Morocco: Information is Power
The Good Wife, possibly the best drama to come out of America in some time – and yes I was watching it well before the blue eyed hotness that is Michael Ealy joined the cast. At its heart it extols the adage, stood since time immemorial, that the esteemed role of a defender of the law is to interrogate evidence to ascertain fact. In life as well as law this ethos of evidence based proof has penetrated the core of western societies. As an adult few decisions are taken on a whim, in pure hope and faith. Decisions of the smallest nature (the kind of pants you’ll wear today) to the life changing (job, relocation, family planning) warrant clear, somewhat protracted deliberation (regularly including a third party e.g. therapist, faith leader, or Perez Hilton) based on tangible evidence. This immutable doctrine is lost in Africa! In the African continent (from the Sahara to the Serengeti) hope not fact is the prevailing principle upon which decisions are made.
I stepped out of the airport in Marrakech and was instantly struck by its tenacity and spunk. The architecture, the smell, the grandiose Mosques dominating the landscape; the roads without potholes, the closed gutters and the free flowing traffic (possibly as a result of the crazy moped drivers who took road and pedestrian paths as their terrain). It was quite something to see the fully veiled women zooming past us on their mopeds. I had prepared myself for an assault on all my senses and to my utter amazement I found myself instantly falling in love with the total contradiction (antiquity and modernity side by side) that is Morocco.
Within a day of our arrival, we set out to explore the neighbouring towns. Aziz, who worked at the Riad we were staying (traditional Moroccan house) quickly assumed the position of confidant (wanting to know everything about London, including how easy it was to find a wife or prostitute) and recommended a tour to Eureka Valley where we’d be able to do some rock climbing and make our way to a beautiful waterfall. It was a typical tourist thing to do, a such Aziz made the booking with his regular agent on our behalf. Trying to solicit information from Aziz about the constituent parts of the tour was like drawing blood from a stone. He admonished me as though my prying were in some way an invasion of his privacy or a rejection of my trust in him. Contrary to my every instinct we went along with it, hoping we would receive a reasonable service.
We were greeted by a minibus full of fellow tourists. The German couple (who exhibited signs of discomfort when forced to make small talk), the French pair, (too cool for school), the young black couple from London (who I took an instant liking to), and the Swiss plastic surgeon (who took every opportunity to touch up my friend). Before even arriving at the infamous Valley we made two impromptu stops where the driver set a bunch of hawkers loose on us to sell over priced and worthless trinkets. One was at a house in the middle of nowhere, where we were hustled inside, having nothing explained to us, walked around the poor woman’s house where every room looked the same, given a cup of mint tea and asked to pay for the pleasure. I had to commend the entrepreneurship of the driver, who saw every opportunity to exploit the idiotic tourists desperate to experience ‘Moroccan culture’ however contrived it may be.
Finally we arrived at the great Valley. We exited the car, stretched our legs and looked to the diver to guide us. “Meet back here in three hours” is all he said before he slammed the door, drove off, leaving a group of horrified tourists stranded. So this is what we paid for? We stuck close to a couple of the others and quickly found a local who offered to take us to the waterfall. For a fee of course. After a one hour climb (I had to bust out the Rocky moves when I made it to the summit), the spectacular view was worth it. It was breathtaking.
On our last day we booked into a spa. I had been looking forward to a Hammam (the typical Moroccan body scrub I’d read about) and full body massage since we arrived. And after all the rock climbing in Eureka, I needed to tend to my weary body.
After reviewing several brochures in the Riad, despite Aziz (whom by now I knew not to trust, good intentions or otherwise) trying to convince us to go to what appeared to be the most expensive spa in the City, we made a choice.
We arrived and were immediately offered tea whilst we perused the menu. We selected a couple’s package, it being logical as there were two of us. We were then escorted to a changing room, with no explanation of what the treatment would entail and asked to remove our outer clothes and put on a robe and slippers. Having interjected early with a couple of questions about the process which were dismissed out of hand, I meekly asked if I should put on the swimming costume I had packed for the occasion. I received a brisk wave of the hand, which we took as a dismissal and shuffled behind our guide gripping the over sized slippers.
We were led into what can only be described as a wet room with two benches running the length of the wall. There was a young woman waiting to receive us, she had a kind face and looked upon the shivering Nubians before her with pity. As I observed my surroundings I felt a tug on my gown and looked down to see the guide briskly removing it. I stumbled to assist and stood embarrassed (typically prudish English behaviour) not quite knowing where to rest my eyes. As I went to make my way to the bench the guide pulled me back and in one swift movement removed my bra. I stood in all my glory, mortified, violated, on the verge of tears. My poor friend, as aghast as I was, squirmed with embarrassment, mumbling words of apology for her well endowed breasts. Shimmied from pillar to post, commanded to stand, sit, roll over, hold your knickers to one side, wash (as water was poured over me with no consideration I yelped as my hair was drenched), dry, take bra, go – the excruciating embarrassment was over.
You think I’m mad?… See for yourself. Morocco is a destination worthy of exploration. Flights on Easyjet are about £70 (including baggage – I hate that we pay for that!).The Riad we stayed in (in the heart of the old town) was 45 euro a night (just under £45 pounds; gone are the days of the dominant sterling) and it included breakfast.
Have good time and say hi to Aziz!