the cooperatives centre du artisanal and although people describe where it is I never find it all day.


On my way, I let two women stop me in the middle of the square for a henna tattoo. They have a book of designs, but she starts before I have a chance to look at the book or negotiate the price. She continues with my left hand including my palm. She asks for 200 dirham and I give it to her without arguing or negotiating so then she does my left ankle for free (ha ha). Both she and the other lady are wearing burkas so I only see their eyes but they speak pretty good English and we chat on stools under the umbrella in the center of the main square.


They ask me if I want to take picture with the snake charmer and I tell them après the souks. After the shopping. When we are discussing this I brush my pants with the henna so they are probably history now, but I can buy more when I get home. Everybody thinks I am Australian here. Today I wear sandals displaying my pedicure from 3 weeks ago (picture that) but since its so hot and humid and I wear no makeup – obvious in my photos, notice the tiny eyes, old lady!


I then head in the direction of where I think the artists cooperative is but then change my mind and I decide to ride in the horse carriage today, and they want 300 dirham for one hour, but I finally negotiate 200 dirhams for 45 minutes with one guy and I climb in the carriage and off we go, around the medina, in and out of the walls, through the narrow alleyways and royal gardens. The guide shows me two storks atop the old city walls. The people mingle with the tourists and the markets sell everything from tourist items to meat , fruit, spices, etc. I also buy a gram of saffron powder for 100 dirham. The man tells me the saffron flower pistils are 1000 dirham a gram and I decide the powder is good enough. Hopefully it won’t explode in my luggage.


I get out of the horse carriage and head for the direction I think it is the artists coop again but first go into one center where they sell silver items upstairs and decorative lamps downstairs. A young guy takes me into his shop, they get me a stool and send out for tea while we talk about where I am from and what I do at work, obviously in very general terms since I don’t speak berber Arabic French or Spanish and they speak only a little English. The tea arrives, with 5 kinds of mint and they go through the pouring ceremony while I look at bracelets, necklaces and hands of Fatima wall items and necklaces. They continue to bring me different kinds, I like the berber silver bracelets the best. Berbers are from the mountains, the tourigs from the desert/the sahara!


I am there for about 45 minutes , we negotiate a price for 8 berber bracelets, 3 tourig (sp) bracelets – all silver, a necklace of silver with a dark stone, and some hands of Fatima- one for a gift and one old one and then two others to give as gifts. They wrap my head in a scarf and we take pictures, I have more tea, and I check my money and need to go to ATM because I didn’t have enough cash $1350 dirham for all the jewelry- I think it is good price maybe $150 US all together. I have $1000 dirham so I go to ATM and take out I think $4000 dirham which I think is around $500 uS and give him the $350 dirham I am short. I then find another shop and buy some babouch- one for in the house and one for walking on the street. They are Moroccan slippers the inside ones with rhinestones, the outside ones pointy toes red and beige, hard to describe, will take a photo. Then they ask if I want a tourig outfit, and I end up buying a thing you tie around you like a strapless top, and you grab material between your legs, and put your arms into the short sleeves, and tie with a wide embellished belt. They do the scarf thing here too, and take my photo several times including a couple with my face covered. They insist, just like the last shopkeepers that I must be berber because I am such a good negotiator. I am letting them win, and I am happy with the prices I paid (even though I really am not focusing on how much I have, only if I have enough to pay Jamila and to get a cab to the hotel from the Barcelona airport.


I go to the grande terrace balcony restaurant that overlooks the square, and order couscous au viande (with meat) and a coke. This time the coke is in a larger bottle and the straw stays put. I am sitting at the edge and have a great view of the action in the square. There are some dancers with hats that have a tassel that they swing around as they play percussion instruments. Tourists are joining in (for a price and a picture) as member of the band. The snake charmers are charming a man and woman, and they are videotaping and photographing, and I watch as they try to get more money out of the couple. I try to find out how much to tip them for this, because I know I read it, but can’t find it in the book right now so I decide to just fake it. Since I didn’t go to the square at night to see that craziness, I have to do the snake thing, right! I finish my lunch, visit the water closet , and head down the stairs. I am to buy some bon crème pour les mains for Jamila’s mother as a gift for hosting us for dinner tonite. I know where there are several pharmacies but they are all closed because it is the time they close everyday between I think 1230 and 3. I get a taxi to agree to 50 dirham back to the riad, but he doesn’t know where he is going and tells me it will be $100 dirham instead when I say no at the first paitisserie aymain, I say, I issim. Aymain. Oooohhhh Aymain in Issim. When he drops me off I just give him the $100 dirham, its only around 12 or 13 bucks . I then walk to the two pharmacies I have seen near the riad, but both are closed so I return to the riad . it is now beginning to rain, giant drops, but not too hard. I go back to the riad and upstairs and I ask Roselyne about the bon crème pour le mains and she says to get the argan based crème that is sold in the artisanal coop near the medina. Where I just got back from. Which is another $100 round trip unless I get a bad driver again. I go downstairs, organize my money and walk out the door.


It is about 330 and we leave for dinner at 630 approximately. I catch a cab right away and he is very funny but doesn’t understand before the medina, and we finally settle on approachement the medina. He pulls up to this place that sort of looks like the thing I have written down (but it is the back entrance) but I know I am close to the medina. Roselyne has given me the box for the crème and told me to look for the shop that sells soap and scents. I head to the right, go down the stairs, and one guy sends me upstairs to the right all the way to the end. Oh, I forgot to say that when I got in the taxi, another young guy ½ block away also got in, and after he left, the taxi driver and I had a great time, he started by singing Welcome to the Hotel California, and continued on with how many roads must a man walk down…..bob Dylan! So we sang our way to the hand cream place. He is 50 years old and studied English for 3 courses, and yes, he likes obama. The driver knows now I go to buy the crème for Jamila’s mother as a gift for this evening, so he tells me, OK I wait for you, be fast. I find the shop, I buy the cream and I come out and he takes me back to the street near the riad. I give him 120 dirham and he is very happy with the tip and offers to take me anywhere I need to go tonite, because he knows I leave in the morning. He is happy, I am happy and I still have 1-1/2 hours till we leave for dinner.


I ring the buzzer, they let me in, and I go upstairs, get my camera and video and my computer and attempt to go on the terrace, but it has rained pretty hard here while I was gone so everyone is down in the lounge room. I go in, and there is some sort of big meeting going on with Francesca , the Italians and a girl I don’t know. Everyone looks very serious. I sit at the other end of the road and download all my photos and videos to the computer. When the meeting breaks up, everyone says hello, and then Jamila arrives. Francesca and Jamila decide I should go with them right now to her mothers, and I can change into my jellaba at her mothers home, after I help with dinner. I run upstairs, get the hand crème, get the money for Jamila , grab my jellaba and run out the front door where they are waiting for me. Jamila drops us off at her mothers, a then goes off to her office.


We are greeted at the front door by Jamila’s mother and the lady who has been cleaning the house and cooking for us tonite. They have made many chickens. We sit in the kitchen and I watch Francesca cut up vegetables for the salad, and I help Jamila’s mother bring large platters downstairs from the 2nd floor. I go wash my hands because they haven’t been washed since the WC after lunch, and I am now in the kitchen of the home where food is being prepared. Francesca has made ice cream for a dinner she is cooking for the family tomorrow. She went on a caravan before with Jamila and has become part of her family since she retired and moved to Italy. She is very fun, and is a new friend. She has two dogs,just like me. We go into the main lounge room which is wall to wall lounges like Malikas house, but much nicer and bigger. Francesca tells me about many customs. You can tell how many courses are to be served in Morocco by the number of plastic tablecloths on the table. That way you don’t each too much of the first course if there are 10 to come for example. They bring incense into the house in a large brazier to clear the air of the cooking smells. I tell Francesca in America we like the cooking smells. Then we all move into the main entry area and sit and talk, sometimes Francesca and I, sometimes the 3 of them in Arabic or French. Jamila’s mother is very nice and is making sure I am taken care of. I go to change into my jellaba and everyone comments how nice it is, hand sewn, and good fabric and how it looks so elegant on me because I am tall. I am so sweaty from the day, and I hope I don’t ruin it by spilling something on it. Everyone comments on my t strap sandals (9 west) and loves them. They say they would come to America to buy them. A few minutes later Jamila’s father walks in, shakes my hand and then he disappears for the evening. Then the Italians come in with Jamila and Roselyne and we all go into the main room, removing our shoes before we go on the carpet. We are all poured water, and begin with the salad. Oh, I made the dressing with vinegar and oil and about ½ of 1/8 tsp Dijon that was in the fridge. Francesca said she always buys good mustard and puts it in the fridge, and everytime she returns it is gone or almost gone. No one complained about the dressing anyway. (or not to my face).


After we have each taken our salad, a large baking dish comes with some sort of tiny meatballs/spicy , and rice, with hard boiled eggs on the top . It is really good and I have 3 servings and some bread as I finish the first course. Then they bring out a giant platter with 8 or 9 chickens on it with preserved lemons and olives and who knows what. They also served extra juice, and had lots of bread to soak it up. We all just pulled it off the bone from the platter and scraped up the spicy stuff from the top of the roasted chickens , it was really delicious and messy. After that course, we had tea, and the same ceremony with pouring from a height by Jamila’s mother, and the fruit bowl. The sweetest strawberries, perfectly ripe bananas, the sweetest oranges. Oops, I also forgot Jamila’s sister came home before we ate and she is a part of this large group at dinner. She brought a really beautiful cake home with her. Everyone gets more tea, and cake. I keep smiling at Jamila’s mother and the helping lady, thumbs up and rubbing my stomach to show how nice this is. I take many pictures but try not to be too obnoxious. I sit and listen to everyone speaking Italian, French and Arabic, and can follow some of the conversation, and every once in a while someone will translate for me. The evening is almost over, and the young couple run outside for a smoke, while we are are giving our kiss kiss, kiss goodbye to Jamila’s mother and sister and the helper lady, and kiss kiss to the Italians, we are all exchanging emails, since I leave early in the morning, and we head back to the riad. I make Jamila come inside for a moment since I have no photographs of her during my visit, so we have Mino take a couple of us, and then Jamila leaves and Francesca comes to show me pix of her dogs, and I show her videos of my babies. We say goodnight and I begin packing. I am throwing out some things, but got most of it in the bag and the rancho la puerta tote I brought. I am going to have to repack everything in Barcelona and decide what goes in luggage compartment and what stays with me, and what gets thrown away.


It is hard to believe how fast time has gone. Just today I am feeling very comfortable in Marrakesh, and now could feel comfortable going to the medina in early evening on my own, but that will have to wait for my next visit. I hope to get some support for Jamila’s caravan from my friends at home, so that she can continue to take books to the children in the villages. A little money goes a long way here in Morocco. Maybe I’ll write to Richard Branson and see if he will contribute to her cause. Who knows? All he can do is ignore it or give to Jamila. Well, I am going to sleep now. I have no idea what time it is because I have packed my watch and I am not going to unpack just for that. As long as I get to the airport on time tomorrow, I don’t need my watch until after I get to the hotel anyway.


Heading to barcelona for one last night..

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