"Djemaa el Fna" - Nancy Metashvili reports from Marrakesh
Alaskan Klezmer Nancy Metashvili continues her trip through Morocco
Hammams, mikvahs, Moroccan 'hot showers' (ie. cold)—a theme develops of life on the road in Morocco; trying to stay warm! and get clean.
Warmth has happened. We spent the day of the Eidd al Kabeer—baaaa—Mouton throat slitting Day, le Grand Fète d' Maroc, the Feast of the Sacrifice of Ibrahim wandering the Roman ruins of Volubilius. Quite striking, with its ancient tilework, olive presses, a lavishly huge Arc d' Triomph, temples and baking ovens circa 2nd century AD... There was hot sun, mating storks; the massive grey stone blocks embroidered with faded lilac bulbs and blooming wild paperwhite narcissus, the colums of stone arches topped by shaggy overhanging nests, with fuzzy clacking storks inside, and tiny flitterflutter birds sharing the strawdripping sides of the behemoth nests.... bees and light and distant laughter. Peace, with the slanting winter sun turning the scene golden. Peaceful indeed, and yet
—at midday a faint cosmic BAAAAAAAAAAA
as sheep the Islamic World over had their throats slit. By the time we returned to Meknes it was mostly over and tidied away. ( Unlike Egypt 2 years ago when I missed the killing by the clever strategy of being sailing in the middle of the Nile, but still encountered myriads of bloody hides piled on every street corner) Here you still see the drying hides but it is less raw. There's no escaping it though—wandering through the Medina a chance encounter led to an invitation home, and there I was with a freshly grilled mutton sandwhich in hand! This is when carniverous friends come in handy, as I surreptitiously slipped my meat to them and nibbled the bread.
It was interesting to learn that the Deed had been bloodily done right in their courtyard, the carcass hung from the balcony, and the gore washed down the drain; I also got to go in the kitchen and see their Freezer filled with little baggies of frozen mutton! A relief to have it over, after days of seeing resigned sheep carried in tumbril carts through streets and lanes everywhere we went, and chanting horsemen galloping through the streets of the Fes Medina at dawn.
So we've moved south, through Fes and Rabat and Casablanca. I've done Business—now have a visa for Mauritania, god help me!—and we are ensconsed not far from the famous Djemaa el Fna Square....
and all the stories ever told about it seem to be true! As I write, from my chilly rooftop aerie, I can hear the drums pounding, zurnas reediing, doubly, tricking me at first into a nostalgic dream of Bulgarian gaidas... my mind reels from sensory overload...
brightly patchworked henna ladies, the notorious Berber watersellers in their red bobbled hats and Jack o Lantern smiles, story tellers, banjo players, snake charmers, Barbary apes, sadly performing on their chains... one sweet old guy was an ethnomusicologists dream as he monotonously played a 4 note tune on a glued together upright viola and sang an 'old ballad'. On closer listen, he was totally faking, with la la la la la- sly old bugger, it was worth of couple of dirhams for the giggle!
This being modern times, the stalls and carts are propane fueled or run on generators. The din and pollution are terrible, it is SO loudy and stinky, but B R I G H T! Hot potato cakes, aubergines, kebabs, snails, lentils, harira, sweets, fresh orange juice, cinnamon hunja (chai), dates and figs and belly dancer getups for sale, slippers and carpets and shawls and DVDs and phone cards and Arabic newspapers... STUFF galore, to buy, eat, drink hear see sidestep smell goggle at and wonder at.
People from the four corners of the earth.
Nu, we splurged on a 'nice' hotel. For nearly $10 each we get clean warm beds, free Hammam, internet, breakfast and hot showers which are actually hot—and a rooftop terrace with views looking around onto the snow covered High Atlas Mountains, like a dream in the distance. To die for— and I nearly did! Well, maybe a mere amputation...
an unsecured cement lined tiled tabletop (weight 16 tons) ended up on my foot. I am pretty sure it is not broken, the foot that is, but feels like it, and damn it will hinder my movements.
Hobble hobble hobble
But the Hammam ( Turkish steam bath) is glorious!! and the onsite internet, despite the very confusing French keyboard, will have to entertain me til I can walk again. And sunshine is predicted for tomorrow.