Waking up to the call to prayer made a change from the East Sussex starlings. Our room overlooked the garden with two tortoises an array of plants and an old fishing net.
Once we got the electricity back we could see that our room was big, the bed semi-soft, the shower cubicle red earth colour, whilst one wall in the bedroom was tastefully covered in mutli-coloured woven bamboo.
The wavy lines, however, were not conducive to sunstroke, local beer belly or extreme exhaustion. It was like post boat spin when you’ve travelled to Zebrugga and back in a force 8 gale and then have to interview Mr. Roy Hattersly at the House of Commons – but that’s another story.
The Riad was a converted school, as we ran up the parquet stairs to the terrace for breakfast, we were following in the footsteps of hundreds of kids before us.
We shared our breakfast with Johnathan Seagull Seagull. They do laugh a lot do them birds. Our gull’s yellow eyes matched his feet, but cowardly he was not, when somebody left he hopped over the parapet and helped himself to the left over bread.
We sat at our table, one of four, under the bluest of blue skies. I cut up two tiny local pears, two yellow plums, one peach, and a banana, and waited for our team of women to deliver the rest of our grub as I watched the Atlantic smash against the rocks under the searing sun.
Morroccans have to be the most generous of souls. Two dark haired lovelies served us orange juice – freshly squeezed, yoghurt – homemade and very sweet – BREAD – I write in upper case because Morrocco is bread based – honey, strawberry jam, apricot jam, white butter and WASPS. Now the old git informed me that the wasps were not wasps but bees, but they didnt look or sound like bees, they whizzed around like wasps, however…
I made a little plate of honey and fruit for them so they could gather and partake of their le petit dejeuner away from my le petit dejeuner. It lasted all of four teaspoons of honey and then my cunning plan failed. Every friggin’ four winged flying object on the Equator found its way to our table.
After day one we shooed them away with our napkins and spoke firmly in English that did the trick….
Down to ‘Jacks Kiosk’ in the square to buy the paper.
We shooed away the big eyed boys flogging packs of tissues. We took our seat, under an umbrella and shooed away the big eyed girls flogging more packs of tissues. Just how many times did they think we sneezed.
Then a wander round the harbour, past big boats, seagulls eating the fish thrown to them and before you could say;
‘My M’semmen, pan de chocolat, plate of fruit and yoghurt with drizzled honey not to mention the 2 pots of mint tea, hasn’t diegested yet.’ it was time for lunch.
You know how it is, the eating of breakfast is so exhausting, the reading of the papers so demanding that only a plate of Morrocan salad with BREAD can do the trick.
And so our holiday shaped up.
I got heat stroke and had to spend a day in bed, Jim got local beer belly, and had to spend the day in bed. Both staring at the bloody bamboo.
STOP the mere thought of it makes me nauseous….
But when we weren’t in bed we joined the throngs from Casablanca, Marrakech and Tangier to listen to the extrordinary music of the Gnaouans.
It has its origins in sub-saharan Africa. Black slaves from Senegal, Sudan and Ghana, who were taken to Morocco in former centuries brought it over, it’s supposed to heal the sick, lead to a trance and prevent diseases.
Its a pity they werent singing when I came down with Tangier Tummy…
When the locals arent trying to flog lamps, slippers or herbs they like nothing better than to get you to spend a few quid on the instruments they use; the guimbri, a long lute with three strings, the qarqba, large, metal castanets and the tabal, a cylindrical, wooden drum.
The ‘oosbind ended up buying a big pair of qarabas for himself and a little pair for Maia the grandaughter. May I remind you the child is two and the metal castanets require several sessions at the gym to build the biceps before you have the strength to be able to bang the two metal plates together. The ‘oosbind said she’ll have something to look forward to when she gets older….
My baggage was heavy on the way out but by the time we left we had two sets of metal castanets, one big drum – bought form BOBS MUSIC, so called because Mr. Marley’s drummer had bought a drum there once – and 45 quids worth of herbs, which looked perfectly herby-like in Essaouira. Juniper, cardomum, rose petals, mint leaves, lemon verbener, star anise and Tuareg Viagra – don’t ask! – but when we emptied them out on the kitchen table they looked exactly like what they were – a pile of twigs and dried leaves which we could have collected from around our dustbin.
Serfers serfed up at the end of the beach by Ocean Vagabond, kite serfers kite serfed in the pounding waves, camels sat in the sand storms and us Britishers, not wishing to lose one second of that African sun, defied the wind and laid bare on the hired beds to catch some rays and forty three tons of sand that came with it. Walking back to the Riad we both looked like we’d been pebble-dashed in Clacton.
By the time 10 days had come and gone we had read 14 books between us, eaten fish fresh off the boat, found the off licence situated in the dusty unsung part of the Medina, met Americans, Swiss and French and were transferred to a room overlooking the courtyard.
Children played noisily, a constant traffic of people with their plastic water bottles, filed by to fill them from the tap which came out of a wall and was set in a wonderful semi circle of stone. By day the water splashed gently over the cobbles.
By night it was a different story. The semicircular drinking fountain turned into the local pissoir. Any man who had imbibed too much orange juice, mint tea, otherwise known as Berber Whiskey, or illicit beer, relieved themselves in the corner of the courtyard right under our window.
The trick was to get out as soon as possible.
Marrakech here we come…..
To be continued.