Jun 7, 2011

The culinary side of Marrakesh

Three days after the explosive news from Marrakesh - and after three days of monitoring the political situation - I translocated myself from Lyon to Montpellier to Barcelona Reus to Marrakesh Menara to La Place, also known as Jamaa El Fna. It was raining and it was cold and it was not what I had expected Africa to be like. Fortunately I couldn't ponder about it for too long, because a moment later I was knocked off my feet by Alice and Jesus.

Even though there was a brand new sight to see, albeit not famous for its beauty, the nightly restaurant business just in front of it went on at full speed. For starters I was basically forced by Jesus to get a bowl of slow food a.k.a. boiled snails that I bravely accepted while Alice kept gagging next to me. Deciding on the following courses wasn't as easy as one would think. Indecision, spiced up by the swarms of runner boys each one trying to throw you into his fried-fish, chickpea-soup or lambhead kitchen, often lead to choosing no-matter-which stall hassled us the least (unless it was offering freshly severed camel heads of course).

Roaming the restaurants remained the main entertainment for the next day and a half in wet, geay and freezing weather when there's not much else to do in Marrakesh besides stuffing one's belly. Wandering about the Medina, trying to please the merchants by haggling a price or two just for the fun of it was nice as an exercise but got tiring after I realized that all this haggling means that excessive brain space must always be dedicated to thinking about money. As usual, sooner than later we escaped the well-trodden paths, took a left turn here and a right turn there to sneak along the narrow passages and alleyways to see what the real old city looks like. Away from the hectic business streets just around the corner, the kasbah-style labyrinthian old town actually seemed like an exciting place in which to live out your third-world adventure movie fantasies; or simply to lead a nice quiet life - it caters for every taste. After having practiced the camel-chomp to perfection and taken the long boring walk to the big boring Menara gardens with big-mouthed greedy fish in its swimming pool, we felt that the tourist attraction of the city had given us all they had. So we resolved to return to La Place and eat some more.

It seems that all we ever did was eat. Slow food preceded by fresh orange juice and proceeded by the fruits-and-nuts smoothie that looked tempting even in its convincing disguise as the most unhygenic thing to eat on the street (as not to say vomit in a jar). To be clear, the smoothie was delicious. The smoothie salesman who worked his magic from a hole in the wall just minute's walk away from the tourist area, merited our repeat visit. We must have been an event, because we were eventually welcomed with a warm smile and a friendly handshake days later, after a good hike in the Atlas mountains. He still remembered us!:)

To name a few good names that made me want to roll like a ball and take a long siesta afterwards: pastilla or a sweet cakey thingy filled with chicken and almonds; veggie Tajine with lots of oil; peppermint tea that I would rather call sugar tea and fresh sweet yoghurt (that I would rather call sugar yoghurt) so thick that it holds a spoon upright. Take care with Moroccan cuisine, it using such amounts of sugar that on an average flight back to Europe most of the passengers seem to be trembling with sugar rush and complaining about a developing diabetes.

The very first evening in Morocco didn't leave us without a dessert. When walking back to the wonderland hotel before midnight - midnight still being a busy business time - and not paying too much attention to the surroundings, an incident happened. We were sleepily joking and generally enjoying the full bellies and the prospect of tucking ouselves up in bed soon when suddenly Alice started departing from us horizontally at lightning speed. Our first thought was that someone was trying to kidnap her! A millisecond of reflection told us it was simply her camera bag that had been targeted. The bag being well attached to her and she being well attached to Jesus, the robber's work wasn't as easy as he had expected. Our screeching and screaming during the following two seconds made a worried crowd gather and all we could witness was a slim backside sprinting into the darkness without its bounty. Half a minute later a police car had materialized from the void to chase after him and just when we had returned to our room five minutes later, there was a knock on the door.

We were guided downstairs to identify a handcuffed Moroccan dandy in white sneakers. It could have been him, but it could equally have been any other of those darkhaired boys in jeans and a leather jacket hanging out in the city. So as not to make life too easy for us, a report had to be written in the police station. The hardest part of it was insisting that we had no idea if the captured dude is The One or not. With all their hearts they wanted us to say yes, but due to a gaping hole between our ethics and theirs, we just couldn't bring ourselves to please them.

Making a habitual conversation, the officers found out that our guardian angel Jesus would fly away the following day, leaving the two girls all on their own into their country. Apparently they didn't much care for him anyway as for obvious reasons, girls are incomparably more interesting. So we were offered a city tour with one of them and got an invitation to share breakfast in the morning, become friends and so on. By that time my two friends had already spent a week in Morocco which is more than enough time to make one extremely careful about any proposition by locals, however small and innocent it may be. Nothing comes free here, not even asking directions on the street, at least not where people have a habit of interacting with foreigners. The only thing to do was to laugh, say a merry good bye and thank you to our "superheros" and flee.

1 comment:

Siim said...

Mm.. tahaks ka neid mesilastega hõrgutisi (Siim istub raamatukogus..)