To Djema El Fna we went, full of tagine and humous and these delicious cheesy things in pastry. To Djema El Fna which is the square of all squares..the place where all the city life gathers and which has myriad different lives; bustling morning, buzzy afternoon, and after dark a place where you feel you are at the centre of the universe. Is there anywhere else? When you are there it doesn’t feel there is…
Temporary night-time restaurants have suddenly appeared, like they have been there always. Although four hours ago they did not exist. It’s like Brigadoon without the mist, and it happens every night, not every 100 years. But apart from that it’s like Brigadoon.
We weave through the narrow tables, with waiters shouting, “Hey Jane Austen. I am Mr Darcy..” and “I love what you are wearing. Is it from Marks and Spencer’s. Or is it from Primark?” I don’t just smile; I smile from the inside right to the outside.
It is pitch black – just the lights from the restaurants and the shops and the minaret of the mosque illuminating all this humanity.
We walk slowly through, pausing at the edge of crowds watching musicians, storytellers, singers, belly dancers – male belly dancers, that is – and street vendors. I will never forget the tiny pink and blue candle-lit lanterns, the buzzy noise, the sheer vibrant life of the place.
Eventually it is time to go, to leave the square to the next manifestation of its day and its night, and we walk slowly through the now quiet little streets to the derb, onto our riad, our haven of tranquillity.
Because this is our last night, and whether we every see the square again, it will never be the same as our first sight of it after dark.
We retire to our rose-strewn beds in our little cocoon, preparing for our last day.
Our last day of a hammam, a buster-Keaton taxi ride, and the motorbike..
Our last few hours in Marrakech were carefully planned. Well, no, they weren’t…we were going to a Hammam and then we were going to amble and then we were going to fly regretfully home to “real life”.
Now as we were experts in Marrakech after two full days, we decided to take a taxi, or two two-people taxis. Ignoring the “are you sure you want to go to THAT taxi rank, do you not want me to order you one” look on the lovely young man’s face at the riad we set purposefully off, left, left, right, onto the main street.
Finding two rather scruffy looking automobiles we proceeded to negotiate fares (lovely young man having forewarned us as to what we actually should pay). I knew I’d been Marrakeche’d when I said no thanks, too much and along with another friend, waved my arms in an expressive shrug and walked away exuding disdain and “you must be joking-ness” ..WALKED OFF..I had no idea where we were actually standing so how I thought we could WALK to wherever we were supposed to be going says a lot about my frame of mind at the time. Oh boy, I thought. I
I am here and I am BARTERING, and IT IS GOOD!! I have arrived! (bit late as I’m going home in 6 hours, but never mind).
Amid raised voices, following us for a bit, getting us to go back with an obviously reluctant and unsaid “we are doing you a favour ladies” much more reasonable price, the four of us got into our two little taxis.
Pulling onto the road, one taxi was in front and one taxi was behind. Moments later we looked up to wave at our friends in the taxi behind which was now next to us, whilst the drivers shouted to each other, with much gesturing, and not a lot of eye contact with the road ahead. This continued for five minutes or so as our expressions changed from surprise, to smiling, to laughing to mild panic. The only soundtrack was the animated and possibly confused – as it turned out – conversation of the drivers.
Our taxi driver stopped the car suddenly and got out to ask a passer-by for directions whilst I sat and thought this hammam better be relaxing after this..because currently I am a bit wound up.
Five minutes later both taxis’ stopped and we sort of arrived at our destination.
Then, in true Moroccan style, an attractive man appeared out of nowhere to guide us to the hammam…no I don’t know how he knew, he just materialised… “ah, tiny lady,” he said to me as I waved my thanks, and in so doing got my own bracelet caught on my own clothes. He kindly paused to help and decided to actually guide me into the building as I couldn’t even negotiate a wave properly.
Once more out of chaos we walked into calm. My abiding memory of the medina…like bursting out of a shaken bottle of champagne into a calm sea..
Has anyone here been to a hammam…? If you haven’t I think you need to go to find out for yourself. I recommend it, but there is no gain without pain…all I can say is that we had water tipped over us repeatedly, but as it had rose petals in it that somehow made it ok.., were scrubbed from head to toe rather brutally, but as we then had water with rose petals in it thrown over us that somehow made it ok, and boy did I feel clean! Then we sat with our feet in wooden buckets with rose petals in them wondering what was going to happen next. But the rose petals somehow made everything ok.
Then the massage which really made everything ok. And we were ready to face the outside world once again!
We should have had our pictures taken before we walked out onto the street after this. Probably best not, though. As we walked towards the square in search of lunch, I think #overrelaxed is how I’d describe our demeanour..
Which I think is how I’d explain how I ended up having a henna tattoo when I had been adamant that I didn’t want one. And then there was the motorbike ride. Don’t blame it on the sunshine, don’t blame it on the boogie, blame it on the medina..