Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My first haircut... in Marrakech

Waiting for my hairstylist to finish with a client, I surprised myself and read a whole magazine article in French. Granted, I didn’t understand every word, but my reading of French is a whole lot better than my pronunciation and grammar. So when my hairstylist was ready, a quick introduction occurred. Our conversation ended as soon as my French ran out. Some global sign language ensued and then I was relaxing with my neck bent over a basin.

What a head massage! I was feeling a little apprehensive about describing my desired cut in French, but at that moment I was satisfied with the head/ neck/ face massage which was being carried out. ‘I hope this is included in the price… should I tip?’ was racing through my mind. ‘Just enjoy it!’ So I did.

With a printout of the desired haircut in tow, the snipping began. He seemed to know what he was doing. My thick, curly hair – the bane of my existence, and also the source of many compliments, was being cut into shape. With some mousse, drying and some finger work, I had an afro. Not good. My face must have said it all. I couldn’t even think of the words in French, except for malade. So with some tweaking of my own, and some extra scissor work, my mane was now complete.

I was feeling a frizzed, but cast my mind back to that head massage. I tipped the guy for his exceptional handwork – not with the scissors, but with the relaxing 20 minute massage.
It had been organised for weeks, my fist visitor to Marrakech! All day at work I kept telling my students, “My friend arrives today! I wonder what she is doing? I hope she doesn’t get lost!” When I got off the bus in the afternoon, I walked towards our meeting place. Jodi was there. It was great seeing her again, and after her months of travelling on a around the world ticket, she was also happy to see me.

“We had the best day. We bought carpets!”

“You did what?”

The girls had walked out of my building and turned left. When doing so, there is always the chance that you will run into, quite literally, a jolly, overzealous Moroccan named Abdul. Abdul owns a shop wheeling and dealing in eclectic Berber wares. It is impossible to walk past the shop and not be pulled in. He has given me silver bangles, a Berber necklace, and offered me many other things which I decline for fear of obligation… However, on this occasion the girls weren’t experienced enough to know it is better to walk on the other side of the street. Their inexperience did pay off, however. Abdul was kind enough to offer them a driver for the day to take them to the souqs, camel riding, and to general touristic hotspots. After, the girls were then lured into Abdul’s store, promised a glimpse at the much talked about photos of Abdul with Bill Clinton, Tom Hanks and other celebrities. And before they could say ‘mint tea’, the girls were the proud owners of authentic Moroccan carpets, wrapped in brown paper and ready to be posted back to Australia.
We visited the Ourika valley and had tea at a traditional Berber house.

Jodi and a huge hay stack.

Jodi and myself at enjoying one of the waterfalls in Setti Fatima.

Jodi and Nat with Andy - a tour operator, and friend, working in Marrakech.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fresh meat - an inescapable experience in Marrakech.

Peering from the window of the bus on the way to work, I see naïve chickens, feeling the cool breeze in their feathers as their heads jolt out of the cracks in the crate. They are passengers of a donkey sprinting down the road getting ready for the market.

I see nonchalant turkeys tethered to a bolt in the dirt, beady eyes scouring the air for commotion.

Fluffy bunnies huddled in cages, munching on limp lettuce, ready for the sizing up by hungry human eyes.

Fresh food takes on a different perspective in Morocco. Choose your chicken. Look for plumpness, healthiness and baraka. Watch as the skilled butcher drains the blood from the neck, de-feathers and delivers the comatose chicken to you by the feet.

Skinned carcass’ hang from the butcher's hooks in the tiny storefronts. The entrails sit in glass bowls on top of strips of astroturf in the glass counter. Brains, liver, heart, kidneys and all other kinds of unidentifiable objects. I like the idea of nothing going to waste. A use for everything.

It doesn’t bother me as much as you might think. To be honest I am more annoyed with shrink wrapped sausages and meat amalgamations in Western supermarkets. At least in Marrakech you know exactly what you are eating and its journey to your plate… or tajine or couscous.