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July: Denmark and a Moroccan Mistake

A doorway in the medina, Marrakech A doorway in the medina, Marrakech

At the beginning of July we went to Denmark for a week. We go every year for a family reunion but this time we took the car and the Harwich – Esbjerg ferry for the first time in probably 20 years. The service is overnight and is being stopped this September so it was nice to have a final crossing. The sunset over the North Sea was beautiful and we had a very smooth journey both ways.

Sunset over the North Sea from the Harwich-Esbjerg ferry

Sunset over the North Sea from the Harwich-Esbjerg ferry

The weather was amazing in Denmark and we spent time at the beach with Mormor and various family members. The beaches on the middle island of Fyn are Denmark’s best-kept secret as far as I’m concerned. As well as hot dogs of course, the best street food in the world (I think I’m fairly qualified to make that kind of statement but I’m sure many would have other ideas!).

Danish beach on Fyn

Danish beach on Fyn

Mormor on the beach in Denmark

Mormor (Grandma) on the beach in Denmark

Danish beach on Fyn

Danish beach on Fyn

 

I have a couple of months before starting university again so when I saw that there was a job in Marrakech, I applied straight away and got it.

When I was younger, I got a copy of Hideous Kinky free with a magazine. It’s a book set in 1972 about a woman who travels to Marrakech and lives in the medina (walled old city) with her children. It’s not the most amazing book but after reading it I fell in love with Marrakech and wanted to go for years. I’ve been three times since then and I couldn’t wait to be here for two months, to be a Marrakshi and know all the restaurants, the bars, the boutiques, the food stalls and the best mint tea in town.

Kate Winslet in Hideous Kinky in 1998

Kate Winslet in Hideous Kinky in 1998

Workaway is a website I came across when I worked with a travel blogger during my time at my old job. It’s a work exchange so you apply for jobs like gardening, cooking, childcare or whatever and your employer pays you in bed and board. There are some amazing places on there and you can work your way around the world without worrying about work visas.

Anyway, my job would be developing a website for a wannabe artists retreat, writing their blog for them, doing some photography, setting up some online advertising and a bit of cleaning. My hosts, a Lithuanian and Moroccan Canadian couple seemed nice and all the feedback looked good.

Then 10 days before my flight left she emailed to say could she change the agreement to reduce my hours as they’d had a delay in the paperwork from the government. Fine with me. I set off from London on Monday and went to my new home in the newer part of town.

I arrived at 8pm and no one was in. Funny – I emailed Rasa (hostess) yesterday confirming that I would see her tomorrow. This was pretty much the beginning of the end.

On day two in Marrakech I waited for Rasa all day so I could ask her what she wanted me to do first. Eventually I found her and she blurted out that they’d been denied a business license, so umm, we don’t need you anymore. I asked why exactly had she not mentioned this yesterday? Yeah, sorry but you know, shit happens.

Er, right. They invited to let me stay on until I found something else which was fine, but the house was like a morgue. Mr Moroccan Canadian artist hardly spoke. He was in a complete depression the whole time and it seemed like Rasa was walking around on eggshells. There was a negative cloud hanging over the house.

It’s Ramadan right now so things aren’t on their normal schedules – nothing is open and the temperature is peaking at 40-45C every afternoon. If we were at a normal temperature and other time of the year, I think it would have been easier. I could be out all day and just sleep there but this was impossible. I practically had to beg for a key so I could go out and return with bothering anyone.

I did some cleaning around the house, which was filthy but Rasa snapped at me that she’d already cleaned four days ago. I went out to Djemaa el-Fna (the main square) to think everything through. I felt so sad and it’s so hard to think straight in this heat. I got back to the house, got ignored by everyone and decided there and then to move out.

So 72 hours into my trip, I moved into a hotel near the medina. I realised that the negative energy was completely draining me, and before anything else could happen, I had to get myself away from there.

Downtown Marrakech

Downtown Marrakech

 

So here I am, five days after arrival, trying to embrace my new tourist status but I can’t. I am not in travelling mode. I am in work mode and I don’t have work. I can’t summon any energy to travel again. I could go to Fez or the Atlas mountains but I just can’t be bothered. I want to work and I want to work in Marrakech! However, it’s not my time to be a Marrakshi right now.

I spend my evenings in Djemaa el-Fna, the circus square where there is so much going on. My favourite time to arrive is precisely 7.10pm, half an hour before sunset. I walk over to my usual orange juice man and then wander around to the Grand Cafe where I sit in the front row with a mint tea. Most of the tourists want to sit on a rooftop cafe but I love being on ground level so I can look at everyone.

To the main square

To the main square

Getting ready to eat as soon as the call comes

Getting ready to eat as soon as the call comes

One of the food stalls in Djemaa el-Fna

One of the food stalls in Djemaa el-Fna

 

The food stalls are lighting up their grills and big plumes of grey smoke drift over everything. There’s a man walking on his hands with his feet dangling over his head. There are men dressed in colourful kaftans leading monkeys to do tricks. As it’s 30 minutes before everyone can eat, tempers are fraying and arguments are breaking out here and there. There are eunuchs calling tourists to sit down and have their hands hennaed, a few Nigerian men are trying to sell paintings and smartphones.

View from the Grand Cafe, in Djemaa el-Fna

View from the Grand Cafe, in Djemaa el-Fna

The food stalls in Djemma El-Fna

The food stalls in Djemma El-Fna

 

At 7.40pm the first calls boom out from the three mosques around the square and people start clapping and yelling, horse and carriages and ground to a halt, taxis screech to a stop and everyone starts eating. It’s impossible to get a waiter’s attention between now and 8pm so I sit and enjoy the view, mourning what could have been. I still love you Marrakech!

 

 

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