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Friday, 6 September 2013

Marrakech-Part 2

What populates this famous square?

As you approach it from the big main Mosque, there is a whole road/avenue full of ‘pony and trap’ awaiting to take you around the town and ‘skin you alive’ ...ehm, sorry, take your money (a lot of it!!).

As you reach the actual square there are all the monkeys and snake enchanters of which I told you in Part 1. There are also groups of singers and dancers who gather in large circles and play local traditional musical instruments and perform. Somewhere I read or heard that the dancers are men dressed as women. I must say I did stop once or twice to look at them and I could not decide one way or another… uhmmmm … interesting.


Then you encounter ladies who are happy to give you henna tattoos and/or read you the tarot cards, and the colourful 'water sellers'.

Once you manage to pass this first layer of people, you reach the stalls. On one side of the square are the food ones. Proper mini kitchens/restaurants cooking food and perfectly equipped so you can sit and enjoy a meal in the open, in the usually balmy and warm evenings. At the other side of the square are the fruit sellers: of oranges, that they squeeze in front of you there and then (best way for you to see them doing it and then you know what you get), dry fruits (dates, figs, various nuts, etc.).

At one side of the square there is also a large stall holder selling lots of plants.  When you finally reach the other side of the square you find the shops that border it and the various entrances to the ‘souqs’.
At another corner of the Jamaa there is a group of local people selling their wares. You find the one selling incense rocks and sticks, oils and so forth; then Berber ladies that have weaved beautiful typical straw bags with geometrical colourful designs and in different sizes. More tattoo and tarot readers and then, my favourite ladies, of any age and mainly young with their young children or very old ones and they all sell these wonderfully tasty small cakes.  I think they are made with almonds and orange essence; they are kind of macaroons, soft inside and crispy on the outside. I love them. They are incredibly cheap (you get two for 2 dirham/dh, which is 15 pence – in less touristy part of town you can get 2 for 1dh, 7p!!!).  And what I love about them is – apart from being really tasty – is that I could eat them without worrying about finding spices I am allergic to; they provide a quick snack while you are on the go and, most of all, you help these poor, poor people.
To think of all the work these women have done during the day, to produce a batch of cookies/macaroons to sell either in the  Jamaa or in nearby streets later in the day – they start to appear in the streets from mid afternoon onwards – to earn extra money for their families and help them survive. The majority of the women have children with them and the kids are happy to ‘set up shop’ too and sell not far from their mums. I often buy from one or two of the children – their smiles when they sell you a biscuit are amazing! They look at mum for approval and mum would nod a go ahead.
All the children I dealt with were too young to know how to count money and give change.
One time on the last evening I was in Marrakesh, I was stocking up on snacks and food as I was travelling back to UK the following day – I didn’t know if the snow would let me return home on the day I was due to fly back - it was a bit later than usual when I got to the square and not many macaroon sellers were about. I found this lovely lady, she had a very sweet, soft face and seemed in pain. Ouch, ouch she was half murmuring – loud enough though that I could hear her above the surrounding noise as I was standing in front of her. In my rusty French I asked her what was the problem and she pointed at her chest. Under several layers of clothing – let’s not forget they are Muslim – she was breast feeding her baby – he was very young – and it was hurting her while he was sucking at her nipple. It was so touching and so sad at the same time!

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