Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Friday, September 22, 2006

The following poem was inspired in Place Djemma El-Fna:

Snake Charmer!
Snake Charmer!
How do you
Charm that snake
Like that?

The monkeys go unnoticed in Djemma El-Fna. Poor monkeys. In amongst the heaving chaos that is Place Djemma El-Fna, the centre of the Marrakech's old city, the crazy, weird, completely uncontemplated world comes alive. Snake, along with their charmers, are common place and despite the above praise, are actually a bit tame. Frankly, to warrant any of my hard earned Morroccan Dirham, snake charmers should be facing death every second from angry cobras, constantly planning revenge on their oppressors - the cobras, however, remind me more of Shelby the cat that used to sleep 24/7, mainly on my head. But Djemma El-Fna is so much more than average snake charmers. The mass of juice stalls - selling perhaps the most outrageously brilliant orange juice at equally outrageous prices - are a saviour in the hot north African sun. Get your teeth knocked out at Carnegies because you spilled someone's pint? No matter - there are ready made replacements on sale in the heart of the old city of Marrakech. Numerous spice and nut stalls; boxing; henna tattoo artists; drum groups; medical explanations; old Moroccan dudes telling dramatic stories by lamplight in Arabic; just other random shit lies all around. In amongst it, somewhere, I once saw a poor monkey.

As the day wears on, the food stalls gradually come out, armed with the local delicacies. I won't spoilt it now, for those delicacies are, indeed, the subject of the Top 5. Suffice for me to say that those incapable of eating chicken's feet at yum cha would not be particularly appetized by some of the foods on offer. But there is, of course, always something else to appetize. Carts full of freshly cooked platters of seafood served with spiced Moroccan aubergine and olives; cous cous galore; chips and spicy chicken; lamb and beef; Moroccan soup with dates; Pistachios and cashews. Everything and anything - except for dog's bollocks. Apparently they're not halal - 'for a very good price just for you my friend' as the touts will tell you. Food in Djemma El-Fna? Kinda brilliant.

Although it may have back in the day, I doubt that Marrakech's medina would get town planning approval today. It's a bit of a nightmare. Firstly, the entire city is the same colour - an unfortunate late 80's peach covering every building as if by law. Very North African and very hideous. And then there's the layout - the windy, ridiculous maze of a medina, signs all in Arabic or not corresponding with my map, perfect for the locals who prey on lost tourists. Of my 3 days in Marrakech, I estimate that I have was lost for approximately 3 days. But being lost has been cool. In my aimless wanderings around the medina, completely fucking lost, I randomly came across the city tanneries - the exceptionally pungent leather making area - which were not nearly as spectacular as hoped but still quite amazing; I went in and out of Marrakech's souqs, peering at stall after stall of lamps, spices, moroccan viagra, dyes, shoes, stuff that I still couldn't identify after lengthy explanation; bizarre apparently edible goods and just stuff; I rocked the kasbah; experienced awful and extraordinary smells reminiscent of china all around; and morocco being morocco, on one day, was offered hashish 13 times. Decent effort from the dealers. Interestingly, with the continuing calls from the touts, I think I'm turning Japanese, I think I'm turning Japanese, I really think so. I still think the ignorable calls of 'Konichiwa' are better than being english - the touts thinking that the phrases 'lovely jubbly', 'fish and chips' and 'easy peasy lemon squeezy' are all that the english say, and are constantly repeated by the touts.

Palais El Bahia? Average. No further elaboration required.

Marrakech impresses as a genuine city, certainly not free of the exploitative blemishes that come with tourism, but not particularly spoiled by them either, as in some parts of, say, Istanbul. The medina is thrilling and, despite travels in other 'third world countries', still eye-opening - the manifestation of incredible poverty never ceasing to be so, not to mention animal cruelty - and Djemma El-Fna - brilliant - is one of the most exciting things that I have experienced since the night of 22 June 2006 in Stuttgart.

My biggest regret about Marrakech is my inability to spend longer here. My itinerary in Morocco has turned into a whirlwind tour, running around every 2 to 3 days in search of a new medina to get lost in. It has, at least, made me appreciate the value of sitting in a place for a few days more - I feel like I have seen none of this city and that it's not time to go.

That feeling - a want to stay longer - I didn't get in Casablanca. Perhaps burdened by the universal impression of the film, Casa can't help but fall short, not of expectation, but just of being a decent city. One day was enough for me to realise that, even if there was a sam, it would be unlikely to he could play it once let alone again. For anything thinking about going to Casa - you must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss, a hole is still a hole. The bad Casablanca cliches stop here.

And so to the Top 5. Stomach churning foods? Quality. Spurred on by a Peruvian, these are the Top 5 crazy foods tried in Marrakech:

5. Cow's feet
4. Snails
3. Snake's skin
2. Sheep's head stew
1. Sheep's brain

Sahara it up...
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