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Oh no, no, no!

By chance (I should be working, not chancing around the internet ) I came upon this this morning and could not resist. And now I’m here with my mouth full of water. I’m helpless! I’m lost. I’m hungry! The first guy, in the place where Jamie gets the oil and olives & stuff into his tangia, is one of my spacemen, no, no, one of my SPICEmen. He is located at the vegetable market in Mellah (which means salt, and that’s because the market is placed on the boarders of the Jewish part of the city, and because the Jews used to trade in salt). My spiceman makes a very good Ras al Hanout, he has the best olives and good oil and tasty harissa, green or red. GO there. Buy! Take home, enjoy. Or just, I don’t know, – take me back! Now!

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the sounds of a city

Whenever you go to Marrakech it’s a meeting with sounds. The lovely quiet hum of heat when you leave the plane, but quiet only as relative to the noise you have been surrounded by the last few hours in a cheap seat in the back of the carrier. On your way to the terminal your hearing slowly customizes to more or less normal and other planes roaring somewhere over head or around makes the scenery real. It’s an airport you’r in, not the heaven. Again. As usual. Inside the terminal you are bound to hear, and be part of, the irritated, sometimes angry, complaining and sighing of people gathering up in queues waiting for their turn to show passports to, once again, verify the strange Who I am. Lines are always too long. But they end in the end, everything does, and you go out to pick up your luggage while listening to the sounds of other, more unlucky, peoples luggage falling of the the baggage belts. You pass the customs, and there you are, on national ground and cannot avoid the loud offerings of expensive taxi raids outside the terminal, the competition between the drivers is hard and not hidden at all. The bus that you may prefer to take you through the traffics ever growing honking and screeching as you get closer and closer to La Place in the falling light and deepening light of the afternoon, is a more quiet solution to the soul if you don’t care too much about haggling. And then, La Place, the enchanting La Place. Beautiful. Ugly. The cars, the people, the horses tapping the ground with their iron shoes, the cries from someone who has something to sell, or their whispers if the goods is illegal. The women who wants to give you a henna tattoo tries to catch you with voices half hidden behind the cloth in front of their mouths, the guys selling orange juice does not play the same shy game to get your attention, but you walk them all by, and then you are inside the souk. And you look exactly like tourist and prey, but you know by now how to politely ignore the shopkeepers and shoemakers.You shortcut your way through the old olive market where they mostly sell woman clothes these days. The sounds in there, as if you walk on a carpet, muffled, are soothing after the wilder parts of the souk you just passed, but then you are through and out in the mayhem again, Souk Semmarine. You try to walk fast as you can between the masses of people with seemingly plenty of time, not easy, but not very long though, before you can take to your right and reach Rahba Kdima and the more familiar sounds of your own neighborhood market where they know you and greet you and don’t bother trying to sell you their spices or carpets or hats. You cross the small square and suddenly Marrakech sounds like a little village, seems like a little village, loves you back like a little village. You know it’s huge, but forget all about it, even though your own little village is crowded by people of all possible sorts, from all over the world, of all languages, but there’s no motorbikes, no cars, only women and children and men and donkeys and trolleys with nuts or fruit or popcorn. Of wheels there’s only them on the carts and them on the bicycles. They sound of their faults. They scrape and click as if singing a song of the half broken something they so often are. You take to the right again and step over one or two little dogs that you never heard bark. You are inside your street. The narrow alley to the house is a quiet one and gets more and more quiet the further you get into it. Close to the dead end you may think you are out in the pure countryside. There are cats, but so still and drowsy you wonder if they are alive. Then you remember how they fight and mate in the nights. There might be a child crying somewhere, there might be a door ajar so that you may hear some women chatting or laughing in a patio or in a kitchen. Or it might be quiet a second. Only you walking by. Your, confirmed by the passport controlled, I. Your soles on the cobbled stones, your clothes, your breathing. And if you are dragging a suitcase on wheels behind, they crackle the sound of money. You are at the end of your ride through the sounds of the city, you are there, outside the house, and you lock yourself in. You close the door and it is as if. Cleaned. Totally. No noise at all. Serene. But not quiet though. Paradise sounds? The air in the hanging jasmine. The birds. A bee. And that’s all. A wonderful stillness. Then it changes again. When you walk the stairs to the terrace, the city comes back, but differently. On the terrace you are on top of the sounds of the evenly out stretched Marrakech town. If it’s the time for it, you’ll hear the drumming. If it’s the time for it, rising, and then all of the falling prayers from all of the towers. tangiers-morocco-charmers

day trip by car

– they deliver the car at Place Djemaa El Fna in the morning, and out you go into traffic. Interesting traffic. You care about what’s in front of you, they do too, means: those behind care about you, more or less. And if there is space in front, you better fill it up right NOW, or those who cares behind will definitely care about that. They will push you and stress you in there with their honking. If the space looks too small, it isn’t. Trust the honkers. Trust is necessary in Morocco traffic. In God, in Allah if you prefer, in the other drivers, in bikers and walkers and cats and dogs and sheep and goats and mules and camels.

Good thing about getting the car at La Place is that you shall not drive too far to get to a fairly straight road that takes you to wherever you want to go, like Ourika Valley, Atlas Mountains, Asni, Moulay Brahim, the plain, the Kika, the huge plain,  around Marrakech. Ourika Valley is miles and miles with cheap plastic chairs in all colors along the river that runs in the bottom, plus same miles and miles of cafes with tagines waiting to be bought and had on those chairs while looking at the water passing by. – And at other people sitting in same sort of chairs, eating tagines on the other side of the river. If you go to Ourika early in the day you may wonder whom on earth shall fill all these chairs? Who shall eat all those tagines? Is it just another day of too much hope happening? But then, when you turn your car and drive down the dead end Ourika Valley you see them coming. Hordes. The road is narrow so you don’t only see them, you feel them very well when you and your more modest rented car are squeezed out into the ditch, and you patiently stay there, waiting for a gap in the tight line of big yellow taxis, 4WDs and busses, full of tagine eaters, so that you can get to eat some one, two, maybe three hundred meters of road. If you are fast. You are either fast or in the ditch. But beware, not too fast, because kids and cats and dogs, they exist.

Ourika and the foot of Atlas is green and fresh and fat and pretty. Richness is literally running down the mountains in liters, giving the thirsty red earth exactly what it needs to sprout out the produce. The geraniums looks like they have had their share of dope. They are more like small, chubby trees. Further on, when you get down, pass the round about at El Grab and get out on the plain, some places as rigid as the surface of the moon, you meet upon huge flocks of sheep and goats and their ancient looking herds in djellabas. If it wasn’t for the reason that you sit and drive in a 2012 model car it could be any time on earth. And if you, when you drive through the small villages, close your eyes to the grey and gloomy building materials of today and open them to the older houses raised from the dirt they are built on, you can keep the illusion of dissolved time.

I don’t know why timelessness is so soothing, but it is. It’s heart touching in a quiet way. It stretches history, deepens moment. You are not the end, not the beginning, not top, not bottom, you are with the past and with the future, you are part of a soft chain, you have the blood running down through, and further on, into coming generations, in you. (Pray the once in coming find the way and a will to not fill the side of roads and the riverbeds with all that plastic. Damn it.)

We took another u-turn and went by Moulay Brahim. The guide book  said it was a picturesque little village with the best Atlas view, so why not. Didn’t look exactly like picturesque so, no, we drove by, but stopped on top, after the sharp hair pin bends, to check the map. Miles and miles before a new village with a lunch possibility. We turned and hair pinned back down again. Parked and went into the streets, or rather stairs, of the place. The village clings to the mountain like a baby to a mother. Must admit it was sort of picturesque when you got into it. We had something good, in the wonderful simple and down to earth way of Morocco, to eat in a little cafe on the one and only upwards winding market street. Some old berber women in colorful skirts and eyes black with kohl were having the same beside us. Easy going, proud, strong, smiling, no hiding women. And under their table the cats were given their leftovers. So park your car, go inside Moulay Brahim. Nice, if not extremely picturesque.

Then mountains and plains, plains, plains, rigid, rigid, but even so, the flocks of sheep, their newborns, their herds, the timelessness again. And everywhere, even remotely close to water, riches, riches, riches, the almonds blossoming, the blue, blue crocus along the stone fences, the greenest grass you get to see, the olive groves, the argan trees. The sky above.

At 1800 reaching Marrakech again and weird traffic.

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– and then a moment og soft and quiet, but fairly rare Marrakech traffic by Nour Eddine Tilsaghani, just now with a show in Galerie de l’institute Francais on the 5.Marrakech Biennale

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Sunday Market at Bab Khmiss

Every thursday & sunday morning there is a pretty wild market at Bab Khmiss by the ramparts north in Marrakech. There is a market every day actually, but thursdays & sundays people come from all around to sell stuff, like remote controls and rat traps, – not all of them in the same good shape, but if you are handy …  You can get just about anything if you don’t care to much about surface. Inside the permanent part of the market you may get the tagine you paid 150 for down town for around 20 dirham, but in some of the stalls with old goods they know how to rip you off. You will have to do some work to get a bargain. Always nice to have a look at the old doors and windows for sale. Hard to bring home on a plane, but you can always take a picture. Or start to dream about a house of your own to put it in. – The place is worth a visit if you find the time. A small half an hour to walk from La Place. And then you can go by Bab Taghzouth and find your way to I Limoni for some good Italian food on your way back. Real nice place.

Leave the house …

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– find the market

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– get out of there

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– have someting to eat
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another guide to look through before you go

Marrakech & Beyond, list guesthouses, hammams, shops, places to have a drink or something to eat on their website. Seems like interesting lists. Have been in some of the places and was happy. New and nice places are coming all the time inside and outside the city. Guess this page will be awake. They also have a FB page for getting the news all along.

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Then add Ediths colors, some years and you are almost there …

Marrakech…..lay stretched before us like one immense terrace circumscribed by palms. 
The sky was pure blue verging to turquoise green where the Atlas floated above mist; 

and facing the celestial snows stood the Koutoubia, red in the sunset.’
– Edith Wharton

Map of Marrakech

There are a few Marrakech apps with maps, Tripadviser has one, MRK, Wallpaper, but there is only one I have found with a map that  you can walk around in the medina by and actually get to where you planned to go. It is made by someone who also promotes their guesthouses. I don’t know anything about the guesthouses, but the map is good. Better than on the apps first mentioned. The good map app is called MARRAKECHRIAD and you can get it here. You are welcome.

– And here is another map from way back when, but the Medina should still be almost the same.

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Spring

“I said to the almond tree, ‘Sister, speak to me of God.’ And the almond tree blossomed.” ― Nikos Kazantzakis

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Almond blossom flourishes in Morocco’s Ameln Valley, photos by Jaques Bravo.

stairs to the forbidden view of atlas mountain

DSCF1054we built a small house to store carpets and furniture we use on the terrace. it’s against the law. you may build anything from wood, but concrete, no! not on the terrace. but as long as nobody comes along and actually tears it down, it’s possible to enjoy the sight of the snow capped mountains or Atlas the Giant, supposed to carry the sky on his shoulders. and we do. until the neighbors build higher without asking anyone for permission. it happens all the time. the building higher. smiling anyway. when we can not see Atlas anymore I will take a picture and hang it up for us to see how it was once upon a time and could have been. adjusting.

 

Shirr

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DSCF0999DSCF0989The terrace has finally got its colour. We managed in the end, after mixing several batches of shirr, or burnt chalk (I think …), to reach a colour we could like and agree on. Must admit we got softer and softer and less and less critical as time went by and batch after batch was dismissed. Must admit terrace didn’t get the colour we first thought we wanted. But we do want the colour it has gotten. Now. We admire it when the sun shines on the walls in the day and even more when the day closes and deepens it to a orange that seems to be total. We love it when lamps and flames light it up in the night. We have totally changed our view on orange, not only because we had to. We like. It’s true.

How to make the colour:

You take a big metal bucket or something, must be metal, plastic will die, you empty the sack of shirr, or burnt chalk, into the bucket. You fill in water till its covered and leave it over night, or more nights, (can be kept for years and is supposed to get stronger and stronger) keep it moist. When mixed with water it will cook and become hot so don’t put your fingers or any other part of your body into it. When you want to use it you fill some more water in the bucket until it is possible to use a stick and mix it well. It will look like a soup with stones in it. At this point you will need a plastic bucket and a sieve. Put the soup into the sieve and let it run into the bucket. The stones and the rest in the sieve when the soup is in bucket are useless. Throw.

Don’t put your hands into the soup. Shirr eats skin. You will not die, but you will loose skin and have very dry hands for some days.

When you have a good soup of shirr (in Moroccan), time has come to eventually mix it with some more water till you have the right consistence. A bit thinner than paint, that’s where we stopped. But it depends I guess, even though I am not sure on what. Stop when you like it. Then find the colour powder. We used a big bucket, filled it with around 12 litre of shirr/water, and had a kilo of yellow and a kilo of red. Put some water and 45 full teaspoons of yellow in a smaller bucket/glass with a lid, shake, empty into shirr. Same with 26 full teaspoons of red. Then if you dare, and by chance have, or bought, ad a tiny, tiny bit of black. But be careful though. Black is dangerous. Your colour may be ruined and you can never have it back. You will have to start over again.

Now, make a sample on your wall. It shows faster if you do that in place with full sun. The colour will be much lighter than in bucket when dry. Adjust if you don’t like. Usually it will be a question about adding more colour…

More colour powder deepens the colour. Black calms it. You can mix all sorts of shades of yellow and red and brown with red, yellow and black, but you will never be able to get to exactly the same colour when you make a new batch. Often works well together anyway.

If the shirr/colour feels fine, take a big brush and paint your walls. It does not work on wood or metal. The shirr/colour can easily be washed of wood and metal and other hard surfaces (so no need to be scared about splashing). It sticks to concrete walls, terracotta pots, cotton and soft nature materials so don’t do this in your wedding costume unless it’s made of nylon.

We watered the walls when the shirr looked dry. Seems like that deepened the colour even more. But we are not scientists so don’t trust that one.

The quality of the walls after shirr is on is matt and soft. It binds up dust and sand and leaves the walls nice and clean. After some days you will have a hard time getting it off again, but you can always put a new layer of shirr with another colour on top of it if you start to hate the shade you got. It’s easy to repair.

Don’t ever put paint from the shop on top of shirr.

The colour powder used on houses in Morocco usually comes form the earth in place. In Marrakech the earth is red (pink), in Casablanca it’s white, in Fez it’s also a white, but more towards yellow, in Atlas, and in the countryside, the houses get (or did get before concrete came and left and leave a lot of houses grey) the colour of the earth where they raise them. No extra colour added. The colour may change slightly from house to house depending on earth used.

The route to the house at the end of the street

17c3d1b8a8821f2bfb1dfa85d76957eaYou are on the right track to # 44 if you see a sign like this. Keep moving in given direction, find center of town. Look for Cafe France and pass it, walk on til you have to turn, choose right, then fight your way through the masses of people, horses, donkeys, bicycles and motos in Derb Dabachi, turn left at first occasion and walk on to square. Cross square.

60b4f435763bedd2fc8b7201b02e8148You are close if you see this sign. Shut your eyes and smell your way to nearest bakery. Pass it. Walk around the bend.

c0b88ca283de1f7c2b00639ea21a1eeeThen, walk on til you have new choice of direction, turn left, and walk for another little while in the narrow street underneath second floors. # 44 is the last house on your right before you get out in the light again.