As I was walking to the medina, a barbary ape, with butter soft paws landed lightly on my shoulder. As the mullah’s call filled the air and swallows swooped and dived above our heads, his toffee coloured fur brushed my face and somehow monkey and I, for a moment, shared the skilled manipulation of one who plies their trade in the hurly burly of Jma el Fna square. The moment broke with the insistance of ‘photo photo, one hundred Dirham only’, all hope of blending back into the crowd extinguished. Sauntering here is a dangerous gait.
Negotiations finished, with a vague feeling of unease that we were perhaps still not the practised travellers we perceived ourselves but rather the easy prey of every vendor, we stopped for juice squeezed from the sweetest oranges piled on fairground lit carts.
The scent in the square, where smoke curls from the restaurant stalls that emerge like nocturnal creatures each evening, is spiced and sweet and exotic. Herbalists stalls sell myrhh, tamarind, bundles of cinnamon, deep baskets of rose buds and soft jelly like argan soap. Butchers, cobblers, basket makers and gelabah sellers line the myriad lanes of the medina with the ceramic sellers, the slipper merchants and metalworkers – and cats curl and sit in every corner. Time dissolves here and the maze of streets seem unending. With optimistic charm, vendors hand out cards so we may return to buy another day; given a thousand days I think the task would still be herculean. As the evening draws on, the shutters start to descend and the carts are wheeled down shadowed streets, now the streets belong to the horse drawn rubbish carts and the cats and a brazier here or there cooking.
Posted by: Andrea Hulme