The late afternoon sun glowed in a faint haze over the vast square of the Djema el Fna, and I processed a black figure out of the corner of my eye. I knew it would be coming, but I wasn’t prepared for it just yet.
And I jumped away. I was probably ten feet from the snake charmers and their cobras, but I still didn’t like being that close to them; certainly not when I wasn’t ready. My evident fear didn’t prevent the man working with the snake charmer from trying to get me to pay for a photograph. 20 Dirhams, he said, and I could take a photo. I declined initially, but later would pay 10 Dirhams for the privilege.
That’s $1 to you and me.
I am in Marrakech, Morocco, having arrived late this morning. My day began with a 50 minute connection in Amsterdam that couldn’t have gone more smoothly. I arrived at the airport here at about 9 am, and after about an hour was finally done with the long line at customs. There was a minor delay in finding my driver, but I got to my Riad (think of it as a Moroccan Bed and Breakfast), checked in, and crawled under the covers for a nap sometime before noon.
Shortly after 2, I dragged myself into the shower, and then out into the chaos and cacophony of the Medina.
The day was drawing late, and I didn’t want to do much besides finally find some food and start to get some orientation.
One does not get orientation in the Medina, however. Instead one gets disorientation. This is the oldest part of town, surrounded by ancient walls, where buildings close in onto claustrophobic dead ends, and bright sun contrasts with extreme shadows in a chiaroscuro cavalcade.
I found the Djema al Fna, which was the first mission, and then dove back in. The massive complex of souks (shops) reminds me of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, but even more disorganized because there is no grid whatsoever.
GPS doesn’t work here, and on numerous occasions I had to double back. I swear I could hear shopkeepers laughing at me.
Eventually I found a kefta sandwich and worked my way back to the square sometime around 5. I had an hour to pass time before an evening food tour. That’s when I crossed paths with the cobras.
And the monkeys. Yes – there are small monkey on chains in the square, and they just made me sad. I have no photos of the monkeys, because its just wrong. Apparently the snakes are also treated poorly, but … well … they’re snakes. I don’t find them cute, so I’m not upset about their mistreatment.
At 6 pm Yusuf met me, and began showing me some of the foods of interest and telling stories of Marrakech culture.
Savory “donuts,” mint tea, olives, and sweets. Handmade breads baked in a wood-fired oven. All followed by beef tagine, before we parted way a little after 9 pm.
Food is a window into a culture, and for me, this was a perfect way to pass my first evening here. I am in Marrakech, Morrocco, and I’m just getting started.