A wrinkled man gestured like putting slippers on with his empty hands….as two front feet and shins of a cow lay in front of him on the grey stone walkway into his store where whole skins and pieces were layered and climbed the pale pink walls.
“Just for looking…. Yes madame… just for looking..You come and look”.
Dim but softly lit alley-ways; a maze …..pointed soft leather shoes; handbags with rivets; melodies of snake charmers; bees hovering over brightly coloured sweet shiny pastries; smoke from charcoal and burning beef on metal skewers; coloured pottery; velour djillabahs which looked like bedspreads hanging in stationary rows; shelled walnuts in piles on old feed bags on the ground and in the dust; women with desperate eyes begging whilst breast-feeding their limp babies; silver jewellery with coloured beads; stiff woollen binis being woven by women who squatted on low reeded stools; silver teapots; skinned instruments and flutes hung like a musical score from darkened room with timber lining the ceiling; men without legs sliding on cardboard; tagines with sweet smelling plump apricots; drums beating a cacophony of human survival.
I sat with a woman wearing soft pink cloth ..and could only see her gentle eyes…
and felt her gentle hand as she held mine and carefully created her artwork on my hands with henna. Beautiful flowing flowers and swirls. Yes. I was in the bazzar of Marrakech. This heritage bazzar has been in existence since the 12th century.. and has maintained its presence as an exciting and vital part of life here in Moroc.
There is no way I can even come close to explaining what my day was like here in Marrakech where the Souks negotiate their wares. I took one photograph as I walked in and then left my camera in my bag. Untouched. But as my hand was held by this gentle woman I recognized that once again of course I was branding myself as a tourist by having my hands henna’d in Marrakech…but I WAS a tourist…. that was obvious anyway by the colour of my skin…so why not enjoy the connection I had with one of the local women and have a beautiful artwork on my hands whilst being a part of the reality of daily life here in Marrakech.
I wished I had more time to spend wandering this fascinating bazzar….but Penny needed to get on the road early and take us toward Casablanca…and that’s when her bad hair day started.
We were all lined at the edge of the square with a police escort ready to lead us through the city like the black snakes which were swaying to the flutes just alongside our cavalcade. Penny decided she wanted to stay in Marrakech and her starter motor dropped some bolts and the crunching and grinding underneath permeated into both Max’s and my belly. We pulled the floor out and repaired and reassembled the starter motor with gathering crowds and clicking cameras…the drums beating in the background..and as the snake charming flutes continued we were on our way weaving through the chaotic morning traffic of horns and donkeys and bikes and chaos.
After supreme navigation to a place where even the organisers had difficulty finding; and whom thought they would see us next at lunch; a collection of classic cars around a pool with murals of the desert and ocean on a high wall was a treat and such a surprise. Old Mercedes, Mini Minors ; small cars like lollies; Porches; and other Both Max and I realized the eccentricities of people who collected and drove vintage and classic cars.. and I recognized my own.
Penny was well on her way toward Casablanca and …crunch rattle… and I thought we should check. We both took a big breath and once again took removed the floor to investigate. The fan in front of the alternator was loose and needed tightening .. so surgery recommenced.
Although it was Friday…. School seemed to be just finished and as tool rolls were laid out on the footpath with red and white borders; the children grouped around with inquisitive eyes. “No touch” and they hustled toward a better view. I observed quietly for about 30 seconds and recognized which boy was one who was respected as the little ones jerked under his assertive hand. “Steelo” Steelo” “Bon Bon” “Dirham”..the children chorused. I only had 2 pencils to share and said firmly that I had “No more”.. “No dirum” and I was not going to hand out coins to these begging children. I pointed to the boy I had chosen and indicated ‘dirhum’ with the rolling of my upheld thumb and first to fingers and pointed to him in a respectful and assertive way that I had chosen HIM to be my children crowd control officer and HE was the only one I would pay. This slim young boy with a huge lump protruding from his lower jaw accepted his responsibility with pride and kept the children away whilst the operation of removing the alternator and tightnting the fan went into the next hour.
I indicated to him that his role would continue until I was sitting in the car and ready to go and as I took his hand into the car and gently pressed some folded notes into it..he tapped and held his other hand on to his chest as we acknowledged a connection together of gratitude and respect.
Penny was once again being drawn to the grey coast as the clouds and Atlantic mist started to encroach on the rocky agricultural plains and a sense of spirits rising as the moisture started to fall.. CRUNCH MUNCH. GRIND… GRIND… GRIND.. MUNCH. Max and I just looked at each other. Penny was truly having a bad hair day.
We were both reluctant to get out and look underneath Penny’s belly. The tail shaft had broken from the rear diff. Our first thought was to find the plate which had dropped within the last kilometer of grinding concern. As we walked back along the road, in the outstretched hand of a man approaching us whose other hand held the reins of a donkey – was our plate of metal .. a piece which could not be manufactured nor replaced and would mean the end of our journey if it was not found. I stuffed into his hand some notes. Shukran. Shukran…and once again the loving gesture of hand on chest and generous smile graced my life. I was offered some warm milk in an empty large water bottle. I graciously declined.
As we walked back a short distance to Penny who obviously wanted to stay in Morocco, a small white van stopped and a man in overalls stepped out and wanted to partake in Penny’s third surgery for the day. With the only common language being thought my henna’d hands we were towed about 5km to a Service Station with a concrete mechanic pit…albeit filled an inch with urine.. but there the men worked whilst I passed tools from our green canvas rolls…and gestured from black greasy hands bridged the barriers between cultures and beliefs.
We were offered cous-cous…and mechanical support. After nearly 2 hours once again folded money pressed into palms…. and smiles and hugs were exchanged. Hands were patted on chests. Hands were clasped. Henna’d hands were shaken.
It didn’t matter that I was a tourist. I was part of Moroc. I was part of this amazing country where I have experienced such generosity of Spirit and good fortune. I reflect on the man with the donkey and cart holding out our circular metal plate and the generous mechanic who stopped to help…and the young boy proud to keep the children away..and I am so grateful that Penny had her bad hair day…and perhaps she was just indicating to us that we should return. I hope so.