Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Souks

There is Jemaa El Fna, the main square in Marrakech, with its snake charmers and belly dancers.  Then there are the souks, still touristy, and still overwhelming, but somehow more palatable.  There are still men reaching their hands out to you, begging you to look in their shops, or begging you for a few spare dirham.  But somehow it's different in the souks.  Somehow the souks breathe culture instead of tourism, color instead of blinding light.  Tourists and locals merge in a maze of smoke and stone.  The locals know you are foreign, and they know it unabashedly, and they make you come to them on their terms.  There are no signs to tell you where you are.  There are no shop names or street titles.  There is just a labyrinth of alleys, ever narrowing, inviting you to get lost.  Shops and merchants spill out onto each other, and then onto you, as you try to squeeze from one to the next, dodging the mopeds and donkey carts.  There are no grids, no "perpendicular."  There are curves and slits, cobbles and weaves.  There are people reaching for you, wanting to sell you a carpet for 1000 dirham, OK maybe 400, well if you're going to walk away, then you can have it for 200.  Then you turn around to indicate interest, and the price goes back up.  There are people dyeing fabric on the spot, until their arms are stained deep red, inviting you onto their roof to get a view from above.  There are woodcarvers, creating stringed instruments out of gourd-shaped blocks of wood.  There is a whole row of olive stands, where a bag full of olives costs you 84 cents.  There are men in kaftans meeting in front of mosques.  There is a man carving skewer handles with his toes, as he rapidly turns the rod back and forth with his hand using a bowed instrument.  He sees you watching and offers you a free ornament, a wooden ring dangling around a rod, which he just carved on the spot.  These people will not come to you, but if you come to them, they will show you their livelihood, and they will be smiling the whole time.  Especially as you happily hand them 200 dirham.  


judy baker said...

I always love the market pictures. I'm having trouble figuring out what the piles of little round things are in the front row of your foods-of-the-market picture. Olives? All very mouth-watering. Keep posting those pics. I'm loving them! Mom

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Brett. Thank you so much for stimulating my imagination with your prose, and soothing my eyes with the colors of your photographs. I'll be thinking about you in your upcoming Viennese marathon. May you feel long and fast and free, there! J