So, today. As you know, I have been living in the Old City of Marrakech and was unhappy because of my bank card issue (now resolved).
I’ve cancelled my trip to Fez. The original idea was to spend two days in Marrakech, two days in Fez and two days in Casablanca.
Today, I got lost again in the old city, which has mostly been turned into a market. The medina here is far far superior to the one at Rabat. Some houses have been turned into hotels, called riads. I am in fact living in one of these riads within the Radha Lakdima part of the Medina.
The effect of all this is a warren of alleyways full of all sorts of merchandize, lovely smells ranging from spice to perfumes, and people, people, people. Streets are narrow and only foot traffic is possible. The braver folk maneuver ladies’ machine motorcycles though and you are always in danger of being hit or pickpocketed. These last smell a lack of confidence like a piranha blood. Can you imagine how a pre-middle-aged glasses wearing but always-lovely man would fare? Yes, I have been getting lost all over the place.
My friend, Captain Housain, had to come find me. I had stayed put at some point in being deliriously lost. He did find me and we caught up and made our way to his Citroen as he showed me around the medina. He is a native Marrakechi but had not been to the medina for years. We’d met two years ago at a conference on CVE in Vicenza and had spent half a day walking around Venice and shopping.
The centre of life of the Marrakech medina is the Jemaa Lfna square and it is a movable feast—about two football fields wide. It had everything from snake charmers to folk musicians to fruit sellers. At night it becomes the haven of street food. I’ll drop by later. Jemaa Lfna translates roughly to “Square of the People of the Apocalypse”. Apparently, quite a number of executions were carried out there.
The lodestone of Marrakech is, however, the Khutbiya Mosque—900 years old, built by the Almoravids. Its minaret is about 70 feet high and is of huge stone blocks the length of my forearm by half the length of it. Thoroughly impressive. One gets the sense that if we are lesser sons of greater fathers, it cannot be the fault of our fathers.
Marrakech is a very seductive city—great cafes and wide streets outside the Medina and I felt it would be a shame to not see some more. Marrakech is Magic City, Red City. I could live here (will sign up for French classes when I get back to Abuja). So, Fez loses one day more to Marrakech and loses one day to Casablanca. No day left for Fez. Part of the reason though is it’s quite far away. Maybe next time.