Sunday, 17 November 2013

5th November, 2013. Azul Marrakech!

Frantic morning, last minute jotting down of numbers, sending e-mails, settling house chores. When Saúl brought me some homemade pumpkin I realised I hadn't eaten breakfast. Munched the delicious veg down, packed my last things, Saúl and Adrian walked me to the train-station, buy ticket, hugs, good-byes, good-lucks, snap a picture and I was off with a huge smile and my head in the clouds.

When alone I couldn't help oscillating between zombie mode and spurs of exhilaration. I'm finally going to step out of Europe! I bought bar soap and shampoo from a woman at lush who was determined to give me free samples of massage oils and hand creams. It made me wonder if she could not see my huge rucksack and unadorned face that screamed "traveller". Once at the airport reality started kicking in and I got the biggest uncontrollable smile and a gust of calm. I peacefully watched planes depart, pulled faces at giggling babies in the queue and got one last whiff of Valencian air before boarding the plane.

Daoud came to meet me at the airport, a student of economy at the University of Marrakech and devoted couchhost. We took a bus together filled with children, sitting on their mother's laps and staring up at me with wide eyes or weaving their way through the forest of adult's legs to stick their hands out the window at a nearby bus. I got my first witnessing of the chaotic craze that is Marrakech traffic.

After dropping my bag in his unfurnished room we grabbed a taxi to Jemaa el Fna. Before getting into the famous square, let me explain the art form that is Moroccan taxis. Forget calling an empty taxi, you won't find one. Once you catch one's attention you have to ask if it's going in your direction. If it's not, it will dissipate from your face in the blink of an eye only to get stuck in traffic a few meters away. Once you find one that is going in your direction, get in with the other strangers and pay 5d (50 euro cents). Don't be surprised if you end up squished in the backseat of the tiny white mercedes with three strange men, two women sharing the front seat, an angry driver and moroccan music blasting through beeping, erratic traffic. I couldn't stop giggling at the hilarity of it all.

Once at Jemaa el Fna it was like stepping into a story book packed and packed with locals and tourists alike, forming circles around storytellers, dancers, and the strangest games I have ever seen. There were rows of orange juice stands and tea stops and food stalls. When a tourist walked by the vendors would try to shout out over their competitors. Daoud and I ate some skewers with a free side serving of olives and tomato olive oil dip with bread at one of the grills. We took a picture behind the stall with the friendly cooks, said our good-byes and got another hilarious moroccan taxi back home.

Daoud comes from a Berber family in the desert. During term time he lives with his friend in a small room in Marrakech with carpeted floors, two futons, a small tea table and Moroccan tea set. On his walls he has posters of FC Barcelona and the Berber flag. All the english he knows he learnt through couchsurfing and we would often hop from saying words in english to french to spanish to berber. Daoud kindly heated up some water for me to wash myself with after a long day of travel. When I came back to his room, I found him and his flatmate playing the guitar and singing some wonderful songs in Berber.

They told me the Berber language and culture is like Catalan and Valencian was during Franco: they speak it in their families but are not taught it and not allowed to have Berber names. They differentiate themselves from the arabs. With my love for remote languages, I learnt a few songs in Berber and Daoud wrote me a letter entirely in their alphabet which he taught himself through library books.

The first thing I did when he handed me the booklet was point at the first four letters. "That's an A. That's a Z. That's a U and that's an L." Daoud was amazed. "How do you know?!" "It says Azul." Hello in Berber. Probably because of that he didn't translate the rest for me, joking I could spend the night translating it.

While it seemed like a very appealing occupation, I was beyond exhausted. We moved the guitar and used the blankets (that until then had been chairs) to cozy ourselves in, assured that if I had already learned so much today, there would be lots more I would learn tomorrow.

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