The musings of a city chick hatching a plan for a move to a more spacious and rewarding life.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Marrakech and the colour pink

Recently the father of one of Elodie's friends said he thought Marrakech was like the poor man's version of India. Even though there is no where near the poverty in Marrakech that there is in India and it is quite obviously a place of very wealthy people, both foreign and local, I know what he means. It's something to do with the depth of culture as perceived by the visitor. I know that 5 days in a city hardly yields great insights or contacts into the deeper aspects of any place, but at a glance it seems to be a much simpler place. There aren't the contradictions, the variations and I guess the everywhere-ness of the people, all doing different things. Or maybe it's because half the population is, to a large extent, absent from all the interactions you have as a visitor.

Or maybe that's just because it's quite touristique. India is the whole country and Marrakech is just one city, but even so I can't think of an equivalent city in India that I visited that was as touristique. It's a bit like Venice, almost a theme park version of itself. Maybe if we had been in Fez we may have seen a more real Morocco.....

Anyway, it was still interesting. I would have found it more so if browsing the stalls in the souk wasn't such an effort. I can understand why they feel the need to pounce as the same products can be bought next door and next door to that and so on. If they let the shopper go, there's a high chance they'll lose them. I think a lot of people do go there to shop, it seemed like the main activity. That and drinking gallons of water, lounging in chic cafes where cold mist is sprayed over everyone at regular intervals.

I did quite get into bargaining after awhile. I'm sure we paid too much for some things and not enough for others. One man called us Jews under his breath and another called me a Berber. Which I think is some desert person lacking class and social grace or something like that! I think we were cursed as well by a man we bought tiles off. The prices for things ranged ridiculously for the same things, depending on where you were.

Maybe if I wasn't pregnant I would have been more adventurous and dug deeper. Now that I'm home I wish we'd bought a rug, but at the time the thought of being held hostage in one of those cavernous rooms enduring the endless parade of rugs was too much. Instead we just pottered around and bought silly things, most of which I could take or leave! I did buy some old keys to add to my collection of old keys which I quite like. And the tiles look like someone from a sheltered workshop made them, which is what we like about them.

Anyway, the food was good but not as good as I was expecting. We didn't go to fancy restaurants though so maybe that's where the creativity is. We ate at the markets a couple of times, avoiding the other tourists at the stalls with beautiful displays, opting instead to sit with the locals and eat unrecognisable things with our fingers. Simple food, quite delicious. We had goat's head one night, which I don't need to ever eat again I might add. It was tasty enough but the textures and the general look of the thing was a little unnerving. Couple that with the fact that the guy using his hands to cut up and pull apart the meat is also the same guy who handles the money and the meat being ladled out of the tangia looked far more appertizing. The locals at the food markets ate far smaller portions than the tourists I noticed. We often had seconds. Maybe we could afford to. I guess they eat bread with everything and that fills them up. And they eat eggs, there were plenty of egg stalls with people at them having a round bread with the middle gauged out and egg stuffed in.

We had a delicious soup for 3 dirhams, which is like 4 bucks. There were whole families eating that, which could hardly fill them up but.......I don't know, perhaps they have a big lunch. But more likely that's all they can afford. On the last night we had dinner at our riad which was cooked by the cleaner, Zora. She made a Moroccan salad which was delicious and something I shall definitely have to recreate. The main was the most enormous bowl of cous cous I have ever seen. It was topped with vegetables and a chicken poached in cabbage leaves. Enough to feed 4 people and we had one each. I have never felt so wasteful in my life as I ate more than was comfortable but barely scraped the surface.

Apparently whatever doesn't get eaten by us, the guest, is then eaten by the staff or someone else so it doesn't go to waste, but why does so much get made in the first place? That's why we didn't go to the fancy restaurants, as we read that the amount of food served was impossible to eat and I hate being in a country where I behave like a gluttonous tourist simply because it's been arranged that way.

Anyway, I've realised that even though I love Moroccan food, what I really love is food that has been inspired by Morocco. The people eat pretty simply for the most part. I'm sure when the festivities break out they must go nuts in the kitchen, but from what we could see at the markets the locals ate one thing at an everyday meal. Meat or vegetables or eggs. Not all of it together. And the reason I'm sure for the slow cooking tagines and tangias is the fact that at most butchers the meat is hanging unrefridgerated in the open air for the whole day. If I was a local woman I'd be going to the butcher first thing in the morning.

Enough of all that. Some photos:

There are versions of pink all over marrakech, which I think I noticed at the time. I must have as now practically every photo has pink in it. It's ironic that such a feminine colour should be so ubiquitous in such a masculine place.

Recycled banners used as shade

Great colours

It always pays to look up

There's always a lot of sitting around

Tim's eye for signage

The writing is beautiful



A typical street

Another one that is a little more refined