Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Marrakech, Day Two

Day Two and my daughter had thought that a hammam experience might be worth a try.  Being plastered in black soft soap and then scrubbed ferociously didn't appeal to me but she was up for it.  The lovely lady who served breakfast, cooked dinner and generally 'did' in the riad was going to do the honours in the local municipal baths.  Our hearts sank a bit when we entered into this space through the door at the far end.  The slightly blurred photo was hastily snapped as they were not happy for me to use my camera here.
Here's what I wrote in my notebook.
Another cavernous building entered through an ornately tiled doorway straight into a slightly humid but still chilly echoing space.  The sound of water dripping.  Young children's voices echoing through the side spaces.  We were escorted there by the riad's helper.  She was wearing her hijab but she proceeded to strip off all her layers of clothing down to her pants.  My daughter had to do the same.  She was not happy about that!  She went off, nervously, with Naima.  I am sitting on blue slatted boarding.  The walls are tiled and the floors are marbled.  Watery patches and scruffy surroundings.  Life is full of new experiences!  The women arrive, lumbering in dressed in their traditional clothing.  They carry a large holdall or shopping bag in which to put all their clothes.  
They peel off the layers - like an onion, until they are down to bare skin.  They leave the bag with an attendant and then go across the floor to the hammam.

These ladies do this once a week.  They have no bathrooms in their homes.  Babies receive the hammam routine from the age of six months and judging by the yelling coming from within the building, they were not enjoying it!  I sat reading my book for about 45 minutes, not really concentrating.  To be honest I was worrying about my daughter.  I had no idea what she was dealing with, whether she was still there or had been spirited out of a back door.  What it is to be so mistrustful and fearful, but in a culture which is very different to my own I am afraid I struggled quite a bit with being out of control so completely.  Anyway, she emerged eventually, dripping wet from head to toe and not a little traumatised.  She had been expecting a room on her own, not a group of 20 - 30 women who were naturally curious about this blonde fair skinned young woman in their midst. They talked about her incessantly and she found the whole experience totally surreal. She relaxed a bit following a massage back at the riad.  We then set off for another dose of the souks. 
On Day One we didn't see the Atlas Mountains in the distance, so it was quite a surprise to see them there on Day Two.  The air quality is not great in Marrakech, particularly outside the Medina where all the traffic produces so many exhaust fumes that the atmosphere is grey and murky.  
One of the souks we enjoyed the most - the dyers' souk.
Naima, the lady who works in the riad, cooked a delicious chicken and lemon tagine for us one evening.  She showed me what she did using a mix of mime and French.  The method was more or less cooking the chicken pieces in a pan with sliced onion, ground ginger, black pepper, garlic and slightly less than a quarter a pint of water.  Then add some good sized chunks of potatoes, some green olives and pieces of preserved lemon and simmer until chicken and potatoes are cooked through.  Delicious!  She didn't cook it in a tagine although it was served in one.
We had lunch in rooftop terrace cafe in the Mouassine district.  This is my mint tea followed by a delicious Moroccan soup which was served with four dates and a wedge of lemon and then an orange salad sprinkled with cinnamon.
In the street below there were some great stalls.  Several with a multitude of woolly hats (they took care of a number of Christmas presents), baskets, carpets, and ladies pounding henna leaves which were then sifted to produce a fine green powder.
 The blue is indigo.  I bought a cube.  I thought it might be interesting to draw with.

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