East meets West – Part I – Marrakech

If you’re following my facebook or twitter (the line between the two is increasingly blurring these days), you might have seen that I posted about finally uploading the honeymoon photos. After sorting through 10 gigs of pictures, I think I managed to put a pretty good selection on flickr.

I was going to attempt to pull a Darren Barefoot and share no more than my favorite three – but I couldn’t narrow it down quite that far. I’ve managed to cull it down to (in my opinion) the best seven, spread across two blog posts. And I’ll try to share some of the more poignant and less boring memories of the trip between them.

Mutton Head (During)

Of the four major cities in Morocco we visited (Marrakech, Casablanca, Rabat, Fes), Marrakech was where we spent the most time (5 nights) and became far and away our favorite (and where we ended up chowing down on the most exotic edibles during our time in the country – including a roast mutton head. The verdict: tasty, but less meat than I’d have thought). True to form, the Marrakchis are some of the most laid back and welcoming people we found in Morocco, and it was where we felt most welcome.

We also fell in love with the Djeema El Fna – a gigantic square of storytellers, snake charmers, hustlers, juice sellers, food stalls and more. It’s not so much that the square itself is remarkable – you can find similar fare in markets all over the world – but this one has been carrying on, almost exactly the same as it always has been, for thousands of years. It’s not something that was put together for tourists, it just is.

Djeema el Fna

You can see it in the way the biggest crowds always amass around the storytellers. We’d heard a great deal about the fabled storytellers of Morocco – how their stories weave two or three plotlines together, but stop just short of actually reaching, or even implying a conclusion: that’s the job of the audience.

This monkey is peeing on Neil right now

We’d read translations of a few stories, both before and during our trip, but not knowing any Arabic, we couldn’t possibly understand what crazy and convoluted circumstances the grizzled old man was weaving together at the center of the circle in the middle of the plaza. But judging from the animated way he made faces, intonated his voice, wrapped his body around his words and absolutely captivated the audience of 20 or so men gathered around him – it had to have been something good.

And this was just one of the more subtle reminders to us, as tourists, that “this is not for you, you do not belong.”

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