“What does Morocco mean to a Frenchman? An orange-grove or a job in government service. Or to an Englishman? Camels, castles, palm-trees, Foreign Legionnaires, brass trays and bandits. One could probably live here for years without noticing that for nine-tenths of the people the reality of life is an endless, back-breaking struggle to wring a little food out of an eroded soil. ” – George Orwell
In high school I studied George Orwell’s essay, Marrakesh, and, aside from the fact that they had crazy markets and Ryanair flew there, that was essentially all I knew about it before heading off. I now have incredibly mixed feelings about it, but more of that later.
We set off on the Friday and went to Tours’ tiny airport; one solitary café is its only entertainment. All passed without incident and we even managed to board early. We sat on the plane for ages while they counted us about 53,576 times and then announced that someone had checked a bag in and not boarded the plane and called his name over the tannoy. Since the flight was going to Morocco, about half the passengers were in fact Moroccan. I can’t remember his name but, judging by the horrified looks of the passengers around, it might as well have been Osama Ben Al-Qaeda. Lisa and I just carried on reading Cosmo whilst the drama escalated, finishing when said passenger boarded the plane, to a raputurous round of applause. As I stated before, Tours airport is about the size of a big house and there is literally nothing to do. What he was doing is anyone’s guess.
After arriving at our riad (a traditional Moroccan hotel/house with a courtyard inside) and having secured a room upgrade, we headed out to the souks for a bit of hardcore haggling over the price of jewellery. Glasgow and Northern Ireland don’t traditionally churn out the type of dusky-skinned beauties who might have fitted in in Marrakesh. Aware that our pasty complexions might make us stand out more than we wanted to, we opted for dressing conservatively and attempting to cover the most skin possible. We needn’t have bothered. Watching beautiful, hot-pants clad girls walking past the locals to not much more than an ogling, we assumed we’d be fine. Sadly, however, the best accessory to have with you is definitely a man. People in couples didn’t get a second look or vulgar comment, whereas we got shouted at everywhere we went. They ranged from incredibly polite “very nice please ass!” to bemusing “hey Jennifer…..Jennifer! Jennifer Lopez!….Lady Gaga” to skin-crawling “I want to kiss your body!” and “free massage for under 22s!!”.
Aside from the enthusiastic shouting, another reason we were permanently on edge was the mopeds. The streets there are these tiny cobbled streets, about 6 foot wide, bordered on both sides by stalls. Despite this, there are people walking in both directions, mopeds regularly brushing past you and then some bold yin will walk down the street with a massive cart of melons or eggs or something and everyone will be crushed against the walls, holding in their breath and hoping for the best.
Having been a long time fan of the ol’ cous cous I was desperate to get a few tajines and as many plates of couscous as was socially acceptable physically possible in the 3 days we were there. A day and a half in, however, and we were distinctly unimpressed. For some reason the food there wasn’t fresh and tasted weirdly like perfume. I suspect Chanel Mademoiselle is a key ingredient in Moroccan cuisine. Thankfully we found a ridiculously fancy restaurant that gave us free champagne and amuse-bouches to our hearts’ content. As a bonus, it looked like this.
Two incidents stuck out from our trip. Naturally one is me almost being the bride in a Moroccan rooftop wedding, whilst in a bikini, and the other involved baby monkeys in nappies. Let me begin. Our hotel only had 5 rooms and 3 were occupied during our time there. One day I was getting ready to go for a late-afternoon sunbathe, naturally this had to be done on the roof terrace of our hotel lest I be stoned/dragged through the streets by running horses or similar. I was standing on our indoor balcony, looking out onto the hotel’s indoor courtyard whilst waiting for Lisa to finish getting ready. There was a bride downstairs having pictures taken so I stood watching that until Lisa was ready, then headed along to the stairs. The stairs are those super narrow spiral stairs that you can only fit one person on and since I heard someone coming up, I stopped at the foot of the stairs to let the person pass. It turned out to be the bride, who continued upstairs. I hung back since I assumed she was getting pictures taken upstairs. As soon as she got up I heard music playing. Yes, that’s right, she was actually on her way to get fucking married and had I not been unfailingly polite, the wedding party upstairs would have heard me arrive, fire the music on and then I’d just see a disappointed groom looking back at the sweaty mess in the bikini and not his beautiful bride-to-be. I feel like these are the kind of things management should perhaps tell you are going on?
Next up, Monkeygate. We saw some guys snake charming (as you do), so Lisa stopped to take a picture and, naturally, the guy came over to ask for money. Next thing you know we both have about 3 snakes on us (Lisa had one as a particularly fetching hat adornment and one guy had to tell his friend to calm down as he was trying to load more snakes on. Here’s me wearing what I like to call a snakelace. It’ll be all the rage next summer. (note the guy in the background holding a snake and pouting cause he wasn’t allowed to put it on me)
We gave the guys a couple of euros and walked on, giggling at the fact that someone in the street had just put a bunch of snakes on us. About 3.5 seconds later, Lisa had 2 monkeys flung on her (both with chains and miserable faces, one wearing a nappy) and I was given her camera to take a picture. Naturally, if someone with monkeys asks you to do something, you blindly follow. So I took a few photos of Lisa looking disturbed and then the guy started loading them on to me. I snapped at him and was like “look, I do not want these monkeys on me. Get them off me, right now” and the guy was like “heyyy, don’t be scared now!”. Even my shrill cry of “I’m not scared, I’m fucking concerned about the blatant risk of HIV” did nothing to help. I considered kind of throwing them off me but realised that this would probably greatly increase my risk of aids when the monkeys inevitably clawed my eyes out. Instead, I posed for photos whilst being incredibly freaked out by how soft their creepy feet-hands were and how I could feel the nappy material against my skin. Once the poor fuckers had been taken off me the guy asked me for 20euros. 20 euros for the feeling that no matter how much you scrub yourself with brillo pads and hot bleach you’ll never be clean. I politely declined. Normally I talk much more slowly and clearly to those of the foreign persuasion but my trauma had clearly brought me back to Glasgow since instead of saying “20 euros seems steep for something I did not ask for, sir” I went “20 euros? Aye, no bother. Away and chase yourself, pal” to which he looked confused and got angry and kept asking for 20. I offered him 2 euros and he asked for 10, I offered 2 again. At this point a woman turned up and started telling me I had to pay. I reiterated my 2-euro stance until I noticed she was holding a syringe. I shouted to Lisa, who had been cunningly separated from me and was also going for 2 euros, that we had to get the fuck away from these mentals and we proceeded to leave. Our transaction was ended when I said to the guy, who was now following us, “you can either take this 2 euros or not, it’s no odds to me”, he snatched it out my hand and shouted “fuck off!!”. Sold!