Venturing off the street the hotel is on this morning, I find it is very close to the bus station. There is a taxi rank there and I took a cab to the central square. I was able to find the hotel I stayed in last time I visited Marrakech, “Hotel de Foucauld”. But the little café where the old men played a vigorous game of something which looked like “snap” with tarot cards has been turned into a KFC. The modern world continues to stamp on the old in a brutally insidious manner. I was obliged to buy a map to find my way to Avenue Mohammed V which leads to the new town and the supermarket where I bought my beer, but it also seemed not to be there, although I found a sort of off-license instead, which sold me normal sized cans of beer at 25 dirhams. So far that’s the best price I can find. They wrapped them in newspaper and put them in an opaque brown plastic bag, so the general revulsion about alcohol is still there. On the way I was able to find a new SIM card for my phone AND a place which could supply a dongle for my computer, so that, in principle, solved the WIFI problem. But they needed a passport, and so I had to come back later.
A note about taxis in Marrakech. There are two kinds, “petit taxis” and grand taxis”. The difference is that the “petit” taxis are, well “petit” and the “grand” taxis are, well, “grand”. The same goes for the price. A Grand Taxi costs around twice the price. (airport runs always cost 100 dirhams, no matter which you use). Excepting how you present yourself. I went back to the shop for my dongle and they said I would need to download software and could I bring them my computer? So I went back again to the hotel and took my nice new yellow leather bag with my very expensive new and lovely macBook Air inside it. The moment I stepped outside the hotel a boy accosted me in the street and offered to show me the sights. Only I knew he was directing me down a dead-end and the most likely outcome was the loss of my bag. The most obvious marker of his intention… he addressed me in English. I gave him the slip.
The cab ride back to the bus station from the shop had cost me 20 dirhams (less than £2). This time, with the bag, suddenly the guy didn’t speak french too well and seemed not to know where “la grand place” was. (It’s only the most important tourist destination in Marrakech.) So I told him to go to the “Hotel Foucauld”, which is just opposite. He took me to somewhere completely different in the new town and even picked up some other passengers along the way. They were VERY specific about their destination and, when he suggested 50 dirhams, they jumped out of the cab. The price was re-negotiated for 30. The guy drove like a maniac and, when we finally got to the correct place, he said it would cost me 2,000 euro. He was, of course, joking, but I had to get very strict to beat him down to 30. (And, yes, Londoners, you got that right, that’s less than £3, but that’s not the point, it should have been £2 or less (20 dirhams). They can smell money, even though the rest of my cash was safely locked up in my hotel room. Suffice it to say, the same thing happened on my return. Trouble is, if you don’t have the exact money, you have to hand over more than is agreed and just hope you get the correct change, which they often protest they don’t have and add 5 dirhams or more to the bill.
Once back in the hotel I could breathe. Six cans of heineken were waiting for me in a plastic bowl full of icecubes bought from the hypermarket I found opposite the bus station. I tried the roof terrace. Too much sunlight, I couldn’t read the screen. So I went downstairs into the courtyard to have another go. It’s a deal we make btw, between gay rights and smoker’s rights. In Europe gays have basic human rights, but can’t smoke under any roof. Here gays are persecuted like back in the 50’s, but I can smoke anywhere. I’d trade my right to smoke in public against my right to express my sexuality openly any day, but it’s still nice to be able to enjoy a fag without the attendant issues in the EU. That’s why my book is set before the smoking ban in the UK.
So, I continued editing my blog in the courtyard of the hotel. I got so far and the straight couple talking to the proprietor called me over. An extremely interesting and long conversation ensued, fuelled by may bottles of rosé which I hope won’t come my way when I check out. I don’t get the feeling that that will be the case. He is an Armenian Muslim and is here in Marrakech to support someone who has fallen foul of islamic law on a sharia precedent dating back to 1100. At least that is what I think I have understood. His wife is leaving at 5h10 tomorrow and they made a hurried departure so she could get ready, but he may be here for the whole of my stay. Amusingly they were the couple next to me in the little restaurant where I ate last night. She had the couscous. I had the chicken tagine au citron and it was unbelievably tough. She has my card. I can’t imagine what they will make of me when they finally compare notes.
The mosques are just broadcasting the latest call to prayer. I was woken this morning by the first one. I have already mentioned the mice. It seems there are cats in the hotel also. They joined in the call to prayer, yowling at the top of their voices. I don’t know the time, but it must have been very early. Do mice eat cockroaches? If so, I shouldn’t interrupt the food-chain.
Oh, and it seems the people here like to lie about the temperature. According to the internet, to which I now have access, it was “only” 34° yesterday and 31° today. On the street today the indicators vary from 40° to 28°, so they can’t be believed. Suffice it to say, I’ve taken some colour and it felt very hot and humid.
pictures to follow
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