Sunday, 27 September 2015

Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar (part three of three)

And so I left Essaouira promising myself to return one day and spend more time there. Heading back to the Medina in Marrakech, I knew I wanted to visit the Museum de l'Photographie. Finding my way through the labyrinth of souks was a different matter and I had plenty of offers from complete strangers to be my 'unofficial guide' (after all I was a single female and therefore thought of as easy prey). I was tempted, but being well clued up by now, I knew that this show of kindness wasn't what it first appeared. These unofficial guides, would, once depositing me at my destination, harass me for money for the 'service' provided, even if I had stated at the beginning that no money would change hands. But I persevered and along with the pestering, I also ignored the young lads who kept trying to direct me up the wrong alleys, as I was warned they do this to unsuspecting tourists (especially single females !) as a bit of fun. Over 45 % of Moroccan youths are unemployed and this mischievous fun with the tourists alleviates the daily boredom of hanging around the souks all day.  But I have a good sense of direction and could tell when they were pointing the wrong way.

After quite a few wrong turns, I eventually found the museum, a delightful converted riad run by a Frenchman and his business partner, who started it up when they discovered they  had both been collecting historic photographs of ancient Arabs and Berbers. There is something about old photographs that I could gaze at for ever; the clarity of older cameras illustrating the history and the lifestyles of dessert peoples over the centuries is difficult to match.

Berber Arab : Photograph courtesy of Museum de l'Photographie in Marrakech
I wish I could lay claim to the above photo but, alas, it isn't one of mine. It's a photograph I took of one of the mesmerising  portraits at the museum. He also happens to be one of the most handsome men in the world! A cross between George Clooney and Omar Sharif !
The delightful Museum de l'Photographie in the heart of the Medina
After a few hours there, it was back out into the hub bub of the Median souks and Djmaa El Fna square. Animals always seem to be part of my travels and some sights of the way these animals are worked and treated are upsetting.
Monkeys used as photographic bait in the square wasn't a pleasant sight but there wasn't much that could be done about it.  Although not cruelly treated,  (depending on your definition of cruelty) they are dealt with more harshly and kept in conditions that our British standards would not allow. The monkeys clearly look bored by their work and scared when told off by their handlers. One particularly upsetting aspect was the sight of these monkeys grabbing and holding onto their chains around their necks, as though to protect themselves 
from the sudden jerk of the handlers when they wanted them to leap
onto a tourist's shoulder for the inevitable photo opportunity. What, I thought to myself, do people get from having their picture taken with a monkey in a hat and nappy? I photographed these pathetic images from distance, on a long lens and by blending into the background as much as possible. If I had been seen by the handlers, I would  certainly have got a barracking, pursued relentlessly
and drawing the attention of a crowd for none payment of the so called, 'privilege' of photographing this monkey circus.  
Why?  (If you look closely at the young monkey's right hand - it's holding on to the chain, protecting itself from the inevitable forthcoming  jerk - the signal for it to leap into action )

The indignity: caged and dressed up in a hat and a nappy for the benefit of tourists
I decided to get away from this unpleasant sight knowing that things will never change and trying not to let it spoil my travels. It took a while gathering my equilibrium again in a local café over a few coffees and I eventually carried on my exploration of the fascinating and hectic life in the souks.
the busy Djma El Fna square
 the busy souks

shopping in the souks - one of the wider alleyways
 one of the many storytellers and musicians in the Djmaa El Fna  trying to be heard above the relentless sounds of the square
African beaded decorated masks in the souks
metal work in the souks

 notice in the arty Henna Café

 brass work on sale in Marrakech

 I eventually got a professional and reasonably priced Henna tattoo in the Henna Café

 the Henna Café toilet

The brightly coloured entrance door of the Henna Cafe

copper bath being made by hand in metal smiths workshops of the central souks. A French couple had commissioned this bath to be made and will be shipped out to them in France.
 candle holders lit up at night on the pavement in the square

lit candle holders in the souk

 homage to their king: covered wall in souk

Everywhere you go in Morocco, there are framed photographs of the Moroccan King Mohammed V1.  However, most power still emanates from the King and his circle of ministers, something that is resented by some of the population. A few years ago, a report in a magazine stated that a poll showed only 91% of Moroccans approved of their King. The response from the King to this piece of journalism, was to close the magazine down. Freedom of expression is getting better in Morocco, but they still have to be careful what they say about their Royal family. Travelling outside of the country is also difficult, both economically and politically in Morocco, with over 40% of Moroccans wishing to live and work abroad.

There was a lively, intelligent young lad in the Henna Art Café that I was having a conversation with about his wish to go to the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland as he had been given a place there to perform his story telling. But he was saying that getting the papers in order to travel was difficult and taking time. Its unimaginable to us Westerners not to be able to travel at the drop of a hat. I hope he makes it.  
 getting stock to the market Moroccan style

 stitching on tourist hats
two women pounding raw Henna leaves into a powder, sieved, then put into bowls . They do this everyday, all day long under the hot sun in the Spice market
 sacks of raw henna being emptied for the women to pound into a fine powder

 The henna being sieved into a fine powder ready for sale

 The roof terrace of the Café D'Espice overlooking the Spice market below

sunlight through the slatted roof of a souk alley way.
 dusk in Marrakech

 road in the Medina

 rooftops over Marrakech Medina

 short break for a Caleche (tourist horse n cart) driver

 off to work in the Medina

beast of burden
colourful barrels of potpourri in a palm lined square

barrels of spices

street hawkers take their chances on the main square at night- very often hounded and moved on by the tourist police.

Occasionally it was refreshing to find an upmarket restaurant and the Kosybar Café in a palm lined square was just the ticket for a frazzled and sun beaten tourist like myself. Here I could also get a bottle of beer; the more upmarket restaurants and hotels being able to serve alcohol. 

 roof top terrace of the plush Kosybar Café

a refreshing beer in the afternoon heat

 labyrinth of narrow alleyways in the Medina

 outside the Medina, the very modern and ornately decorated central Marrakech rail station

 fruit seller in the Medina

and still more tagines for the tourists
gatekeeper of the souk

the quiet and relaxing upmarket riad hotel, complete with plunge pool, called Pepe Nero, where on my last night I treated myself to an expensive meal. 



 call to prayer

crammed full - small corner of a souk
view over rooftops of Marrakech from Kosybar Café
dressed for the tourists in the main square
shoes for sale
street musician

pavement crafts in the square

storks nesting on the highest pillars of the ruins of the  Baddi Palace

 storks nesting high up on the walls of the ruins of the Baddi Palace in Marrakech

After my week in Marrakech, I wanted the soothing lullaby of the hot sun on my face and the peace and quiet of Casa Taos, so I spent my last day relaxing and chilling out at the luxury villa, before my last evening back in the town - my senses bombarded once more by the ceaseless roar of the bustling Medina.

the ceaseless roar - another evening in the hectic Medina

Marrakech, a heady mix of sights, smells, and sounds, which, in tourist areas, can be demanding and exhausting but always interesting. I can't wait to get back there and explore the rest of this intriguing part of North Africa.
I flew back from Menara airport loaded down with a bulging suitcase of clothes and souvenirs, convinced that I would be stopped at the security desks for excess baggage weight. Sweating from the heat and effort of lifting the case onto the x ray table, I was sure one of the security guards was looking at me suspiciously. But I needn't have worried, he waved me through without incident - probably thought I was a menopausal woman of a certain age, on a Saga holiday.
Copyright (c) Deborah Anne Brady: all rights reserverd - September 2015 All photographs by Deborah Anne Brady : (C)

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