The rich elite of Marrakech meet the village girls from the High Atlas AND Christmas shopping in Mar
I realise that there is not a single link between these two topics, in addition to which Christmas Shopping is hardly a subject worth blogging about but as I think I will probably never again have such a wonderful time Christmas Shopping I perhaps ought just to give it a brief mention! Instead of boots, coat and gloves, I put on my seriously summer clothes and was very glad I had as it must have been around 25 degrees in Marrakech which was complete bliss! I had a little turn around the Djemaa el Fna, which is the wonderful square in the middle of the Medina - it doesn't normally come alive until the evening but there were a few drummers, fortune tellers and ladies painting henna, as well as all the orange juice sellers and of course the tourist stalls. I'm afraid that I wimped out of doing my shopping in the souk itself as I felt it was just too much hard work being endlessly hassled and having to bargain for every dirham. Instead I headed for a craft cooperative which David and I had discovered on a previous visit. Just about everything is under one roof, the prices are fixed and they do say that all the money goes to the craftspeople themselves, so even if I did pay over the odds I hope it was in a good cause! Two hours later after a special visit to the conveniently placed ATM (and mightily relieved that David was NOT with me as he would have been beside himself with boredom!) I staggered out with a bulging backpack full of goodies. I have to say that I have become a real small village country bumpkin as I was continually struck by the shortness of the shorts and the amount of cleavage on display of so many of the foreign tourists. I know it is Marrakech but I can't help feeling that it is still a Muslim country - but perhaps I am just old fashioned!
I then discovered the wonderful Earth Café - has to be vegetarian - where I had amazing beetroot, ginger and orange juice and spinach, pumpkin and goats cheese filo parcels. What a treat to have decent cheese! Feeling healthily fortified I found my way to the Dar Si Said museum; while the exhibits were nothing to write home about there were some exquisite painted roofs and the most beautiful tiling as it had once been the home of the brother of one of the kings.
I had a bit of trouble locating the taxi rank for my return to Asni, not least because I was frequently advised to go 'tout droit' or straight ahead which is a concept that I don't think exists in the twisting alleyways of the medina! But at least my wanderings took me past a patisserie and a Marrakshi roll seller so I was able to bring something back for Khadija. The taxi ride back was pretty crowded as there were already three men in the front and three in the back when I was assured that there was still a place remaining. Fortunately Moroccan men are very slim!
But on a higher note, on Sunday we had a visit from 7 high school students from the American School in Marrakech along with a couple of American teachers. I have to say that I was a little sceptical about this venture, as many of the girls were not best pleased to be told that they had to stay in the house for the whole weekend, rather than go home to their families, and I did wonder what benefit these super rich kids could bring to the house apart from causing Khamissa to make huge efforts to bake cakes and prepare a lunch with that rare treat of chips, not to mention the girls cleaning and tidying the house. But I have to say that I was proved wrong. While these kids could have come from another planet as far as their dress, their background (property development, big business etc.) and their aspirations (NYU, MacGill or LSE) were concerned, they had clearly worked hard to put together a programme of workshops: English, History of the Jews in Morocco, art, dodgeball and hip hop dancing. The dancing was the clear favourite followed closely by dodgeball and history, and in fact the girls had a great time. There is no doubt that some of the American school kids engaged far better than others but perhaps it was as important for them to see what life is like for a village girl in a rural government Lycee as for the girls to take anything from the workshops, beyond having a good time. I chatted to one of the girls - who had perfect hair and was heading for London to study architecture merely because her parents were in property and that was where she could be sure of a job. She described a very different life as apparently there is no need for a school bus as all the kids have drivers; she goes to the mountains at weekends only to eat in the riads and in the summer 'everyone' leaves Marrakech for two months as it is so hot…! (Shades of the British Raj in India when they went to Simla?!)
But I will always keep the memory of ALL the kids singing and clapping at the end and just having a great time dancing together and playing a wild game of dodgeball.