Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Travel experience

Thought Id post this short story I wrote when I was in Morocco, seems I forgot Id written it until I discovered the file on my laptop last night! I know its not visual art but sometimes I like to express sights and feelings in a more conventional way.  From a trip I did last August, hope you like it! x

Marrakech - Fish out of water
The first thing that hit us when we got off the plane in Morocco was the stifling heat. If you have ever been to Indonesia, or seen an Asian summer, you know what I mean, that heat that gets in your chest and up your nose and makes you feel as if you'll pass out. We had made plans to not look like tourists, to look as confident as possible, as if we had done it all before. Together with the stifling heat, however, the weight of our bags, and our complete ignorance to the way things work in Morocco, we had no chance in hell of looking like anything but scared, confused newcomers with a wad of freshly exchanged Dirham’s. A reasonably non-dodgy guy waiting out the front of the airport offered us a cab to our Riad for 100 Dirham, which we accepted, hopeful that we might get away with not getting completely cleaned out.
The ride into the Old Town Medina confirmed our fish out of water status - Morocco is like no other place we have ever been. Dust and rubbish make up the landscape, and Berbers, Arabian men, and a handful of Women with their heads hung low in midnight Birka's make up the rest. We pass signs for Coca-Cola and mobile phone billboards, casually residing next to crumbling pillars and tired old mules dragging their master’s packs. Along with the heat, our senses are assaulted with the scent of Tagine, mint, olives and sewage. An aggressive mix of the exotic and downright revolting could come some way to explaining what occupied the air. Around one corner we could smell the most amazing, mouth-watering cuisine, and by the next it was corrupted by whatever was lurking in the steaming garbage piles that lined the cobblestone alleys.
We stopped outside the Old Town Medina as the cab driver called over an old man holding longingly onto his cart. They have a short, sharp exchange and the cab driver turns to us, motioning to put our bags in the man’s cart. Mark protests at first, realizing this is just more money we will have to hand over. I cut him off and let the man take our bags - we had absolutely no clue of how to get to the Riad, and now even more so seeing the chaos of the Medina we were about to face. So after paying the cab driver the agreed fee, we nervously followed the old man, who seemed to be rambling on to no-one and about nothing in particular. He leads us through a multi-colour maze of spices, kaftans, handicrafts, and faces that told stories of a weathered existence, a sight that had me in awe from the moment I left the security of the airport.
Once we arrived at the Riad, the old man demanded payment, to which we handed him 20 Dirham, and enthusiastically thanked him for his help. Our custom was lost on the man however, as he looked at our payment in disgust and began a tirade of abuse in Arabic, which was completely lost on us. The Riad owner tried to keep the peace, urging the man to leave quietly as he continued to shake the note around in his hand as if we had given him a soiled rag. We had no more to give him, and as we had not yet got our head around the currency conversion, we started to panic, wondering just how little we had handed over. Eventually the man left with the urging of the Riad staff, but not without giving us one last piece of his mind by throwing the 20 Diram back in our faces. For a 5-minute walk to show us where we were staying, apparently $5 was a major insult. This was to be our first lesson; you never get something for nothing in the hustling streets of Morocco.
The Old Town Medina in Marrakech is a living, breathing contradiction. Alongside the largest Mosque in the city, we watch men who look as if they have endured more than 200 years and teenagers flanked in bling and American Basketball singlet’s. Children are dressed in the rejects of Western culture, cheap tourist hats from places they will never see, and adorning forgotten Disney characters proudly on their chests. Women are covered in Burka's, their heavily made up eyes watching the strange tourists wander in the chaos, or they are rich holiday makers themselves, on short release from their luxury resorts, out to top up on tacky designer shades and bags.
Everyone is a target in Marrakech, and no individual is spared the promise of prosperity from a Snake Charmer, Monkey Handler, or Orange Juice vendor. The sheer number of weird and wonderful novelties on display is enough to make anyone exhausted, and Mark and I were quietly relieved when we found a restaurant with a roof terrace to sit and watch the action from a safe distance. I ordered my first authentic Moroccan couscous, and I was not disappointed. After hours on end of traveling here, with the comfort of a mild breeze and food in our bellies, we finally felt as if we had arrived.

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