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The Souk-Hole

June 15, 2014

That’s not meant to be offensive, it really isn’t. Anyone who’s visited a Moroccan souk, or I imagine one elsewhere, can confirm that it is a hole and once you’re in it, most of the time all you can do is go deeper.

I started my morning late, after a long sleep, with breakfast on my patio. Very strong coffee  and orange juice to accompany everything else I could think of: croissant, flat bread, regular bread, boiled eggs, yogurt, and dates. I ate nearly all of it.  Fortified, I headed out, map in hand toward the Jewish quarter. The first stop was the Palais El Badi but it was closed on Sunday. Next up, the Jewish Quarter Mellah which had it’s own labyrinth of stalls selling fruit, tea, spices and the like.  Like the rest of Marrakech, every shop had a man calling out to come in “Just to look, not for buy,” but of course it was for buy. I stopped into a few, and in each was treated to tea. So much tea! But I resisted the urge to shop.

Eventually I found my way to a former synagogue which was now, I was told, the shop where the Jewish women wove rugs. Just for look they promised. Over tea, the shop proprietor told me about the rugs each with a description of how it was made and what part ethnicities the work represents, and his time in the US. “I went to Woodstock.” “I knew Bob Zimmerman, and I took the train from Casablanca with Crosby, Stills and Nash.”  Though I’m fairly sure, he wasn’t the inspiration for Marrakech Express and Bob Dylan wouldn’t know his name, some more tea and several rugs later,  I ended up handing over my visa for one of them. I can resist a hard sell, and was pretty impressed with myself that I had for so long. But in the end, as I was planning my escape, I realized I’d been looking for a rug for about a year and had priced many many of them. The one I really loved was about a third of the cost of what I’d had only mixed feelings about in the US. And in the end, I think I’d regret not getting it, so buy it I did. I hope I don’t regret that.

From there, they pointed me in the direction of the Synagogue. Some children on the narrow street who couldn’t have been 12 heard where I was headed and tramped along. As I stopped periodically they waited for me. I finally said to them – I won’t give you money, don’t come with me. I can find it on my own. Still they followed and when we arrived they asked for money. “just a little money, just something.” I said No and was met with “FUCK YOUR MOTHER!”

A beautiful palace and garden visit, lunch of warm goat cheese salad, and some more walking and I found myself at the Souk.

I cannot explain the souk in any way that would do the experience justice. It looks unassuming enough as you enter a bamboo covered cave of stalls, but what looks like a small collection of merchants keeps going and twisting and very quickly where you are going and where you are coming from are easily confused. There are cats and chickens and flies everywhere, and stalls piled high with shoes, hats, candy, spices, clothing, and anything else you can imagine. Each vendor calling out for you to buy something. I would say no and move on, but each had parting words “remember stall seven, it’s heaven.” “Stall number eight, we’re never late” and on and on. I didn’t take many photos because each time I did, the vendor wanted a few dollars for the photo. Not even a few coins, but dollars. The passage ways within the souk are dark and crowded, leaving one with no sense of time. I had planned to go to a hammam for a massage this afternoon, but in my insistence on not getting help finding my way through the souk, time got away from me.

The sudden light from the finally reached exit was a beautiful sight.

I’m back in my glorious room for another quick shower and snooze before meeting up with my friends from the plane for dinner.

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