9 April 2007

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Berber merchant.
Last night in the famous Djamaa El Fna Square in Marrakech, I saw a blind man hobbling towards me with a long white stick. He was happy and already communicating with his friends who were sitting on a bench. They hunched up to let him sit. And there they were - four middle-aged blind men together with their begging bowls. United in their sightlessness. Nearby there were stalls that sold only boiled snails and stalls that only sold spices. There were orange juice traders and peanut men. Women in veils pulled at my sleeve and a turbaned man with a monkey on a chain wanted photograph money. Beyond them in the drumbeat darkness, circles of Moroccan men watched clowns, storytellers and musicians. Bizarrely there was a fishing game with rods where you had to hook bottles of Coca Cola. Henna tattoos were readily available along with immediate dentistry, tarot readings and the opportunity to buy animal bones and single cigarettes. And beyond this there were the "souks" - crammed market lanes where tiny shops were packed to the rafters with slippers, pottery, dyed cloths, scarves, lemons in brine, carved camels, carpets, bunches of fresh mint, lampshades, Berber and Tuareg antiques and... heaven knows what else. It was utterly mind boggling.
Essaouira
We spent the first four nights at the coastal resort of Essaouira - such a lovely place. Fishermen in blue boats, camels faraway up the beach, seagulls squawking, a maze of alleyways, the minaret of the Grand Mosque, the souks, the eighteenth century cannons staring out to the Atlantic from ancient ramparts. It was a place of dreams. Here Orson Welles shot much of "Othello" in the nineteen fifties. We stayed in the same hotel - "Hotel Des Iles" - also favoured by Winston Churchill and the present King of Morocco - Mohammed VI.

Fruit seller in the Marrakech souks.

I could write so much about the past week - so many images, so many surprises. It was just what Shirley and I were looking for - somewhere different. The traffic in Marrakech was absolutely crazy. Dropping names I saw Damon Albarn, formerly of the band Blur, buying herbs in the souks and I also saw a leading British politician - David Willetts - in the passport queue at the airport. Strangely, neither of them saw or recognised me! Hope you like my five selected photos.

Sunset over Djamaa El Fna

20 comments:

  1. I love the sunset. You seem to have had a lovely holiday. Welcome back.

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  2. I see by your blogmap that you live not too far away from Elder Daughter. She is in Walkeley.

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  3. Jennyta - Is Walkeley anywhere near the better known Walkley? What does Elder Daughter do in Sheffield? I would like to know just in case I encounter her on my travels.

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  4. Yes, sorry, spelling has gone AWOL. E.D. is a doctor but, don't worry, she works in Barnsley! I'll let you know next time I visit her (rare occasions) if you would like to meet up. If not, don't worry - I won't be offended.

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  5. Wonderful. You make me want to be there. The sunset is especially nice.

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  6. Great photos! Thanks for posting them. When you saw Damon Albarn, did you ask him how Noodle was doing? I refuse to believe she's dead unless I find inconclusive proof.

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  7. Conclusive proof, dammit! Conclusive proof!

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  8. Oh, what lovely pictures! I'm so glad you had such a good holiday, and welcome back :)

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  9. It sounds amazing. The sky on the sunset looks like an elemental power reaching down to scoop up the building ..

    Why didn't you bring Damon Albarn back as my present?

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  10. JENNYTA - Though I am a very shy guy it would be nice to meet up with you in Sheffield one day. Of course I would have to have a chaperone - just in case!
    THE MOY - Thanks for the compliment and well so many sunsets have been photographed but I also rtather like that one.
    ALKELDA - Best not to get sozzled with drink when you're blogging around as this can cause you to mix up your words. I wanted to talk to Damon Albarn but Shirley wouldn't let me - "He's on holiday - leave him alone" so I can't tell you about Noodle.
    EC BLADE - Thanks for complimenting my pictures. Much appreciated.
    Mutt&Ms - I can see what you are saying about that sunset. Like the hand of Allah himself coming to grab the infidels! Damon Albarn had a little girl with him and I don't think she would have liked it if I had whisked her daddy off to do horizontal gymnastics with a lady who wasn't her mummy!

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  11. same hotel as Winston Churchill eh? That's nothing, General de Gaulle stayed at Skeeby travel lodge. That's why he didn't want Britain to join the common market. Looks like you had a super holiday, although we all know you nicked those photos from the internet, made something up about rubbing shoulders with rock stars and holed up in Pudding Towers with the Missus having told everyone you were in a country with no phones or possible way to contact you. You can't fool us Mr P.

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  12. Don't worry, YP. I'll have the chaperone! ;)

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  13. ARTHUR - Well done! Only you could see through my elaborate charade!

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  14. sounds wonderful, but unfortunately I can't see any of the pictures.
    would love to go sometime.

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  15. You stayed in THAT hotel!!! Wow! Although we were told that Margaret Thatcher has a suite for life there (hopefully not for much longer then - he he!).

    Sunsets there were the most amazing I have ever seen and the Djamaa El Fna Square is the maddest place in the world - surely??? Great description you have written.

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  16. YP, I'm just letting you know that I am mothballing my blog for a while until I have more time to devote to it. I'll still be over to visit yours, though. :)

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  17. JJ - You are right about the Square in Marrakech - utterly and beautifully mad! Whaddya mean THAT hotel? In Essaouira we stayed at The Hotel des Iles but in Marrakech the much more ordinary but very acceptable Ibis near the railway station in Gueliz.
    JENNYTA - I couldn't access your blog so I thought I had been somehow barred for my mischievous responses! Mothballed? In a wardrobe next to yesteryear's clothes?

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  18. Ahh! There is a very posh hotel in Marrakech where Winston used to stay - I was dead impressed there for a while.

    Note to self - must read more carefully in future.

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  19. No, YP, I wouldn't dream of barring you! I'll be coming over to visit often.

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  20. Sounds like you had a great time. I am also being careful to capitalise where necessary.

    Anyways, lovely pics, and commentary. Glad you enjoyed it, and of course, it's great to have you back.

    FoX

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.