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Monday, 30 April 2007

Mayhem in Marrakech - Page 3

Written by Rick Robiar
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I need to clarify something up front. I suffer from the affliction of Attention Deficit Disorder. That means at times my mind flies from one activity to another with a reckless abandon akin to a wrecking ball being swung to and fro by an intoxicated construction worker dabbling at the helm. It’s not that I can’t concentrate at all. When there’s something important happening, about 4% of the time I act quite normal and get things done in a reasonable way. The other – slightly higher percentage of the time – I flail wildly upon the task at hand. So when I heard Marrakech was an exotic, bustling, fast-paced city with much to explore my mind began to rev its engines, craving the fuel of multiple simultaneous endless distractions. This was right down my alley.

Eventually I received a very good massage on an incredibly squeaky, rickety metal table. There was a massage going on next to us, in the same room, with only a curtain between the two treatment tables. Occasionally the female therapist behind the curtain would pull it back and stick her head inside our session. She was yelling at my therapist in Moroccan Arabic, and of course he was yelling back; this went on for some time. There was new age music playing in the background softly; it blended in nicely with the hollering and squeaking. When we were done I saw my girlfriend in the hall, she said she’d had the worst massage of her life. When it was time to pay, the hollering masseuse came to collect. The price she mentioned was 100 dirhams higher than the list hanging on the wall. When we mentioned that fact, she muttered something about that price not being correct. Due to her size and the look on her face, we unhappily paid and left. In the midst of negotiating we also forgot to remind her of the 20% deposit we’d given the day before to secure our appointments, and she certainly wasn’t in a big hurry to remind us.

Back on the bustling streets we entered the fray once again. We headed toward the famous Jemaa el-Fna square where thousands of people were mulling about. Storytellers, musicians, and snake charmers mesmerized audiences while astrologers and tarot card readers divined future events and henna hawkers tattooed unsuspecting tourists at outrageous prices. On the outskirts open air restaurants, juice stalls, and fruit stands pedaled their edibles. Surrounding the square were cafes and restaurants with balconies overlooking the madness.

Shop owners beckoned us to enter as motorbikes and bicycles wove through the oblivious crowds at uncanny speeds. Occasionally we’d catch a glimpse of a baby zooming by us, sitting on handlebars – the parent securing the child with one hand and steering the bike with the other. Large mules drawing carts would slowly part the crowds. Children were running about everywhere. There seemed to be movement in all directions at all times. Here people walk, talk, and commute fast. Action is all around you – souks, restaurants, performers, guides, and beggars fighting for your eyes. At that moment I had a cryptic realization, I had changed.

My once youthful mind, which loved to gobble up any stimuli and spit it out quickly to make room for more, had now been altered in a disconcerting manner. I was feeling overwhelmed by the endless hustle of traffic and footsteps. The calls from shop owners had me walking in the opposite direction. I was overly fearful of my toes being crushed by a wagon wheel or horses hoof. I’m getting old, I thought. I want slow, peace, and quiet. I want a footstool and a glass of wine. Yes, even a rocking chair is not unfathomable. Maybe a wide rimmed hat to beat off the sun. Golf lessons beckoned. My lower back ached. I felt a mild but perceptible limp as I dodged out of the way of a youthful humanity which had no time to observe a suddenly skittish elder statesman walking toward a certain early retirement. I found my eyes scanning the storefronts in search of a bingo hall. What if I get sick? I thought, I’m on a different continent! And just then an annoying cough settled in. I just wanted to climb into a tour bus with my grey-haired kinfolk and settle into my new demographic. When I mentioned all this to my girlfriend she shrugged it off as the side effects of fish fumes still emanating from my squeaky clean skin.

We had a great, but challenging time in Morocco. The food was unbelievable, the people very friendly, with the occasional huckster thrown into the mix. The architectural gems hidden there could rival any in the world, and so could the sweet faced children. We found the customary bartering that ensues between merchant and shopper tiring and somewhat distasteful. But with 20% unemployment, the stakes are high when it comes to making a sale. One of the best parts about this trip was the realization that I’m slowing down. People have been begging me to do just that for 40 years. I think I finally get it. I’ll no longer have to fend off their requests that I go on some form of medication. I want to return to Morocco someday, I just can’t wait to sit back and relax on that tour bus.

©Rick Robiar

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